Minister Ryan hands €1.4m to council with record of inaccessible greenways

— Council known for using barriers which make routes inaccessible, including to people with disabilities, parents on bicycles with children, adults with electric bicycles.

— UPDATED: Department of Transport said on Friday that “access  controls on Greenways remains part of ongoing discussions between the Departmentthe NTA, TII, and Local Authorities.”

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Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, has given €1.4m for an extension of the Grand Canal Greenway to South Dublin County Council, which has a record of building inaccessible greenways and other cycle routes.

Last year at the height of lockdown when local government around the world were acting to remove barriers to cycling, South Dublin County Council installed inaccessible kissing gates on a previously accessible section of the Dodder Greenway. 

The South Dublin County Council obsession with putting barriers on walking and cycle routes gained new attention at the start of this year when the council added plastic bollards on a walking and cycle path on  Stocking Lane in Rathfarnham (part if it picture below). The same type of plastic bollards were in short supply in 2020 due to councils around the would making swift moves to offer to people cycling, so, it was seen as strange that 75 of these bollards used on just a 180m section of an off-road path.

When a member of the public highlighted the safety issue of steel poles which were later added to the middle of that downhill path — in addition to the 75 plastic bollards — the council said both it and its consultants were “happy” with the placement of the steel polls.

While at the same time as trying to claim it is cycling-friendly, South Dublin County Council  is one of the worst councils in Ireland for putting barriers on cycle routes.

The National Transport Authority’s GDA Cycle Network Plan — published in 2013 — suggests that barriers are replaced with “simple bollards at 1.5m” intervals “as is common practice in other countries” and says that this “would open up a potentially extensive off-road, high-quality cycle route network through the large number of public parks and open spaces across the South Dublin County area.”

It said such barriers are “not compatible with the need to make best use of off-road cycle routes through green spaces and public parks to deliver a high quality of service for cyclists.” Yet, 8 years later South Dublin County Council is planning a network of routes via green areas without addressing its own obsession for barriers.  

The Department of Transport were asked questions around midday today re if any conditions on accessible were tied to the funding, but the request for comment has gone unanswered.

UPDATED: On Friday June 18, the department responded to the request for comment but did not directly outline if there was a requirement that South Dublin Council Council would not be able to put restrictive barriers on the greenway. As reported above, the council has recently added barriers post-construction.

A Department spokesperson said: “The Department of Transport is co-funding this project with South Dublin County Council and is liaising directly with them on the design specification. This includes the consideration of accessibility requirements for those with disabilities, as well as gender proofing. The design process for this stretch of Greenway is expected to be concluded by October of this year before construction is commenced.”

More widely, the Department is always seeking measures to improve accessibility for all. The topic of access controls on Greenways remains part of ongoing discussions between the Departmentthe NTA, TII, and Local Authorities as we roll out the massive increase in funding for cycling and walking set out in the Programme for Government,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added: “Work has already been completed on accessibility guidance (‘Great Outdoors: A Guide for Accessibility’) for use by all Local Authorities and State Agencies. This guidance was developed by Sport Ireland in partnership with this Department, other Government stakeholders as well as advocacy groups for people with disabilities. The overall purpose of this partnership was to give clear guidance on the planning and design processes for outdoor infrastructure, including Greenways, to ensure that these facilities are accessible for all members of our society.

The department noted that a copy of the publication ‘Great Outdoors: A Guide for Accessibility’ can be viewed online.

The Grand Canal Greenway extension is to be from 12th Lock to Hazelhatch Bridge and the  completion of the works is due by 2022.

The funding is direct from Ryan’s Department of Transport’s €63.5 million Greenway Programme worth. Ryan’s Department also controls guidelines around greenways. 

The Department said that this is the “highest single year amount ever allocated to this type of infrastructure” but under Minister Ryan there has so-far been no apparent urgency in even trying to tie huge amounts of extra funding to better standards.

As has reported previously this is in stark contrast to the UK where funding for walking and cycling projects must follow interim guidance or councils could face paying the funding back to central government.

In a press release on the funding, Minister Ryan said: “I am delighted to allocate €1.4m towards the extension of the Grand Canal Greenway from the 12th Lock to Hazel Hatch Bridge. This key 4 km section will provide safe segregated access to people working in Grange Castle Business Park as well as those living in Hazelhatch, Celbridge and the surrounding areas.”

He added: “This project is a great example of the role that Greenways are playing in providing safe and enjoyable access to schools and workplaces as well as opportunities for leisure and tourism. This work will be completed in 2022 and will enable people to walk and cycle from Inchicore to Hazel Hatch Bridge, and later in 2023 as far as Sallins in County Kildare.

The Department said: “Additional funding has already been provided to Offaly County Council in 2020 to extend the Grand Canal Greenway from Daingean to Edenderry. By the end of 2023 we will have nearly 70 kilometres of Greenway completed alongside the canal in South Dublin, Kildare and Offaly.”

The press release added: “Funding is also in place to develop a future route between the Grand and Royal Canals which South Dublin and Fingal County Councils are working to progress over the coming years”.

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