COMMENT & ANALYSIS: While Waterford County Council has a good reputation on cycling, the residents in the Co Waterford hinterland of Clonmel were surprised that significant road works were being compleated without cycling infrastructure and they want action, writes Alan Moore.
I am writing on behalf of a pressure group which includes members of local cycling clubs and residents of the Pinewood Estate have who have come together to request Waterford Co Council to install cycle lanes alongside the newly improved Dungarvan Road near Applegreen service station known locally as The Fingerpost.
While our group wish to emphasise our broad welcome for the new roadway which has seen major investment in raising the road above the River Suirfloodplain and the installation of a new roundabout and footpath, we are urging the engineers to include cycle lanes before contractors leave the site.
The new roadworks have been in progress for many weeks, however there has been mounting concern and surprise amongst local people on discovering that the design does not include dedicated space for cyclists.
Theresa Jones from the Pinewood Residents Association echoes the feelings of residents in the locality which covers a wide hinterland of housing including Cannonwood and Ballygambon: “Cycle lanes along this busy stretch of road to Clonmel would be a wonderful opportunity for safe cycling to school and shops at a time when people of all ages and especially children are being encouraged to get out on their bikes”.
Members of my own Clonmel Mountain Bike Club are particularly disappointed at the omission of cycle lanes. Our club which is supported by the Tipperary Sports Partnership is trying to encourage cyclists, especially youth from the town to access the woodlands around Carey’s Castle and Cannon Hill for healthy adventures but will now face an unnerving trip in competition with heavy traffic heading for Dungarvan.
The issue of safety has been raised by others too, given that the new roadway is quite narrow, with raised kerbs which offer no escape to the verge by cyclists trying to avoid vehicles. The Clonmel Cycling Network Facebook page has attracted a strong following on this item. Gev Barrett who started this Facebook group reports that the cycle lane issue has been the most popular topic since the Network was founded earlier this year.
The Network has a strong commitment to Clonmel becoming a cycling town and capitalising on links with the Blueway and nearby off-road trails. He believes that there needs to be joined up thinking to ensure a seamless network of bicycle friendly routes in and around the town and points to the Clonmel and Environs Development Plans which commit to this principle.
He is convinced that the impact on the town’s business, food and tourism community could be huge through Clonmel building on its reputation as an outdoor activity centre with road and mountain cycling, kayaking and hillwalking all accessible on its doorstep.
Others who have expressed support for cycle lanes to be installed in line with current thinking about healthy living and independence for our kids include teacher Noel Buckley from Presentation College and Seamus Ryan, Vice Principal CBS High School.
Tina Clarke from Worldwide Cycles speaks for many local businesses in urging the local authorities to engage in joined up thinking in the area of cycling infrastructure. She said: “Clonmel is a natural cycling town with wonderful local amenities including the Blueway, but we need a seamless and safe network of cycle lanes and routes and that means that all new road developments must include safe space for bikes”
Hope of a breakthrough emerged late last week when Senior Roads Engineer from Waterford Co Council Gabriel Hynes agreed to look at proposals to fit cycle lanes on the wide verges on each side of the new roadway. A Zoom meeting has been scheduled this week between engineers from Waterford and Tipperary Co. Councils. Cllr Michael Murphy and Cllr Seanie Power and members of local groups including cycling clubs will also attend.