Cycling Festival Fun in Lockdown Times

People across the country have been (re)discovering the joys of cycling over the last few months. And with the promise of increased funding for cycling it feels like the start of a real cycling revolution.

Cyclists have a lot to celebrate right now. What better way to do it then by taking part in this year’s “Leitrim Cycling Festival 2020(or wherever you are). This is not another online event. This is happening in your home, your county, this weekend. It’s a very simple idea – we can’t all be together so why not have our own mini cycling festivals wherever we are, while following the safety guidelines.

The Leitrim Cycling Festival is a celebration of bicycles, communities and Leitrim. But you don’t even need a bicycle to take part. The festival programme always includes lots of family friendly activities like picnicking, art making, dancing, eating cake. This year’s festival is no different. The Leitrim Cycling Festival team have put together a simple programme of events for the weekend of the 20th and 21st June 2020 which includes a picnic in your garden or local park, a slow bicycle race, a ceili in your kitchen, more cake and of course some bike rides. You can join in with their ideas or come up with your own.

Although this year we may not all be able to enjoy the beauty of Leitrim, we can all celebrate the wonders of cycling and communities. Communities have never been so important so even if you have not joined the cycling revolution, why not join in with some of the other events? Why not just eat cake! And although the festival is not online the team are encouraging everyone to post pictures and videos so that we can all join in with each other’s mini festivals, wherever you have them.

For more info find them on Facebook @LeitrimCyclingFestival on Twitter @CyclingLeitrim or go to www.leitrimcyclingfestival.com .

Check out the full programme on Saturday June 20th & Sunday June 21st.


Jo Sachs-Eldridge, Leitrim Cycling Festival – 085-8161653

Wee Greenway Initiative – construction on the horizon for first stretch of greenway

Donegal County Council is set to issue a tender in June for construction of the first phase of the greenway. The 2.7km section through the town of Muff will create a segregated route to allow cyclists and walkers to move through the village, separate from existing vehicular traffic. 

This development comes hot on the heels of Derry City & Strabane District Council submitting a planning application for a new cycling and walking bridge to cross the Penny ‘burn’, located on the shore of River Foyle in Derry city. This forms part of the overall section linking Derry to Muff. The Council in Derry is confident that planning for the 8km section linking the city to the outskirts of Muff will come before its Planning Committee in October.

Donegal County Council has also begun preparatory work on the planning application for the Buncrana-Derry section of the greenway. It is planned that this 29km route will come before An Bord Pleanála some time during Q1, 2021, with the northern section being submitted for planning next month. At present the team tasked with delivering the project is now engaged with landowners regarding accommodation works as part of the construction phase.

Through its Council sources, the Wee Greenway Initiative is also confident that Donegal County Council is seeking financial assistance to begin the planning of the sections linking Buncrana to Carndonagh (32kms) and Muff to Quigley’s Point (8kms). These sections are vital to the overall project and if the Council progresses them, it will be a mark a massive boost for cyclists  and walkers alike in the region. 

For more information, see North West Greenway Network

Latest 2020 Road Traffic Collision Data Shows New Road Safety Strategy and Funding Are Urgently Required

Cyclist.ie ,the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, welcomes the recent Garda Siochána and Road Safety Authority road safety appeal in advance of this June Bank Holiday weekend. However  Cyclist.ie is strongly of the view that the publication of Ireland’s new road safety strategy must be brought forward.

Just as for Slow Down Day one week ago The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána renewed their appeal for road users to take extra care on the roads this weekend. Shocking provisional collision figures for 2020 show that there has been a 17% increase in the number of fatal crashes and a 9% increase in road deaths compared to the same period last year.  Pedestrian deaths have doubled to 18 compared to  9 in 2019. The number of collisions is particularly disappointing at a time when Covid 19 restrictions meant that traffic levels  have been greatly reduced.

Cyclist.ie Chair, Colm Ryder stated that the effectiveness of all elements of the current road safety strategy needs to be examined.  Mr Ryder said, “ It almost beggars belief that at a time when people are working from home, businesses are closed, and traffic levels have been significantly reduced, that fatalities have actually increased” 

Mr Ryder suggested that the  new upcoming Road Safety Strategy must adopt the Swedish Vision Zero/Safe Systems approach. The Swedish Safe Systems Approach states that “human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system”

However, a strategy is of no value without the means to enforce it and Mr Ryder stated that the new government must provide the Garda with sufficient resources for roads policing.   “While we acknowledge the work of the Garda in enforcing road traffic law, collision and fatality statistics are a clear indication that current levels of enforcement are insufficient”. The desired operational strength of the Garda Road Policing Unit is 1200 but at the start of 2020 the number of garda deployed was just over 700. 

While we await a new strategy and enhanced budget we can still act to reduce speeding on our roads. Mairéad Forsythe of Love30, Ireland’s campaign for lower speed limits stated that  government and local authorities need to step-up.  “Once again, we appeal to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to do the right thing and introduce a default 30km/h in all urban areas, and in areas where people walking and cycling are sharing space with cars, buses, trucks and HGVs.”

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.