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Friday 31 March 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Alamy Stock Photo Part of the proposed cycle lane was set to run alongside Salthill's popular promenade.
# salthill cycleway
Galway councillors revoke plans for temporary cycleway in Salthill
Campaigners say they are “disappointed but not surprised” that the six-month pilot has been stopped.

GALWAY CITY COUNCILLORS have voted to revoke plans for a temporary cycleway pilot project in Salthill.

Plans for the six-month trial have been the subject of significant debate in the area, attracting both strong support and opposition.

The project, which was due to get underway in March, is now shelved following a lengthy city council debate last night which saw councillors voting 13 to four against the cycleway.   

The Galway Cycling Campaign group has run an impressive awareness drive, culminating in a well-attended community cycle on Sunday. 

However, residents and business groups have opposed the plans, saying the disruption would be too severe.

Martina Callanan, a spokesperson for the campaign group, says the councillors have squandered the opportunity to trial safe cycling infrastructure in the city.

“We feel disappointed and disgusted but we’re not surprised, unfortunately. Because Galway City Councillors are big and brave when it comes to talking to talk, but when it comes to action; they go limp, they shrivel, they’re ineffective,” Callanan told The Journal.

Our roads are still dangerous today. We’re still living in a climate crisis. There’s no project, no staff, no funding. They have squandered a tiny, temporary chance for change.

Council engineers put forward two route options for the cycleway. The first option was a two-way cycle lane running along Salthill’s popular promenade with a one-way cycleway from Blackrock to the Barna Road. 

The second option was largely the same, but with two-way vehicle traffic included.

Councillor Alan Cheevers, who voted to revoke the cycle lane, said that the options that were proposed by council engineers were “not workable”.

“They were blocking off the main arteries. They were going to impede emergency services, residents, people with disabilities and businesses,” Cheevers said.

“The Council presented two very unworkable options to us. I think, really what they were doing was putting the onus back on the councillors. I felt that they weren’t thought-out, they weren’t properly planned. Basically they were never ever going to work.”

Yesterday’s council meeting heard that almost 7,000 submissions were made to a public consultation process about the proposals.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents were opposed to both of the route options, with traffic, parking and emergency services access frequently cited as concerns.  

The Galway Cycling Campaign said amendments were proposed which would have addressed the concerns but they were rejected.

“There’s always concerns with change. Concerns can be addressed. This process allowed for concerns to be taken onboard and for the plan to be updated, but councillors have stopped that possibility. They have stopped the process to improve the plan. That’s on them,” Callanan said.

Last September, councillors voted in support of the temporary two-way cycle lane by 17 to one in favour.

However, several now say that had the proposed routes been in the public domain in advance of that vote it would not have received the support it did. 

One of the four councillors who voted against revoking the plans, Owen Hanley of the Social Democrats, argued in favour of a compromise trial based on an improved design and increased engagement with those with concerns.

“In a climate and transport crisis we need change and action. This was our chance and I believe councillors made the wrong decision,” Hanley said. 

Cheevers said the debate around the cycle lane has been very divisive and has caused significant tension between cycle groups and businesses and residents in Salthill.

He added that councillors have also received abusive messages from around Ireland for not supporting the cycleway.

“One guy last night came on within five minutes of the vote and he called me a coward. And he’s from Dublin, he wasn’t even from Galway. You were getting activists from outside Galway who were taking part in this debate,” Cheevers said.

“We were exercising our democratic right and we were exercising what we felt was best… Some of the abuse, I don’t think it was right.”

‘System change’

With the temporary cycleway shelved councillors are proposing that plans for a greenway from Galway city to Barna – contained in a report commissioned in 2016 – should be revisited.

The Galway Cycling Campaign says the proposal would have been welcome but is now obsolete due to new design standards.

“We wanted that intervention years ago, but it was quietly shelved, without being discussed by councillors at council,” Callanan said.

“That report is obsolete, because design standards have rightly changed and improved and there are now different processes around developing land for greenways. 

“What this debacle in Galway shows is that we need system change. We need system change from the three parties in government and a joint approach from the Department of Transport and the Department of Housing and Local Government.”

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