Can you retrofit for walking and cycling on ribbon development in an Irish town? Part 2: The solution

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: It’s been a busy year covering cycling in Ireland, last June the first part of this article was published. Not much has changed on the Killala Road in Ballina since then. Although, the narrow painted cycle lanes were repainted.

Readers of this article might also be interested in an article published last weekend: Commuter town comparison between the Netherlands and Ireland – From Baarn to Naas: Part 1.

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So, what’s the solution for roads like the Killala Road which form part of ribbon development?

The long-term solution might be a relief road to take the trucks from Coca-Cola factory etc and heavier traffic off the residential road which has many housing estates on it. In the shorter to mid term, the road could still be transformed into a place more liveable, where it feels safer to cross the road without dashing across, and safer and more attractive to people walking and cycling. So, the contents of this article is presented here as part of the solution, not the full solution.

If the lockdowns have made us aware of anything, it’s that we need a better focus on making our areas safer and more attractive for walking and cycling. The balance is currently wrong — most of our roads even within urban areas are designed to nearly only suit motorists.

There is funding for these sorts of walking and cycling projects from the Department of Transport, so, it’s not like this would be just council money that it could spend elsewhere. There is also EU funding available. In any case funding a project which will help connect a community, make it safer, healthier and greener should be seen as a good thing.

Along the road a number of design features can help address the issues discussed in the first part of this article, including:

  • formalised crossings of the main road
  • segregation of cycle lanes
  • more greenery
  • narrowing extra wide traffic lanes which currently encourage speeding
  • reducing width and radius of side road entrances into housing estates
  • continuous footpaths or raised crossing at side roads

These measures can be supported by extending the 50km/h speed limit to at least the business park or possibly to the Coca-Cola factory and extending the 60km/h speed limit to the school and have a variable speed limit of less at the school times.

The road needs extra crossings of one kind of another — the current situation of only people who can dart across the road being able to cross at ease is a real barrier to enabling people to get around safety outside their cars. Here’s some possable crossing point. Here’s possable locations for a mix of formal crossings like zebra crossings and refuge islands:

Below are cross-section drawings showing options of what could be on the Killala Road. Option A and Option B are listed for all sections, but generally it’s an overall choice (ie if option A or B is chosen, it’s for all sections, not just one). Option A includes unidirectional cycle paths on each side of the road and Option B includes a two-way cycle path on one side of the road.

Two-way cycle paths have their advantages and disadvantages — here’s an example of one at the edge of the Dutch town of De Bilt. The first image shows a pinch point and the second image show what can be done on a wider section. This is relevant to the Killala Road as will be explained below

Here are the different section of the Killala Road, split up here into sections by their general width but within these sections the width varies:

Culleens NS to Belleek Crossroads (333m)


Option A & B

Possible traffic calming / crossing with central refuge (trees visible but not shown)

Short narrow section south of Belleek Crossroads (127m)


Option A

Option B

Coca-Cola and Killala Road Business Park section (329m)


Option A

Option B

South of Killala Rd Business Park to Ashbourne Grove (173m)


Option A

Option B

Ashbourne Grove to Castlefield Manor, pinchpoint (331m)


Option A

Option B

Castlefield Manor to Bohernasup / Leigue Cemetery (433m)


Option A

Option B

Wider area at Costcutters


Allows for walking and cycling crossing with refuge area:

And also short turning lanes into Costcutters and housing estates

Leigue Cemetery to town centre

Between Leigue Cemetery and the town centre there’s two route options — on the left below is a continuation along the Killala Road to and, on the right, is via Bohernasup.

On the continuation along the Killala Road, currently there is only a cycle lane in one direction and it’s narrow, often driven in and up against a wall at one point. There is, however, a large amount of green space on this section and a greenway-like routing can be used (darker green line in the map below) and this would lead into existing low-traffic residential streets (shown in purple).

There are a number of options on the Bohernasup route including traffic calming, measures to restrict through traffic at one point, or making a section of the road one-way — none of these are options I would have suggested a year ago, but things have happened since which have changed my mind. First, I witnessed motorists overtaking a group of four children cycling on a blind hill — if motorists cannot behave around children on the road, it’s time for change, and, secondly, the measures have been shown to work in different parts of Ireland.

If the greenway option was developed, the urban and down hill nature of the section means its important to look at seprate paths for walking and cycling. There’s a number of example of these kinds of paths, one recent one in Ireland is the Baldoyle to Portmarnock Greenway with seprate paths for walking and cycling:

One route might help a localised issue but to attract more people away from using cars for every single trip, more is needed. This needs to be a conversation and not a diktat.

A possible key walking and cycling route for the Killala Road area would be a high-quality greenway connection to Belleek Woods, pitches and track around there and eventually connecting to a proposed bridge across the River Moy to the Quay area of the town.

Lines shown here are not a firm indication of where such a route would go — it’s just to give people an idea of how a direct connection to the two nearby but currently separated areas of the town could benefit people who want to walk, run and cycle to the woods etc, and reduce the need for people to drive everywhere and so reduce congestion for those who do need to drive.

As said near the start of the article, funding is  available for these types of projects. It’s down to if there’s the local support from people, politicians, and the council to act.

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