— “Our local elected members are also very vocal on the retention of such none-compliant access control points,” a senior Galway City official said.
A legalistic response from Galway City Council to a National Transport Authority census of inaccessible barriers on walking and cycle routes has been described as “cynical” and a sign that “ the council isn’t even pretending to give a toss about accessibility”.
According to records released under the Freedom of Information Acts, Galway City Council told National Transport Authority that the city does not have any “non-compliant access controls”, such as kissing gates, on what it terms as “on any of our existing or proposed future Active Travel Schemes”.
However, Galway City Council has kissing gates on walking and cycle routes, include on the Martin Connolly Causeway and a short route at Ballyloughane Beach.
The Martin Connolly Causeway, which links Mutton Island and Nimmos Pier, was in receipt of Active Travel funding as part of the July 2020 Stimulus.
The reply from the council also implied that most gates were in “provided as part of the housing developments” and blamed “private developers”. These gates are typically between roads and estates which have been long taken in charge by the council.
Joe Seymour, head of Active Travel Investment at the NTA wrote to councils in February. He said: “The Department of Transport has issued a notification from the Minister for Transport (attached) in regard to access control points (including Kissing Gates) where such infrastructure may hinder access by members of the public, with the following applying with immediate effect.”
The email said that “All existing, or future, Active Travel infrastructure (including relevant urban Greenways) shall not include non-compliant access control points.”
Seymour added: “In this regard, the NTA requests that each Local Authority identifies existing non-compliant access control infrastructure on active travel projects within their administrative area and provides these locations to the Active Travel Investment Unit in the NTA by the 1st March 2022 in order for a programme for the removal of inaccessible control points to be agreed.”
He added that reasonable costs incurred will be funded through an Active Travel Grants Allocation.
In an email reply on March 21, Uinsinn Finn a senior engineer and head of transport at Galway City Council, said: “In relation to your correspondence dated the 10th February in regard to NTA Active Travel Programme – Access Control, and your request for each local authority to identify existing non-compliant access control infrastructures on active travel projects and to provide these locations to the NTA. I can confirm that Galway City Council does not have any non-compliant access control infrastructure on any of our existing or proposed future Active Travel Schemes.”
He continued: “It may be worth noting that there are access control points in Galway City that could be considered noncompliant, in accordance with the definition outlined in the letter of the 8th February 2022 from the Department of Transport. Those access control points were not provided as part of an active travel scheme, but provided as part of the housing developments and in most cases were provided by the private developer of the housing development.”
“In addition, it may also be the case that a number of these may have been provided as part of and in response to public consultation at the time of planning permission and to address concerns raised by residents,” wrote Finn.
“Our local elected members are also very vocal on the retention of such none-compliant access control points within residential developments,” he said.
Finn added that the council welcomes the prospect of new guidelines and that: “If guidance on such alternative solutions are published we could then consider replacing control points between residential areas with such and subject to public consultation. The solutions could also be applied to proposed new developments and Active Travel Schemes.”
Responding to emails which were released by the NTA to this website, local campaigners said the barriers are simply discriminatory and that the council seems to “misunderstand the very notion of access”.
Kevin Jennings, chairperson of the Galway Cycling Campaign, said: “It’s such a cynical move to say we have no active travel schemes therefore no discriminatory barriers on active travel schemes. As if pushing a buggy doesn’t count as active travel. Or as if it isn’t an active travel route unless designated so by the Council.”
He added: “Wherever people walk that’s an active travel route. Also this charade must stop where a senior engineer hides behind their opinion of what the elected reperesentatives will tolerate when there is no such vote on the record from the elected representatives.”
Gráinne Faller, an active travel campaigner based in Galway, said: “It beggars belief. The council isn’t even pretending to give a toss about accessibility.”
She added: “Kissing gates impede access full stop. It doesn’t matter where they are. The idea that an active travel route is somehow separate from any other route just shows how the council misunderstands the very notion of access, comfort and safety on our streets and roads.”