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HOW THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRAIL GREENWAY MORPHED INTO A “WORKING FARMYARD” AT COOLYBROWN, ARDAGH, CO LIMERICK

Liam O’Mahony from the Great Southern Trail Greenway has sent us the following update explaining how the GST Greenway has morphed from a greenway to a ‘working farmyard’ at Coolybrown, Ardagh, County Limerick – and how this is at odds with maintaining the integrity of the publicly owned route.

The directors of the Great Southern Trail Ltd. (GST) have discussed the recent announcement by Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) of a €5 million upgrade for the Greenway and wish to draw public attention to the history of the “Coolybrown working farm” element of the otherwise broadly welcome proposals:

This story begins in 2003 with a successful planning application for a 180 square metre slatted unit to be constructed in a Coolybrown farm to the south of the railway. The application was revised in 2006 to double the size of the unit and this was also approved. 

In the interim the adjacent old Limerick to Tralee railway corridor had its right of way protected by the Mid-West Regional Authority for recreational and environmental pursuits in 2004.

Therefore, in 2007, when another incarnation of the yet unbuilt slatted unit manifested itself in planning application (07/1592) Limerick County Council, referencing the Regional Authority guidelines, wrote to the applicant on 20 July that it was “not favourly disposed” to the application and advised that it should be relocated to the northern side of the railway where the bulk of the farmlands and buildings were located. The Council requested further information. Surprisingly, having received no new information or proposals (only a regurgitation of the previous 2003 and 2006 files (received on 30 July), the Council approved the application on the following day, 31 July 2007.

These events all pre-dated the 2010 development of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section of the Greenway; all of which works were  undertaken by the GST. It was only then that it came to light that the plans approved three years earlier for (07/1592) had not been complied with. The slatted unit was now several metres closer to the railway than the planning permission permitted. In fact the cattle were being fed on the CIÉ railway property.

It was most surprising to the GST that Limerick County Council hadn’t apparently checked over the intervening three years to see that the structure had been built in accordance with the planning permission. The unauthorised slatted unit also received grant-aid from public funds; a matter which again merits investigation.

With the opening of the Rathkeale-Ardagh section by the GST the regulation of the situation in Coolybrown was an imperative. The landowner applied for retention under new conditions. It was to be hoped that the decision on this application (12/222) would bring closure to the saga and satisfy all the parties. The permission was granted but conformity with the conditions by the applicant and enforcement of them by the Council has unfortunately been less than satisfactory. 

That’s the story of the southside of the railway and now we proceed to the northside. CIÉ, being the owners of the railway route, have compounded the “working farm” scenario. They chose to split the railway corridor in half over a length of several hundred metres on the northside of the track in the Rathkeale direction. This was to facilitate the same landowner with direct and easy access to some external lands that he was renting. This more than generous decision of CIÉ in the early months of 2011 was as a result of representations made by a third party (whose name is known to the GST) directly to the then Chairman of CIÉ, Dr. John Lynch (recently deceased).

The overall result of the CIÉ and LCCC indulgence is that non local users of the Greenway when encountering a narrowing of the railway route and its less than attractive appearance, to their left and to their right, actually believe that they are in a farmyard.

To compound all of the above the  LCCC current plan to use public funds and to detour away from the railway for a length of 800 metres is the final capitulation. It is also a recipe for similar demands on sections yet to be developed.

During the GST twenty-five years of campaigning, developing and managing the Greenway we never entertained requests to deviate from the railway corridor. We viewed it as land held in trust by CIÉ for the people of Ireland.

Our hope now is that wiser council will prevail with this ill-advised current proposal being further investigated and resolved in the public interest.

The GST Greenway has the capacity to be a world class facility and of major benefit to locals and visitors alike. The integrity of the entire way without any proposed private diversion is a key element of the facility now and for future generations.

The Importance of the Broadmeadow Way

The news is spreading in Fingal that An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has granted permission for the construction of a 6 km Greenway from Malahide Castle across the Broadmeadow estuary to reach Newbridge House & Farm (permission granted May 19th).  This news has a particular resonance with me and my colleagues in the Skerries Cycling Initiative (SCI).  Why is it so important to us?!   A brief history will answer that.

As far back as 2008 we made a submission to the Dublin Transportation Office as it was then, advocating the creation of a cycleway from Balbriggan to Bray, noting that the Sutton-to-Sandycove cycleway concept was receiving attention from local authorities but the needs of cyclists north of Sutton along the coast were not being addressed. Then, in August 2009, the rail viaduct at Malahide collapsed and was repaired by November.  But before the restoration contractors had departed the scene, the government and Iarnród Éireann brilliantly offered them the job of sinking the piers of a pedestrian/cyclist bridge across the estuary into the seabed. Those piers are there now, all 13 of them, and this will make the task of creating the Broadmeadow Way much easier.  The following year, the SCI participated in an effort to organise a meeting between Fingal County Council, Iarnród Éireann and local representatives to discuss the bridge and how to promote cycling on the Fingal coast but the circumstances were not right at the time.

In 2013 the SCI wrote to the DTO’s replacement (sort of), the National Transport Authority, about their draft cycle network plan for the Greater Dublin Area and we again tried to sell the idea of what we then called “The Fingal Coast & Castle Way”. We wrote:

“This cycleway was conceived as one which not only provided excellent tourist and recreational coastal cycling, but also included direct links to major heritage and tourist-attractive sites along the way, such as Ardgillan Castle, Skerries Mills, Rogerstown Estuary, Newbridge House & Farm, Broadmeadow Estuary and Malahide Castle. Such a cycleway offers Fingal a genuine tourist product. ”

You can see how the Broadmeadow Way in our minds was critical to our overall goal of getting the Fingal Coastal Way – as it is now called – constructed.

In 2014 a public consultation process for the Broadmeadow Way began.  The SCI made a submission, advocating that the cycle/pedestrian track continue along the rail line as far as the Corballis Road, followed by a left turn up to the R126 and the gates of Newbridge House & Farm.  Again we tried to put this cycleway into the context of the Fingal Coastal Way, a plan which “embraces both cycling and the local amenity and heritage connections which powerfully raise the tourism profile of the cycleway.”

For the Fingal Coastal Way to work, two estuary crossings are required: one across the Broadmeadow estuary, which happily has been granted permission, and the second across the Rogerstown estuary.  This latter project must now take centre stage in the development of this marvellous Greenway.

Slow Down Every Day, not just One Day

The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Cyclist.ie, welcomes the enforcement by An Garda Síochána of a 24-hour National Slow Down Day on 22nd – 23rd May 2020.

Yet unlike Christmas Day, Slow Down Day should be every day. 

An Garda Síochána say that more road deaths have been recorded so far this year compared to last year (56 deaths up 5). This is appalling in a time of historic low traffic volumes due to the Covid-19 ‘Stay At Home’ restrictions.

Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits said: “It is very simple. If you are out for a walk to the shop and a person driving at 60km/h hits you, there’s a 90% chance your family will be gathering for a socially-distant funeral. If you are walking to the local café and are hit by a car travelling at 30km/h, there’s a 90% chance you will survive and be able to return to your favourite coffee shop one day. Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and lower speed limits to 30km/h in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”

Colm Ryder, Chair of Cyclist.ie added: “Responsible driving is critical at all times, and is particularly needed in these days of Covid-19. The two metre social distancing requirement frequently forces people nationwide to step off narrow paths out onto carriageways to avoid contact with other people walking. People cycling have to give two metres social distance to people walking too. This means people cycling must move into the primary position in the middle of the lane, which is difficult when motor vehicles are moving at speed. People should not have to choose between risk of death by road traffic collision or risk of contracting a deadly viral infection.”

Gerry Dornan, chair of Maynooth Cycling Campaign and Vice-Chair of Cyclist.ie, continued: “to assess the value of enforcement on Slow Down Day, we need statistics on the number of key indicators – fatalities, serious and minor accidents. We also need to know the number of checkpoints and how long they are in operation, and afterwards we want to know how many people driving were prosecuted. This needs to be more than a day of education.”

Joan Swift of the Sligo Cycling Campaign concluded: “We expect people driving to be educated about The Rules of the Road. And we expect An Garda Síochána to protect people walking and cycling by enforcing our road and public safety laws. We now expect our Government to fund changes to road design. Engineering out speed is vital to enable people driving to comply with speed limits. We need segregated and protected cycle ways and paths away from main roads

International Learning from Covid? – There are Positives!

Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about science.  In any language he would be classed as an ‘expert’!  In these days of lockdowns and restrictions we are continually asked to ‘listen to the experts’.  So what does Albert say about cycling and life.  He says: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’Sound advice wouldn’t you say!

Well, it is good to know that the role of cycling in our lives is gaining greater recognition, with the spread of the Covid virus!  Cities and governments are realising that a new reality needs to be recognised and ideally put in place.  Cities like Paris are forging ahead with ambitious plans to change the way citizens and commuters move about, encouraging people to ‘get on their bikes’!

The World Economic Forum is an international body based in Geneva which has recently highlighted the French government proposals to promote cycling and walking post COVID, as well as proposals from other cities around the world.  Check out the short video on this link,  and then delve into the associated written posts  for some great ideas that could inspire you to get active in changing our environment here in Ireland, and getting your town or city to recognise the need for radical change to how we move about.

Cycling is, and will continue to be, a critical part of moving to a new post Covid reality.  As Cyclist.ie has argued in multiple submissions to government, the role that cycling can play in:

  • Reducing the level of greenhouse gases
  • Improving the general and psychological health of people
  • Reducing congestion levels
  • Improving the design of public realm
  • Providing a real economic return on public investment must be taken on board by the any new government, and in turn by Local Authorities across the country

It’s time for all of us to build support for new green initiatives that help to grow cycling levels.

It’s time for all of us, as cycling advocates, to push for the necessary changes by lobbying our public representatives and local authorities.

It’s Time to Make a Difference!   Get On Yer Bike and Get Active!

Cycling Advocates Demand Government Direction TO Local Authorities, on Covid-19 Responses

Cyclist.ie calls on the Irish government to urgently follow the lead of European and United Kingdom governments regarding emergency Covid-related active travel measures. These measures include allocating more space for active travel and controlling vehicle speed by introducing 30 km/hr speed limits in built up areas and other measures.

On Saturday 9 May, the UK transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a national plan to support ‘active transport’ (walking and cycling) during and after the Covid-19 restrictions . He instructed local authorities to create space for walking and cycling and said that 20 m/ph (30km/h) speed limits was one of the measures required. The Transport Secretary’s action follows similar action by European governments and the release on 8 May of WHO guidance for local authorities – Strengthening Preparedness for COVID-19 in Cities and Urban Settings – in which it recommends the “promotion of safe active mobility (e.g. walking and cycling)”.

As a consequence of the Covid 19 shut-down, recent weeks have seen a complete reversal of numbers driving versus numbers walking and cycling . However, from Monday next, May 18th business will begin to open on a phased basis and traffic will increase. Due to the constraints social distancing requirements will impose on public transport and the air pollution consequence of increased motor traffic, large numbers of people will continue to walk and cycle. Switching to the private car, as an alternative to public transport would result in cities and towns experiencing unprecedented gridlock and a consequent deterioration in air quality. This would pose further threats to public health by increasing the incidence of respiratory conditions.

Dublin City Council is, to date, the only Irish local authority implementing substantial traffic measures to improve safety for people cycling and walking during the pandemic. Cyclist.ie spokesperson, Joan Swift, Sligo Cycling Campaign, has called on the government ” to ensure that the remaining Dublin council areas and our other cities of Waterford, Limerick, Cork Galway – and major towns such as Sligo – will not be left behind”, The Department of Transport Tourism and Sport must emulate its UK counterpart and offer direction to local authorities on dealing with the challenges they face in keeping people safe while walking and cycling. Speaking on behalf of Cyclist.ie and its 20 plus member organisations across Ireland, National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, said that “Initially the required segregated space can be secured quickly and cheaply by reallocating road space using a combination of wands, bollards, orcas and planters. In addition Mr O’ Tuama called for An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to introduce the following :

  • Introduce €1,000 electric bike grant to be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) this is necessary to facilitate longer journeys by people who will be unable to use public transport
  • Introduce incentives for bike repairs (as implemented in France and UK)
  • Ensure that the Cycle to Work scheme continues to be available to workers who could avail of the scheme pre-Covid-19 and enhance the scheme by (i) introducing an equivalent one for those dependant on social welfare, and (ii) increasing the limit from €1,000 to €2,000 for purchases of cargo bikes

In addition the government must work on cross-departmental basis to:

  • Accelerate the granting of any necessary funds to local authorities for safety improvements in our towns and cities
  • Use emergency powers to enable councils to bypass the current process and take swift action to. mandate 30kph speed limits in city, town and village centres and near promenades parks and schools
  • Remind councils that other measures to reduce speed are already available to them, for eg junction build-outs
  • Ensure enforcement by An Garda Síochána of anti-social driving and parking offences – e.g. by implementing fines and increasing resources available to tow vehicles obstructing footpaths or cycle ways
  • Place a nationwide ban on local authorities de-pedestrianising streets or suspending cycle lanes.

We cautiously welcome the words of Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in the Dáil today (13 May), when he mentioned that the National Transport Authority (NTA) would work with local authorities in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford to develop a COVID mobility framework. We are disappointed that this appears limited in scope and gives local authorities the ability to opt out of any measures. We would like clarification from the Minister why this process was not started two months ago when initial restrictions began, particularly in light of cities around the world already taking such measures at that stage. We note that Dublin City Council led from the front on this matter, and that the Minister’s department, through the NTA, only intervened at a late stage. The Minister must surely recognise that there are more than five councils in the country that face these issues, and we are calling for greater support for the 28 city and county councils not mentioned by the Minister, including the councils surrounding Dublin City Council that are heavily reliant on public transport for mobility.

ECF: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE COVID-19 RECOVERY

During the quarantine, cycling has proven to be the safest, most efficient mode of transport we have. It cuts air pollution, which is likely to help spread the virus, and guarantees social distancing between commuters. In order to ensure a fast recovery, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) issued a set of recommendations for European, national and local authorities to promote cycling.

“This is not just a matter of sustainable mobility any more: more and better cycling has become a primary health issue. And if we want to reap the benefits bicycles can provide, we must ensure the measures we are taking will stay in the future. This is our opportunity to redesign cities for good, we can’t waste it with temporary solutions” declared Morten Kabell, co-CEO of ECF.

Cars have almost disappeared from the streets of Europe, bringing noise and air pollution levels down to historic lows. On the other hand, bicycles have emerged as the best option to do essential trips, deliver food and medicines, and get physically active. Never before have we been able to see, in such a clear way, the impact of our current mobility model on health, the environment, equality and safety. And never has such a great share of the population realised that private motorised mobility is far from the ideal commute.

Yet, the prospect of another traffic jam clogging our cities and polluting our air is not difficult to imagine. With public transport operating at reduced capacity, the only truly viable alternative we have to relaunch our economy and society is active mobility. Cycling is the hyper-efficient, quick and cheap option that will enable a boost recovery for Europe, instead of a slow and clumsy one.

“We have put together a set of recommendations for new streets that will unlock the full potential of cycling mobility. These solutions will enable extensive benefits in terms of traffic efficiency, a local economy reboot, public health savings. We call on all municipalities, regions and national governments to adapt these principles to their local context and give Europe a head start in the recovery phase”, said Jill Warren, co-CEO of ECF.

1. Cycling infrastructure networks

A well-designed network of bicycle infrastructure is essential to the promotion of cycling as a safe, efficient and healthy mode of transport. A comprehensive network of so called “COVID lanes” will immediately facilitate cycling access in cities. Following the example of Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Rome, among many others, a total target of 95,000 kilometres of roads should be repurposed for cycling. The deployment of various elements of street furniture can help ensure that the segregation of modes is respected by all users.

To further improve the efficiency of the investment, these elements should then be reconciled and integrated in the permanent urban infrastructure.

2. Reduce traffic speed limits

Road safety experts agree that speed is one of the major threats to safer streets. Reducing traffic speed in cities to 30km/h (if not lower) is the first step to achieve that goal and would not make overall mobility any slower. The City of Brussels took an exemplary measure, reducing speed limits to 20 km/hour in all streets inside the inner ring road.

3. Incentivise positive change, dis-incentivise business as usual

Together with Cycling Industries Europe and several other bicycle organisations in Europe, we are calling on the European institutions to create a €5 billion centralised EU e-bike Access Fund. Establishing a set of subsidies scheme for the purchase of (e-)(cargo)bikes can go a long way in nudging people in the right direction.

On the other hand, we need to reduce the over €100 billion congestion costs in European cities (more than 1% of the EU GDP per year). Looking for a solution, ECF studied the implementation of congestion charges in 4 cities over many years: Milan, London, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The ECF report “Congestion charges and cycling” proves the success of investing revenues from congestion charges into a sustainable mobility plan, and particularly cycling. With different approaches, the 4 cities achieved similar, positive results: introducing a congestion charge scheme created net revenues, reduced congestion, improved air quality and was beneficial for sustainable mobility.

4. Cycle logistics

Right-turning (left in Ireland & the UK) trucks in urban areas are one of the leading causes of deadly and life-changing accidents with cyclists. Also, over 90% of all commercial vans and trucks currently circulating are diesel-fuelled. The promotion of alternatives such as cycle logistics for the last-mile delivery is essential. The Horizon2020 EU-funded project City Changer Cargo Bike has already collected a number of valuable resources to guide cities and businesses in the process of converting their urban logistics into a more efficient, cleaner and infinitely safer system.

At a national and European level, stricter safety and visibility standards for lorry manufacturers must be imposed. While the revised General Safety Regulation already represents a great leap in cycling safety, the EU must firmly lead the negotiations at the UN to define the exact technical specifications for each of the measures.

Cycling Ireland AXA Community Bike Rides

Cyclist.ie has had a strategic partnership with Cycling Ireland since 2016 – the aim is to jointly promote and advocate for the development of cycling on the island of Ireland. We meet Cycling Ireland staff and volunteers on a regular basis, we and keep up-to-date on what is happening in the sports and leisure side of two wheeling – and equally, we share what is happening in the campaigning and advocacy spheres with them. Mary Corry, Development Officer for Cycling Ireland’s AXA Community Bike Rides, sent us the following update on what is happening with the bike ride programme they organise during the COVID crisis.

With the current restrictions in place, unfortunately AXA Community Bike Rides are unable to take place in their current format. For now, we are conscious that many of our members may like to take part in other cycling related activities within their home environment, such as taking part in strength exercises for cycling or learning about interval training. Others may like to find out – Is my saddle the right height for me? How do I fix a puncture? Is my helmet fitting properly? How do I clean my bike chain? 

As a result, the AXA Community Bike Rides team have worked on developing short video clips on the above such topics so that for those who want to improve their cycling technique, they can look to engage with strength training clips or interval training, or for those who may like to improve their bike fitting and maintenance skills, they have access to short tutorial clips on how to go about doing this, see below

See also AXA Community Bike Rides

Another 6 clips being shared over the coming weeks …

Clonakilty Bicycle Festival 2020 is going Global

This year the Clon Bike Fest will widen its spokes, reaching wide and inviting bicycle lovers all over the world to participate in a series of events, online and on your bike – wherever you are!

While the organizers are still finalizing details of the weekend, they are offering this snap shot:

The main on-yer-bike event of the weekend will be a 4 day ‘Photo Scavenger Hunt’ – open to small groups of bike lovers around the world. Register a team of 2-6 people (respecting your local COVID-19 guidelines) and prepare yourselves for 4 days of cycle hunting and photo posing – each item on the list will be assigned point values – and the team with the most points will win a wheely wonderful prize pack! Scavenger hunt list will be published on the evening of Wednesday June 3rd and entries will close mid-night on the 8th.

The Bicycle Festival will also host a live streaming ‘Bicycle Lovers’ Forum’ to discuss topics from ‘Cycling beyond the Pandemic’ to community bike shops to bike-buses, and everything in between. You can also expect live streaming Bike Repair with community bike mechanics from our very own Bike Circus as well as a virtual Cycle-in-Cinema and ideas and invitations to set up small cycle obstacle courses for your street!

T-shirts are being designed, digital posters and programmes will be available from May 15th – Please spread the word!

Details here, or email or call 085 757 4338

Coronavirus: Change Our Streets, make Safer Streets for all

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie call on the national government to provide safe, usable space across the country for people to shop, exercise and commute by walking and cycling during the Covid-19 crisis. 

While current lock-down restrictions are in place until May 5, 2020, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has stated that social distancing measures may stay in place to some degree until a coronavirus vaccine has been found. 

A substantial percentage of Irish people shop on foot or by cycling, and physical exercise is vitally important to both physical and mental health. 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie propose that while motor traffic is reduced, space on streets must be reallocated to walking, running, cycling and playing to ensure safe social distancing within communities – a reallocation that is already taking place internationally. 

Speaking for the Irish Pedestrian Network Ailish Drake says, “The New Zealand government has empowered local communities to create more social distancing space by providing 90% funding for new footpaths and widen existing ones, and to create pop-up bike lanes. These measures can be put in place in a matter of hours or a few days using paint, blocks or planters.” 

Damien O Tuama, spokesperson for Cyclist.ie the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, says, “Over sixty towns and cities worldwide, in recognition of this new reality, have quickly installed low-cost temporary measures by using cones to widen footpaths and repurposing full vehicle lanes to cycle lanes. Dublin has now joined Berlin, Washington DC and London in reallocating road space to ensure safer social distancing is possible. We want other councils to do the same.” 

The Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie welcome efforts by many local Councillors and TDs in seeking additional space for social distancing across Irish cities and in particular the progress made in Dublin where Dublin City Council will begin implementing emergency distancing measures from Monday 20th April. 

  1. IPN and Cyclist.ie now call on the government to implement a nationwide programme
  2. Automate pedestrian crossings so people do not have to manually press signal buttons
  3. Introduce a default speed limit of 30km/h on all urban and suburban streets
  4. Reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists, to make walking and cycling safer for people who are exercising within their 2 km from home zone, especially those with prams or wheelchairs
  5. Enable local authorities to prioritise temporary measures such as widening of footpaths, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways in cities and/or closing road lanes and specific streets to motor traffic, by the temporary application of DMURS standards to existing streets
  6. New spaces to be allocated fairly and with consideration of universal needs across city centre, suburbs, towns and villages to avoid people ‘flocking’ to centralised areas
  7. Dedicated teams in each local authority to enable local residents and interested groups to plan and design temporary footpaths and cycle lanes in their locality
  8. Rapid implementation of said routes with a design strategy to clearly indicate new routes to users and motorists

Orla Burke, spokesperson for Pedestrian Cork explains, “Families in Cork, denied the opportunity to drive to their favourite walking spots, are coming face-to-face with the poor provision for walking in their immediate neighbourhoods. Quick wins are available to our councils but this requires thoughtful leadership. This could be a time for simple yet effective improvements to facilitate walking. We call on our local authorities to rise to the challenge of Covid-19 make our streets safe for all.” 

Anne Cronin of Cycle Bus Limerick says, “For children that live in the city or suburbs, jumping on their bike with a parent, is their only way to connect with a space outside of their home. Many children are forced to cycle on the road as opposed to the footpath and therefore are at risk without segregation. The increase in the numbers of children cycling in our city is remarkable at the moment and children should be protected and supported to remain doing so.” 

Ailish Drake adds, “These temporary actions in response to the Covid-19 emergency, would be strategic in creating a positive culture change to make our towns and cities more liveable and contributing to a much needed boost in footfall required to aid the economic recovery when we move beyond the current crisis. This is in line with current government policy for both urban and rural regeneration development funds (URDF & RRDF).”