Waterford Bicycle User Group, formerly called Waterford Cycling Campaign, is an increasingly active local advocacy organisation and member group of Cyclist.ie. In this article, Frank Ryan from the Waterford BUG fills us in on what is happening in the south east.
Can you tell us what the main issues in Waterford City are as regards making cycling easy and safe and normal as a mode of transport?
Similar to other major population centres in Ireland, Waterford city pursued a car centric planning policy from the 1950s onward. This culminated in a city with one river crossing dominated by motorised traffic.
To make the city centre more attractive to pedestrians the then Waterford City Council adopted a policy of pedestrianisation of the primary retail area from the 1980s onwards. This policy was supported by the construction of a number of car parks along the city quays and adjacent to the periphery of the historic core of the city. These were designed to bring the motorist to within walking distance of the main shopping areas of the city centre.
The construction of the N25 Waterford city bypass presented the council with an opportunity to redesign the layout of some of the main routes into the city. Following the opening of the bypass in 2009, the City Council reviewed the main traffic thoroughfares into the city centre, specifically the city Quays and the Ferrybank dual carriageway. An attempt by the City Council to develop a ‘Green Route’ along these routes ran into significant objection from motoring, retail and other interest groups. The amended outcome created bus and cycle lanes which have to co-exist and interact with road traffic and on-street parking.
Changes to road usage and the protection of cyclists and pedestrians brought about by Covid-19 presented an opportunity to review some of these ‘green’ aspirations.
Waterford City and County Council (WC&CC) received funding of €2.3m from the National Transport Authority (NTA) towards the development of a ‘slow zone’ in Waterford city centre. The design and implementation of the projects approved under this programme must be completed by the end of November 2020. According to an NTA statement: “The funding will also allow for changes to traffic management arrangements to facilitate the reallocation of overall road space to improve facilities and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.”
The Bike Share scheme was due to be extended to Waterford city before the end of 2020. The implementation of this scheme has been delayed by Covid-19. It is envisaged there will be 14 docking stations in the city, primarily in the city centre and the public transport hubs. These will link up with a number of radial routes catering to Tramore commuter traffic at Waterford Regional Sports Centre, University Hospital Waterford, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and the IDA Industrial Park.
The NTA has committed funding for a number of cycle related projects for Waterford city including €750k for the WIT to city centre cycle route, €75k for the design of cycle facilities on the inner ring road (Cork Rd to John’s Hill), €1.55m for the Bilberry to Waterford city cycle route extension of Waterford Greenway and €100k for a multi-modal transport study for the Dunmore Road to city centre route.
And what about the other towns in Waterford such as Tramore and Dungarvan?
The amalgamation of Waterford City Council and Waterford County Council under the local government reforms of 2014 brought about a more cohesive and unified transport planning approach for the combined city and county area.
The town of Dungarvan (pop 9,227 in 2016) was the county town and administrative centre of County Waterford prior to the merger of the city and county. The merged council has retained administrative functions in the town. Dungarvan covers an area of 553 hectares which is relatively flat and is conducive to cycling. It benefited from the Smarter Travel scheme in 2012, receiving funding of €7.2m. It could be argued that the focus on cycling brought about by this initiative was one of the factors behind the development of Waterford Greenway, which opened in 2017.
The town of Tramore (population 10,381 in 2016) is located 12kms south of Waterford city. It is a popular bathing and watersports destination. It consists of a waterfront area with the ‘old town’ area based around the main street. The construction of the Tramore by-pass stimulated the development of housing which attracted purchasers from Waterford city during the boom years of the early noughties. Tramore is classed as a commuter town for Waterford city. Using figures from the 2006 census, approximately half of the population of the town travelled between 5-24 km to attend work, school and college, primarily in Waterford city.
Waterford County Council received funding of €310,500 under the National Cycle Network Funding Scheme 2012/2013 to develop a cycle along the R575 between the outskirts of Tramore and the Waterford city ring road.
Have you noticed any additional interest in making Waterford (city and county) more cycle friendly on the back of the success of the greenway?
The opening of the 46km long Waterford Greenway between Waterford city and Dungarvan in 2017 has been a significant draw for national and international tourists. The route is based on the former Waterford, Dungarvan and Lismore railway which opened in 1878.
The economic benefit for the urban centres of Waterford city, Kilmacthomas and Dungarvan has stimulated demand for additional connectivity to the Greenway from smaller towns and villages.
The towns of Cappoquin and Lismore are lobbying for an ‘extension’ of the Greenway. Unfortunately this section of the former railway line has been closed for a significant period of time. The proposed does not lend itself to a removal of the track and vegetation and resurfacing as a cycle and walkway which was the case with the Waterford to Dungarvan section.
There is a ‘spur’ currently under construction from Kilmeaden Railway Station, home to the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway, to the village of Kilmeaden, some 2km away. This will be achieved by the construction of a new hard surface track to junction with an existing roadway which will be altered to incorporate a dedicated cycleway.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of Waterford Cycling Campaign, and its re-emergence as the Waterford Bicycle User Group!?
Waterford Cycling Campaign was re-established in Jan 2018 with the aim of making Waterford city and county the cycling friendly county.
The change of name to Waterford Bicycle User Group in 2020 was implemented to broaden the appeal of the group to cyclists who may have been challenged by the more adversarial connotations attached to the previous name.
Do you have any contact with your neighbouring campaigning organisations – WEXBUG, Cork Cycling Campaign and Kilkenny Walking and Cycling Campaign – either unilaterally or though Cyclist.ie?
We have been in contact with Kilkenny W&CC through Cyclist.ie events.
Initial contact has been made with a group in Tramore who are lobbying for the reopening of the former Waterford Tramore railway line as a Greenway.
It is planned to make contact with Wexford BUG, arising out of the construction of the New Ross to Waterford Greenway, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2022.
How are you looking to change the policies and practices of Waterford City and County Council re sustainable transport and cycling? Any successes (or frustrations)?
Our group has made a submission to the Waterford City and County Development plan 2022-2028.
Are there any opportunities emerging which could be exploited to advance the cause?
The announcement of public funding of €110.6m on 10/11/2020 towards the regeneration project for Waterford City’s north quays will greatly enhance the connectivity of Waterford city and its suburb of Ferrybank on the northern bank of the river suir. The former port area was mothballed following the relocation of Waterford City port downriver to Belview in the early 1990s.
One element of the North Quays project will consist of the relocation of the train and bus stations to a site north of the river. The development will be linked to the city centre on the southern bank of the Suir by a 207m footbridge which will incorporate an electric busway.
The bridge will also act as a link between the Waterford Greenway and the New Ross – Waterford Greenway.
What is the best way for people interested in your work to keep abreast of local developments and to get in touch with you?
Waterford North Quays Development
River Suir pedestrian bridge
Waterford C&CC Cycling policy