Opinion: “I am hugely disappointed about the Salthill Cycle Lane decision”

Published by admin on

17 February 2022

On Monday, Galway City Council revoked plans for a trial cycleway along Salthill Promenade.

Let’s start with some background. The €1 million investment was scrapped following the introduction of Standing Order 32 and was co-signed by 13 councillors from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, and Independents.

The cycleway originally received an 8-8 vote in July as to whether or not it would be debated. Following the mayor’s prerogative, it was decided it would not be debated. This then resulted in a 17-1 vote in favour of the temporary cycling infrastructure.

The trial was scheduled for March 2022 and a public consultation took part online from January 14th to 28th.

The Standing Order 32 introduced on the 9th February signalled the likely cancellation of the project.

Though hundreds showcased their continued support of the trial, turning out donned in red in a community organised cycle the day before the council met, it was unfortunately in vain.

The fact that a segregated cycle-lane can be described as “the single most divisive issue which we have dealt with in Galway City Council” is alarming.

The Council had an opportunity to transform what the city can be. However, they cited that the cycleway could impact traffic, cause difficulties for emergency vehicles, and that there would be less disabled access. There were also concerns that it would affect local businesses.

Galway is currently the third most congested region in Ireland. Commuters lose an average of 51 hours a year in traffic.

Emergency vehicle delay has plagued Galway for years. Articles can be found on this back to 2014 and beyond.

There is nowhere for vehicles to move out of the way in lots of areas across Salthill, which ultimately delays emergency vehicles. Segregated cycleways have been shown to be accessible by emergency services, thus preventing this.

The options put forward by the plan had the proposal to keep disabled access the same or increase it. There was no risk of losing anything that didn’t already exist.

Parking was also only to be reduced along the promenade. This parking is already not convenient for local business, and I would wager that most people are using the adjacent car parks, not the street-parking, predominantly used by walkers and swimmers.

Cycleways such as this have been shown to increase footfall in local businesses and it must be noted that some businesses entirely welcomed the development.

There is still the opportunity for this cycleway, albeit being delayed. There is a mandatory 6 month wait before it can be proposed to the Council again.

I am hugely disappointed. The decision to revoke the cycleway showcases, among other things, the complete disregard the status-quo has for the kind of future we need to imagine if we’re to leave a better world for future generations. If we can’t get a €1 million cycleway, but we can prioritise a €600 million bypass, what change do we have?

I don’t believe climate change has positives, as people around the world are already facing flooding, higher air pollution, more regular wildfires and, intense heatwaves.

With that said, shifting our current transport infrastructure to a more active, pedestrian-centred approach will holistically benefit people in Galway, and Ireland.

We can significantly reduce air pollution in Galway by reducing private vehicle travel. This has the knock-on effect of lowering healthcare costs into the future. We can improve the safety of the city for more vulnerable users. We can improve the accessibility of local amenities for people with disabilities. Lastly, we can mitigate the impact that climate change will have on Salthill’s seafront. Active transport is one part of addressing all this, and more.

There is more to climate action that just cycle lanes and carbon taxes. A society wide approach must be taken. Things like reducing the length of the work week, enabling more work from home, prioritising green jobs over unsustainable selling stuff.

We know the changes that need to be made. It’s time those in charge shared those concerns.

By Criodán Ó Murchú

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