Irish and international examples tell us a quick-build Salthill cycle path is possible

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Irish and international examples tell us a quick-build Salthill cycle path is possible. With the challenges of the climate inaction crises and health inactivity crises, it’s incomprehension that projects which can start as quick-build schemes would be long-fingered.

This is the motion proposed by the council’s Mayor, Cllr Colette Connolly (independent):

“That Galway City Council shall urgently seek to create a two way segregated cycle track on a temporary basis along the coastal side of Salthill promenade, specifically the R336 from the junction with Grattan Road up to where the R336 meets with the R337, and shall immediately apply for COVID-19/unding or any available alternative source of funding to facilitate this”

— Cllr. Colette Connolly, seconded by Cllr N Murphy:

And below we cover the bulk of the response by Galway City Council ahead of a council meeting on Monday. This is the first key section that needs challenging:

“This Motion’s proposal is for a two-way cycle track on a temporary basis along the coastal side of the promenade. I advise Councillors that there is a discord in the objective of creating such a two-way scheme on a temporary basis. In regard to a two-way cycle scheme, as was discussed and communicated in July 2020, a two-way cycle scheme cannot be provided in accordance with safety standards by just the removal of parking on the coastal side of the Salthill promenade and the replacement of this parking area with a two-way cycleway.”

“The provision of a two-way cycle track would require hard engineering measures such as the removal of the central islands, a need for acquisition of land (possible CPO) and the need to realign the road and footpaths and parking to allow a two-way cycle lane. Bus Stops may also need to be removed or relocated.”

“Therefore, I advise that a two-way cycle on a temporary, trial, or pop-up basis cannot be accommodated without such hard engineering changes as outlined above. Furthermore, as such hard engineering measures are required, such a scheme could not be provided without going through a statutory public consultation process as part of a planning consent under the Planning and Development Act or the Roads Act 1993, as appropriate.”

— Uinsinn Finn, Director of Services, Transportation, Planning, & Physical Development, Galway City Council.

First off, council management might have a point regarding building something quickly from around the Blackrock Diving Board west to where the R336 meets with the R337 at Knocknacarra.

A quick-build cycle route is only possible by making this section of the road one-way. To keep the road two-way and provide for cycling, Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) would likely be required for this section.

So, doing a quick-build project west of the Blackrock Diving Board is likely too radical for Galway right now. So, let’s set that section aside, for now, and look at the section of the motion which deals with Salthill alone.

There is nothing technically radical about building a quick-build cycle route along the Salthill Promenade and building such would not require major building works. Cities all around the world have done it and Galway City Council is more than able to do it given that the Minister for Transport has promised to fund the project.

It would not be a perfect cycle path, but it could be done without major works and it would be of benefit to the people of Galway.

Regarding bus stops: One bus stop westbound seems to be out of use, at other bus stops manual relocations are possible to areas where quick-build bus stops can be installed outside the cycle path.

Some people might claim quick-build bus stops are not good for some users but in reality that’s an academic argument when at busy times, bus stops in Salthill are blocked by illegal parking. Being able to use high-quality quick-build bus stops would be an improvement on the current situation.

More pedestrian crossings would be great as part of a quick-build project. But again, not 100% necessary at the start.

The city council further said:

“Galway City Council would also need to take into consideration the recent high court ruling on a two-way cycle lane on Strand Road in Sandymount, a similar proposal to the Salthill cycleway proposal. In that scheme, the High Court Judge ruled that the Council cannot provide a cycleway that requires engineering road changes, key extracts from the judgement were as follows; “this was within the nature of building or construction” and the judge was satisfied that the cycleway is “road development” for the purposes of section 50 of the Roads Act, 1993 and therefore fell within the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive requiring an EIA.”

— Uinsinn Finn, Director of Services, Transportation, Planning, & Physical Development, Galway City Council.

Strand Road in Sandymount is to be appealed by Dublin City Council, but the Salthill works could be done without removing any central islands/medians and without removing roundabouts which was planned in Dublin.

It should be of note that the High Court had the power to, but chose to not strike down the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts as amended by the Public Transport Acts which allows local authorities to build cycle tracks quickly (including permanent ones). So, even if the Strand Road ruling holds on appeal, the ruling does not mean that councils cannot quickly build projects, as long as the projects are sub-threshold for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

“Galway City Council remains committed to exploring the delivery of cycling infrastructure in Salthill in the longer term. We have started the process of gathering information, with the Salthill Parking Survey. The outcome of this survey will be key to informing the design team when looking at a transport proposal for Salthill, including provisions for cycling. That project will be developed in line with the Project Management Guidelines under the Public Spending Code, will be subjected to Options Assessment, Cost Benefit Analysis, Public Consultations, Environmental Assessments and Statutory Planning Consent and a dedicated resourced project team will be appointed to oversee the project.”

— Uinsinn Finn, Director of Services, Transportation, Planning, & Physical Development, Galway City Council.

We’re in a climate and inactivity crisis now. Where it is clear that measures can be taken in the shorter term to give people different travel options, no council can keep pushing everything until the longer-term when a more perfect fix is ready.

This is even more so the case when there seems to be strong public demand for action in Salthill and the Minister for Transport has promised to fund a quick-build project.

The following is a desktop survey of the kerb-to-kerb widths along Sailthill:

Heading west, between Grattan Road and the roundabout at Salthill Village, here’s what the general layout could look like:

An alternative if the council wanted to retain more parking would be to make the road one-way here to provide for angled parking:

At the east side of the roundabout at Salthill Village, there would be a small section beside the traffic island where it would be a bit narrow but doable for just a short section of a quick-build scheme.

An added extra or alternative here would be to skim a small bit off the traffic island (which is not a part of the pedestrian crossing — the crossing is a small distance away from the roundabout here).

The roundabout here is massive for such an urban location — I have not done tracking analysis for larger vehicles, but it seems fairly likely a protected 3+ metre cycle track could be provided here:

This is the kind of space available:

The next section of the route is that west of the roundabout with central island/median:

The sections of a width around 6-7 metre do not sound like much, but if there’s space enoufe to have parking and a traffic lane, then there’s space enough to have a two-way cycle path and a traffic lane.

This section is mostly 7 metres or larger, which allows for this:

6 metres again would be on the narrow side, but it would only be for short sections:

The bus stop in this section could be built as a temporary quick-build bus stop – this can be copied for the bus stop further on where there is even more space than this:

There is a pinch point at the western end of the island which narrows to around 5 meters but this is for a very short section all visible here — this is doable in line with what (Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council) DLRCC did with its Coastal Mobility Route:

The next section is between 12 and 9 metres with just a very small section of a few metres down to around 8 metres.

Finally, there is a little bit at the end where the cycle route would have to go up onto the pavement to avoid changing a mini-roundabout. That’s not ideal but the world is not an ideal place and that’s the nature of a quick-build scheme — aim as high as possible but get it to work even if there are a few compromises.

Here the use of a section of footpath space would be in line with what can be found around different parts of Galway. The wave-like vertical barriers as used by DLRCC could be used here to help separate people walking and cycling especially at busier times. It would also be for a very short section.

Wave barrier used by DLRCC.

Overall, the only blocker to a quick-build route in Salthill will be an unwillingness to change things. Change can be hard and quick change can be harder to adjust to. But for a better future, the above is only the minimum first steps in terms of change.

Cian Ginty
I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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