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Galway councillors revoke support for trial Salthill cycle route

— Cllrs use emergency access as main concern, but reject solution which addresses it.
— Option 2 was preferred option, but 63% of submissions not in favour of temporary route
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— Galway councillors discussed Salthill cycleway for over 3.5 hours.

Councillors on Galway City Council have revoked their motion supporting the temporary Salthill cycleway, with a promise for a further discussion on cycling in Galway at a special meeting in March.

Mayor of Galway City, Cllr Colette Connolly (independent) tried a number of ways, but most councillors would not entertain the idea of supporting the project even with the section west of Blackrock Diving Board removed. This would have removed the one-way system which were central to objections from emergency services.

As reported last week, 14 Galway City councillors signed their name to a motion to “backpedal” their support for Salthill cycleway trial.

The signees were 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).

In September 2021 councillors agreed to “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 the junction of the Prom/Blackrock Tower and a one-way cycle track from the latter junction up to where the R336 meets with the R337” and that funding would be applied for.

This was proposed by the Mayor, Cllr Connolly, and supported by 17 of 18 councillors.

Today, only Cllr Connolly, Cllr Owen Hanley (Social Democrats), Cllr Martina O’Connor (Green Party) and Cllr Niall Murphy (Green Party) did not support the removal of councillor support for the project.

Uinsinn Finn is Head of Transport at Galway City Council the officials would have to take note of most responses being against the cycle route and the submissions by the emergency services.

On the issue of emergency services, Gardai said that objecting to one “particular cycleway only” is not going against Government policy and the Galway County Council fire services implied that there was a legal bar from using a cycle path in an emergency, which is factually incorrect.

Finn repeatedly explained that the process they are using for the Salthill trial route was Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act and Part 8 did not apply to such projects. This was done at least 5 or 6 times in discussion which lasted around 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Mayor of Galway City, Cllr Colette Connolly, said that process is very welcomed. The public consultation was non-statutory.

“It gives me no pleasure to say that Galway is a hostile city for pedestrians and cycling… I’m responding to parents who want safe cycling,” said Cllr Connolly.

She suggested that in light of the emergency service responses, that she would be suggesting that councillors agree with providing the route east of Blackrock Diving Tower/beach, removing the one-way section west of that.

Finn said that dropping the section west of Blackrock would solve some of the objections which related to one-way system, including the emergency services objections. But that it would not resolve the objections relating to parking.

He said that the changes would go out to public consultation again for two weeks. Finn said this was doable, but that it would delay work on other projects.

In the latter part of the meeting there was a heated debate about the Mayor’s suggestion and then the proposed motion. The Mayor’s motion was eventually not put to councillors, with councillors instead agreeing to have a special meeting on cycling in Galway generally.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (Fianna Fáil) said “I’m all for cycleways” but said that he and his party members cannot support the options and that he wanted to look at a long-term option.

He said that councillors could not just think of families and they would need to take into account of people with disabilities and businesses which he claimed would lose out without expanding on why.

Cllr Martina O’Connor (Green Party) said that it would be worth trying the Mayor’s new suggestion and that the city was on the verge of doing something.

Cllr Peter Keane (Fianna Fáil) said that it was the single most divisive issue in the city and said that the city council officials have failed and said that they were “off the charts” in their impacts.

“We are obliged to seek a balance,” he said. He said he agreed with Cllr Cheevers on a longer-term project.

Cllr Imelda Byrne (Fianna Fáil) said that she has learned that she needs to see the full details before agreeing to something, she said that she would be unable to go against the emergency services.

She said that the project does not serve “all of the tribes in the city of the tribes”. And agreed with her party colleagues on looking at a longer-term project.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Independent) asked why were taxi drivers not consulted and said that there should be no debate given that 63% of people were against it. He said that the effects on the people and businesses in Salthill were most important.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Independent) said that a “proper” cycleway was needed, not what was being proposed and the people who said they wanted the status quo should be listened to.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Independent) said that when she voted for the project last year it was already 16/1 for but that she does not agree with any of the options. She also wants a longer-term plan.

Cllr Niall Murphy (Green Party) said that he welcomes the Mayor’s suggestions.

He said we need to have councillors to support actual cycle lanes and not “cycle lanes in filing cabinets”. He said that the emergency services also objected to the pedestrianisation of Shop Street.

Cllr Mike Cubbard (Independent) said “I’ve always been in favour of cycle lanes” and said that he wanted a “proper process” and a “proper consultation”, and it has been a “shambles” of a process.

Cllr Owen Hanley (Social Democrats) said that there has been misinformation spread and that councillors now had an opportunity to trial the project and prove people wrong.

“Even if a quarter of people started cycling” in Galway than traffic congestion would ease. He said that basic safe cycling infrastructure was needed.

He said that he feared that councillors were wrongly comparing the options of a trial and a longer-term permanent project.

Cllr John Connolly (Fianna Fáil) raised legal issues with the consultation and he wants a simple vote on for councillors for or against the project.

Cllr Clodagh Higgins (Fine Gael) claimed the plan was a “shoddy plan” and that people who supported the a cycle path withdrew their support. She said that disability advocates raised “huge concern about having to cross a cycle path to reach the prom”.

She said that it was “alarming” that they were looking at proposals that the emergency services said would delay response time.

Cllr Noel Larkin (Independent) said that the council would be better to “pull back” at this stage, and that no amount of “vial” emails would sway him. He wants a cycleway that “suits everybody”.

Cllr Michael Crowe (Fianna Fáil) said that a lot of people have made a lot of the one-way system and that one-way systems can be better for all, including traffic flow. He said blue light services have to work around one-way systems in other parts of the cities.

He said that he’s been on the council for some time and it has never been so close to providing safe cycling infrastructure. He also defended

Cllr Frank Fahy (Fine Gael) said that he was taken aback by the abuse and threats that he has received.

He said he was in favour of a cycleway on a prom but one that would “support everybody” and that “everybody is in favour of”.

Cllr Níall McNelis (Labour Party) said that everybody wants to have a permanent cycleway and that he wanted a proper permanent cycleway.

And questioned if people in “the cycling fraternity” had different requirements for this project vs other ones, an apparent reference to campaigners’ support of a pinch point in the cycle path planned in Salthill on this project vs what campaigners generally look for on different projects.

He said that councillors should not be dictated to by Twitter or Facebook or via other channels.

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