“Scary, dangerous, not appropriate for children” plan to spend millions on Galway “active travel” schemes

— “Many low-cost effective interventions” overlooked, say campainers.
— Design mean “cycling remains an option only for the brave or dedicated”.
— Both projects have schools around them served by school Cycle Buses.

“Scary, dangerous, not appropriate for children” and “it has to change” is how a submission on one of two Galway City Council “active travel” schemes describes the planned designs.

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With the two projects — Ballyloughane Road/Renmore Avenue on the east of the city and Clybaun Road in Knocknacarra in the west of the city — the city council is planning to spend millions on projects without cycling provision on routes to schools.

The projects include pedestrian crossings, raised tables, pinch points, crossings and narrowing of roads — but with no cycle paths or without dealing with traffic volumes, which campaigners say will make things worse for cycling.

Consultants for the council, Atkins, claim that the Ballyloughane Road and Renmore Avenue project would mean that the roads are “improved for all forms of active travel”.

While consultants on Clybaun scheme, Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates, outline how one of the objectives is “To provide a safe and legible route for commuter, leisure and delivery cyclists to access the retail and residential premises along the route” and then claim “The proposed solutions will achieve the above objectives, whilst providing the best value-for-money design for the medium to long-term.”

However, campaigners rejected these claims in their submissions.

Renmore Cycle Bus, which serves children attending Scoil Chaitríona and Gaelscoil Dara in the east of the city, said that the “shared street is the problem” and “not the solution”. Cycle Buses are where adults guide children cycling to school because the streets and roads are not safe.

It said that current plan is “not fit for purpose, and represents extremely bad value for €2.4m” and that it is looking for a “total re-evaluation and re-design”. It said: “Until there is a plan that is fit for purpose, we ask that the council would not proceed with implementation according to the current plan.”

The area, the group said, needs solutions such as filtered permeability or fully segregated cycle routes, especially on Renmore Avenue, where there is plenty of space separated from the road.

The submission from the Cycle Bus said: “The situation at present is a ‘shared street’. From the section 38 report ‘There are no formal cycling facilities… cyclists must cycle on the carriageway with vehicular traffic’. People on bikes have to share the road with people in cars. This is scary, it’s dangerous, it’s not appropriate for children and it has to change.”

“In September 2020, a school child was injured in a hit-and-run on Ballyloughane Road. In October
2020, a driver used his car as a weapon to intimidate a parent and children cycling to school,” said the Renmore Cycle Bus submission.

Renmore Cycle Bus said that its route selection avoids the danger of shared streets where possible. “When we started our initial route was mostly on the road, sharing the street with cars. We quickly found that this concept of sharing the street with cars is way too dangerous. It leads to the school cycle being a cause of stress and danger, rather than something fun or attractive.”

“It’s one thing for adults to risk their own lives by sharing the street with cars. It’s not fair to expect children on bikes to share the street with cars,” the group said.

The group said that trying to filter through a queue of traffic is ok for adults but not safe for children . It means that members of the Cycle Bus have to wait in the line of cars which is not only inconvenient, it is “noisy and smelly”, and “involves inhaling plenty of diesel exhaust fumes”.

On the Clybaun Road scheme in the west of the city, the Galway Cycling Campaign said that there were two large primary schools in the area — Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh and St John the Apostle School which have a combined number of pupils of over 1,000 children which is expected to increase

“Notably, both schools have had a considerable number of students avail of the Galway Cycle Bus initiative operating in Knocknacarra for the past 3 years, and the first of its kind in the country,” said the campaign. “While this initiative is an indicator of strong community spirit and demand for safe cycling, it is also an by-product of an unsafe road network,”

The campaign said that while it welcomed “positive for pedestrians” that it was concerned that there is an absence of “any design measures to provide for safer, more coherent, more convenient and more attractive cycling along or across Clybaun Road.”

“The poor ambition of the scheme results in an environment where cycling remains an option only for the brave or dedicated, and unattractive for many across a range of ages and abilities. The plans represent a significant missed opportunity to provide a realistic and attractive option for many adults and children to switch to cycling the many local trips between the residential areas and the cluster of schools and amenities in this neighbourhood,” the submission said.

It said the project was likely to cost around €1m based on similar projects. “We’d question the value for money of such an intervention given our doubts it will materially increase modal share for cycling, especially considering so many low-cost effective interventions in the area seem to have been overlooked.”

The submission said that once built it is unlikely that road design will be changed within a decade and that would leave thousands of children across years without safe cycling routes.

The Galway Cycling Campaign added: “The full hierarchy of road users is not evident… The design treats people cycling and people driving as equals, forcing them to share a narrow space together despite both user types having very different needs.”

Further details can be found at galwaycity.ie/active-travel. Consultation on both projects closed on November 25.

Renmore Ave drawings:

Ballyloughane Road drawings:

Clybaun Road drawings


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