PLANS FOR a 2,000km national network of cycle paths connecting cities and major town across the Republic have been drafted by the National Roads Authority.
Work on a detailed route for the first “interurban” cycle path from Dublin to Galway began recently and is due to be completed by the end of the year.
The authority has mapped out 13 route “corridors” serving the cities of Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, and almost 100 large towns which will make up the National Cycle Network.
The routes pass through all of the 26 counties except Longford and vary in length from 52km (Drogheda to Trim) to 286km (Wexford to Tralee).
Local authorities along the routes have identified almost 500km of potential off-road cycle routes, which are physically separated from the road by a grass verge or other barrier.
The network will be made up of off-road cycleways; on-road cycleways, which are not shared with buses and taxis, and cycle trails or dedicated cycle paths, which are entirely separate from the road network, along canal tow paths or disused rail lines.
Large parts of many inland and western counties are not served by one of the 13 route corridors. However, the roads authority said the route corridors were a “skeleton” around which the national network should develop. This could include “links and loops” between each of the corridors, as well as links to local rural and urban cycle routes to gradually allow all parts of the State to be served by cycle paths.
In choosing the routes, the authority specified that they must connect the major cities and settlements with populations greater than 10,000 to attract the greatest number of users. The routes should be connected to public transport stops and have links to ports and airports. The network should facilitate commuter, leisure and tourism usage, and should connect to the National Cycling Network already developed in Northern Ireland.
Each local authority will be responsible for developing their section of the network. Funding will be available through the National Sustainable Transport Office, which has been allocated €50 million for 2010 and 2011.
A total cost for the network has yet to be quantified. However, the detailed plans for the Dublin to Galway corridor will identify how much each stage is likely to cost. The study of that route will involve detailed route selection, which will assess the potential for using parts of the Royal Canal towpath, abandoned railway lines and by-passed national roads, including the old N6. The study will also identify which types of cycle path will be used on each section of the route.
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said he wanted to provide “world class” cycle routes. “I believe a Dublin to Galway cycle route is an exciting concept that would prove to be a major attraction.”