A walking and cycling project in Galway has been downgraded after construction started because motorists and a local councillor complained it slowed them down.
The Doughiska Road south project had included upgrading the provision for both walking and cycling, but now an existing cycle lane will be removed and people walking and cycling will be mixed so that motorists can travel more freely at the T-junction with Ros Caoin.
The junction has already been constructed with a design which could be roughly described as a type of mid-way point between the two designs, including cycle lanes leading up to shared space footpaths. Now, the plan is to remove the cycle lanes on the approach to the junction from Ros Caoin and narrow the shared footpath space at the junction.
Some residents claimed traffic congestion streaming out of the Ros Caoin road onto the Doughiska Road, but drone footage posted by somebody who campaigned against the project seemed to show the traffic originating from outside of the project boundary.
Census data shows that the Roscam/Doughiska area, around the project, has some of the lowest levels of cycling in Galway City, but that around 70% of trips for work or school originating in the area are to places like Ballybrit, Parkmore, Mervue, and Oranmore, which are all within around a 15-20 minute cycle.
An article published in the Galway City Tribune last month incorrectly claimed that the works would “reduce the exit from four estates and the Roscam shops from two lanes to one” — this is incorrect as confirmed by Google Street View and satellite images pre-dating the construction show only one exit lane beside a cycle lane.
Local Cllr Alan Cheevers (Fianna Fáil) told Tribune that the project would cause “severe backlogs” and “catastrophic for residents and it had to be stopped”. The newspaper reported Cllr Cheevers as claiming — again incorrectly — that “What was proposed to happen was to reduce the exit to one lane and install traffic lights which would severe issues where there are already major problems.”
There was a reduction in traffic lane widths, but no reduction in the number of lanes until the cycle lane was removed in the latest plans.
Cllr Alan Curran (Social Democrats) posted the above image showing the original drawings for the junction and a revised plan dated July 2023.
Cllr Curran said: “This is being sold to the public as an Active Travel scheme, as part of the Galway Transportation Strategy, aiming to improve the poor quality cycle network in the city. What we have instead is a project openly designed to maximise motorised traffic flow through the junction.”
“The removal of an existing cycle lane, narrowing of a pedestrian area and the provision of a shared space for cyclists and pedestrians on a narrow bend does not reconcile with this aim,” he said.
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“This scheme went through public consultation in 2021 and was approved by the council. However since construction began it has been completely redesigned, completely undermining the consultation process,” said Cllr Curran.
He added: “We have been told that the NTA has signed off on this redesign, in which case serious questions need answering.”
Cllr Niall Murphy (Green Party) took to Twitter yesterday to express similar feelings.
Cllr Murphy said: “Had a difficult meeting with councillors and engineers on the Doughiska South Cycle Route this week. The scheme is ‘Doughiska Road South’ and was voted on unanimously by councillors in 2022, and construction started several weeks ago.”
“The scheme adds about 500m of cycle lane, on both sides of the Doughiska Road. The Ros Caoin road that has a T-junction with Doughiska Road has had a cycle lane for years. During construction there were objections to the fact that the new layout slowed car flow,” he said.
Cllr Murphy said: “Following the objections, the Galway City engineers redesigned the junction and received NTA approval to widen the car lane and remove the cycle lane as it approaches the junction. For the last 20 metres the cyclists will have to share the footpath with pedestrians.”
“A solution that led to a previous cycle lane being removed and a previous footpath becoming a shared pedestrian and cycle-way, on a narrow corner, is not the right way forward. I am shocked that the NTA agreed to this.”
He also said that there was an issue of illegal parking on the cycle lane and on the footpath before the construction is even finished.
Galway City Council and the National Transport Authority (NTA) were contacted on Thursday for comment and this article will be updated if/when replies to questions are received.
The original planned drawing:
The July 2023 plan: