Kissing gates: Can you imagine the uproar if car drivers had to navigate similar obstacles?

Comment & Analysis: Kissing gates are, simply put, a massive inconvenience for every user and a benefit to none. Whether you are walking, cycling, pushing a pram, using a walking stick or in a wheelchair, they are a piece of infrastructure that discriminates. 

That discrimination also increases inversely with a user’s mobility, so those who are least mobile suffer the most when trying to navigate through them.

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Again and again, on Twitter (X), Facebook and in news articles, I come across people struggling to get through them to access parks, greenways etc. These are often people with buggies, bikes, wheelchairs or other mobility aids.

Can you imagine the uproar if car drivers had to navigate similar obstacles to get access to these locations? 

BARRIER: Images posted on Twitter of the late Marie Silke manoeuvring her trike at a kissing gate.

Yet they persist, and in Galway more so than many other locations, where we now have the uniquely weird statistic of having just under 1 kissing gate for every thousand residents of the city. 

My involvement in the kissing gates topic started back in 2022 after reading, on Irishcycle.com, a response from Galway City Council to the NTA when the NTA had basically told them to get rid of them. The council response was essentially ‘we don’t have any except where we do and councillors want them anyway’.

The biggest issue with this response was that the council had no idea how many there were, where they were or the impact they were having on the lives of residents in the city. 

A local movement by Grainne Faller, #Sundays4Safety, shortly after, held numerous events highlighting many of the issues with these. As I was unable to attend, I decided to do something else to help and started mapping the locations of the kissing gates around Galway City. 

10, 20, 40, I kept finding more and more. After publishing the map and posting to Twitter it grew rapidly, to 70+ as more locals chimed in with spots I’d missed. On a side note, it was from this input that other issues were also mapped, missing paths, narrow access points etc to such an extent that the map now features over 200 locations across the city where there are accessibility issues. 

Following this, I contacted every councillor and emailed every Galway City Council & National Transport Authority email address I could find, with links to the map and it ended up being raised at the next council meeting where the CEO agreed to draft a report on the topic.

This was something long requested by several councillors however it was always put on the long finger as it looked like too much work to find all the kissing gates in the city. As it turns out, it took me one weekend plus an additional day to include the crowdsourced locations. 

The report that following set out a three-audit (report) approach:

  • 1st – The initial report and proposal to remove three gates which looked at everything from kissing gates to stiles, steps, and narrow access gaps. It did not cover missing paths and looked at ownership at a high level. A total of 110 locations from the map were in scope of which 95 they reckon they could do something about
  • 2nd – A follow-up report looking at what they can legally do 
  • 3rd – A report on what they will do

It has taken nearly a year but it looks like the council is finally about to remove the three kissing gates they initially flagged. With any luck, this is just a taste of things to come as Galway City desperately needs extensive work to improve accessibility.

Dave Corley started the Barriers2Galway project which has now mapped 70+ Kissing gates, 60+ locations with only 1 footpath, 20+ locations with no footpaths and 55+ other barriers such as stiles, path barriers, steps and narrow gaps.


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2 comments

  1. They make planning a route very tricky as you can ask Google maps for a route but then find it is impassable by cargo bike say and then be stuck doing a very awkward three point turn with a long and fully loaded bike.

    Reply
  2. Oh god, thanks for highlighting this (again), Cian. Had a lovely cycle from Black Horse bridge to Newlands Garden centre on Monday to pick up plants for my allotment, most of the trip along the canal. I think I had to navigate about 10 kissing gates. Folder with panniers which were full of plants on the way back. That very thought crossed my mind – what if I was faced with this in a car and I had to get out of my car and push it around an inconvenient obstacle.
    Imagine if I was attempting to get away from a challenging or violent situation. A Deliveroo rider some years ago on the Goldenbridge shared path north of the canal was badly beaten with iron bars, I think he may even have died, because he couldn’t get away quickly enough through the kissing gates.
    Another thing I’m really starting to notice is how unresponsive pedestrian lights are (say in situations where I’m crossing on foot or wheeling a bike), often going through two cycles of motorist greens before giving a laughable few seconds for pedestrians to cross, and, yet again, how motorist-priority is so engrained in our culture that it is assumed a motorist has right of way always.

    Reply

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