14 Galway City councillors seek to “backpedal” their support for Salthill cycleway trial

— Public consultation results not yet published.
— Move by councillors has shocked campaigners.

14 city councillors in Galway are seeking to revoke their backing for the Salthill cycle path trial before the results of public consultation for the project has even been published.

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The 6 month trial has received a funding allocation from the National Transport Authority and was expected to start in March.

The 14 councillors, however, this week signed a Standing Order 32 motion to revoke their motion made in September which called for the trial to go ahead. The move comes after public consultation, but before the results of the consultation has been published.

The motion is proposed by Cllr Peter Keane (Fianna Fáil) and co-signed by Cllr Imelda Byrne (Fianna Fáil), Cllr John Connolly (Fianna Fáil), Cllr Alan Cheevers (Fianna Fáil), Cllr Michael Crowe (Fianna Fáil), Cllr Mike Cubbard (Independent), Cllr Frank Fahy (Fine Gael), Cllr Clodagh Higgins (Fine Gael), Cllr Eddie Hoare (Fine Gael), Cllr Noel Larkin (Independent), Cllr Donal Lyons (Independent), Cllr Declan McDonnell (Independent), Cllr Níall McNelis (Labour Party), and Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Independent).

The motion to go forward to the city council meeting for debate on Monday states that “That Galway City Council resolves to revoke a Resolution made by this Council on the 27th September 2021 to wit [namely]”. It then references the resolution made in September.

Cllr Keane was contacted for comment tonight but did not respond before the article was published.

UPDATED: Mayor of Galway City, Cllr Colette Connolly (independent) said: “It’s premature as councillors have not yet had sight of the report on the outcome of public consultation process.”

Cllr Owen Hanley (Social Democrats) said: “Two years ago when the Covid-19 pandemic began we hoped there would be a silver lining through that difficult time. I like many thought that at long last we would prioritise liveable communities that put people first.”

He said that councillors have spent “hours upon hours” debating the issues around a trial for a cycleway in Salthill. Pointing out how councillors delayed, then rejected a trial in Summer 2020, before then voting for it in September 2021.

Cllr Hanley said: “In September 2021 17 of 18 Councillors voted in favour of proceeding with a two-way trial cycleway in Salthill. They were right to do so. That trial is planned to begin in March.”

“The report on public consultation which received 7,500 submissions has not yet even been completed and still 14 Councillors have signed a motion to backpedal on the Council’s previous decision,” he said.

Cllr Hanley said: “The motion submitted by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and Independents is unfortunately a motion to keep the status quo. It would waste two years of Council debate and staff resources, it would reject €1 million of public funds allocated to the project, and it would set back permanent infrastructure in Salthill from becoming a reality.”

He added: “Galway needs a future where investment in active travel and public transport is neither brave nor controversial, and it is up to Councillors to create that future.”

Kevin Jennings, chairperson of the Galway Cycling Campaign, said: “Some of the reasons given by councillors for backpedalling is the reported inconvenience to emergency services. The idea that the Council Executive would allow options go out for consideration and indeed consultation which did not meet this basic requirement is unthinkable.”

He added: “Even if such a booboo were made, it could be easily remedied after the consultation by making the bike lane wide enough to act as a contra-flow emergency lane.”

Brendan Smith, a community activist who has been active in this area for four decade and who is a member of the Galway Cycling Campaign, said he is shocked by the motion and the move by councillors was against the spirit of local government.

He said: “Personally, I think it’s disgraceful… the council put out a consultation process and a huge number of people participated, over 7,500.”

“Local government is supposed to be increasing their public engagement and this is going against all the principles which modern democracy is based on as far as I’m concerned. I know that the consultation is non-statutory, but everybody who took part, both for and against, did so in good faith,” Smith said.

He said: “I’ve been involved in local government in Galway since the 80s and I’ve never in all of my years seen something like this happen… It’s illogical and puts into question every consultation process henceforth… I’ve never come across a situation like this.”

Smith added: “I just cannot understand why the political establishment in Galway City seems to be out of touch with the reality of change being demanded by the UN, EU, and national Government.”

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