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Erasmus Trip to Waterford, 2023

Just a month after the inaugural Erasmus+ gathering in Corella on the Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project, the second “Learning, Teaching and Training” gathering took place from 22 to 27 June 2023. It was hosted by Newtown School in Waterford city, with Karen Keogh from their teaching staff curating a diverse and brilliantly organised programme of activities. 

In this article, four members of the Cyclist.ie team reflect on what was an action-packed trip spanning the themes of Social Inclusion, Climate Action, Intergenerational Relationships and Urban Cycling Promotion (and you can read more about the themes in our article from October 2022). Each of our four reporters – Denis, Allison, Jo and Hugh – cover one of the full days.

Just to note here that we were delighted that members of Dublin Cycling Campaign (DCC) came into the city to meet with the Spanish delegation for a convivial evening the night before the group travelled to the south east. And the Spanish visitors also managed to squeeze in an expert walking tour of Dublin, led by Martin Quinn (a member of DCC himself), before hopping on the coach to Waterford.  

Martin Quinn (in blue) leading the walking tour of Dublin with the Spanish crew! (Photo credit – Chefly, Biciclistas de Corella)

As we have said previously, Cyclist.ie is proud to be part of this Erasmus+ project and to be forging strong relationships with the other six partner organisations from four EU countries. 


Friday 23 June – Denis McAuliffe 
Many enjoyable events took place on the opening day, but what stands out to me was Keith Lemon, the Principal of Newtown School, welcoming us and officiating at the tree planting ceremony in the grounds of the school. Before planting the oak tree sapling, he said – “Wherever you may go and whatever you might do, remember that the mighty oak was once a nut too”, a saying that I have never heard before but worthy of recognition. 

Tree planting in Newtown School with MEP Grace O’Sullivan (from Waterford herself) on hand to help out after delivering her welcoming words in the school hall (Photo credit – Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella)

This was followed by a walk from Newtown school to GROW HQ, an award-winning organic garden and working model of a sustainable food system – see here. While even though it rained on our way and on arrival, it was well worth the effort as we got to avail of an “all you can eat” in a three minute fresh organic strawberry picking and eating competition, a tour of the gardens, fresh scones, homemade red currant and strawberry jam, fennel and mint cordial and locally produced apple juice. Our tummies were well looked after and ready for our trip back to the school canteen where we were once again treated to lunch. 

After lunch we had many more fun filled and educational events which my wife and daughter participated in and we were getting to know our Erasmus friends from Poland, Spain, Portugal and of course Ireland with the interactive based ethos of the programme.

Exploring GROW HQ (Photo credit – Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella)

For me the highlight of the day was the transition from Picasso to Viking – our final workshop of the evening was with the amazing team from Deise Medieval. This comprised a fantastic blend of activities and information, and a living history workshop. It was particularly nice to see my daughter Danielle so engaged, who by now had become a Viking warrior and during a Viking battle she managed to fight her way through no less than three waves of opposing warriors! One of the trainers in battle later mentioned to me that he wouldn’t want to meet her on a dark night (or should that be knight!?). It was indeed such an interesting way to finish off the first day of a well enjoyed and educational Erasmus experience. My daughter Danielle made many new friends and it was somewhat of an achievement being the oldest person on the trip and my daughter being the youngest – you could say that we covered both sides of the aging spectrum. 

Deise Medieval with additional fierce Vikings drawn from the Cyclist.ie warrior group – Front row (R to L): Danielle McAuliffe (Great Southern Trail), Allison Roberts (Clon Bike Fest), Mary Sinnott (Waterford Bicycle User Group); Back row / standing (R to L): Jo Sachs Eldridge (Leitrim Cycling Festival), Denis and Catherine McAuliffe (Great Southern Trail), Siobhán McNamara (Dublin Cycling Campaign), Dave Tobin (Limerick Cycling Campaign), three of the Deise Medieval group, Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella, Damien Ó Tuama (Cyclist.ie), Hugh Raftery (Dublin Cycling Campaign) 

The following days were filled from beginning to end with multiple trips and events of which, no doubt, my Cyclist.ie partners do justice in their own recording of their most memorable moments of their time spent in Waterford. Hopefully our paths will cross once again at another Cyclist.ie Erasmus educational event.

Denis Mc Auliffe
Vice Chair of Ireland’s first planned Greenway, The Great Southern Trail
http://www.southerntrail.net/
Now known as The Limerick Greenway
https://www.limerick.ie/greenway 
On behalf of Catherine, Denis and Danielle McAuliffe.


Saturday 24 June – Allison Roberts
After breakfast everyone made their way into the city centre, and the students were divided into teams by country and given €50 per team to come up with outfits for an upcycling fashion show. Meanwhile the adults headed for the Waterford Medieval museum.

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The Cyclist.ie Delegation! L-R: Mary Sinnott, Siobhán McNamara, Denis McAuliffe, Catherine McAuliffe, Dave Tobin, Olivia Tobin, Damien Ó Tuama, Hugh Raftery, Jo Sachs Eldridge and Allison Roberts

First up we were given headsets and got a bit of a history lesson via virtual reality. The VR program was called ‘King of the Vikings’ and I think everyone enjoyed the novelty of VR and graphics, but it may have been a bit hard to follow as it wasn’t available in Spanish or Polish or Portuguese, but I think we all got the gist! Much better was the tour that followed of the ‘Viking Triangle’ which is a very small block in the centre of Waterford. 

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A few facts that have stayed with me – Waterford is a very Georgian style city with a history of famous architects, the theatre being an example that has tall and wide doors to allow for top hats & hoop dresses. Reginald’s tower on the main waterfront was used as a cell for the drunk & disorderly. The large Viking sword sculpture crafted with a chainsaw was actually made in another county from a tree fallen in one of the big storms, and the sword is complete with tree roots. 

After the tour we had a coffee and the first annual Brompton unfolding competition – Dave Tobin was pronounced winner with his double-handed flip being the move that clinched it.

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Nervous entrants of the Brompton unfolding competition just seconds before starting

After lunch at the school everyone boarded the bus for Kilmurrin beach for beach clean up except Mary, Jo, Damien and I who wanted to get the bikes out for a spin. Mary led the way with her electric cargo bike (with dog Teddy along for the ride) followed by the three of us on our beloved Bromptons. It took a fair few hills to get out of Waterford and then we followed what would have been some lovely tree-lined narrow, windy country roads if it hadn’t been for the amount and speed of the motor traffic. Unfortunately a van decided to overtake us on a blind bend just as a car was coming from the opposite direction. The van swerved back in front of us as the car slammed on its brakes and swerved towards the ditch only to be rear-ended by another car behind it which was traveling at speed. Thankfully everyone was OK (the cars weren’t).

We set off again but Teddy (the dog) was itching to stretch his legs so we took a long-cut and walked our bikes through a lovely new park just outside of Dunhill. The Anne Valley Walk was developed as part of a plan to deal with wastewater from the town. It’s a beautiful walk through trees flanked by reed-bed ponds that are filtering the town’s wastewater. 

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When we finally made it to Kilmurrin Beach the sand circle art session was already underway, the plan being to recreate the Erasmus+ logo on the beach. The man running it was great and got everyone involved, making lines, tracing each other on the sand, doing slow-mo actions to be captured on the time-lapsed video. We also took a chance to have a dip and eat our packed dinners.

You can watch the time-lapsed sand art video here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1329984940468995/permalink/2819490974851710/ 

Around 7pm we all boarded the bus to head back to town where Pride celebrations were in full swing. Most of us adults stopped in at a patio for some drinks and food and the students had some free time in town before we all made our way slowly back to school for the night. All in all, a great day, weather and activity-wise, with the few of us who had witnessed (and been a bit too close to) the crash being reminded of why so many people don’t feel safe cycling on the roads in Ireland. Thankfully the next day we got to enjoy some much better infrastructure on the greenway.

Allison Roberts
Clonakilty Bike Festival
https://clonakiltybicyclefestival.org/ 


Sunday 25 June – Jo Sachs Eldridge
I loved the eclectic collection of activities that were put on for us. My main motivation for taking part was the opportunity to spend some time with the cycling crew – to have conversations in-person rather than online – but I wasn’t expecting to have so many new and wonderful experiences along the way.

The card workshop in the morning had some brilliant elements – it used plastic and other matter found on the beach and on completion the students all sat in rows facing each other where they ‘speed dated’ while describing their beautiful work of art. As the facilitator explained – often when we create something we don’t get a chance to really look at it or talk about it. Simple but brilliant. 

The Charity Shop Fashion Show was also more impressive and entertaining than I expected. The students put huge effort into their themes and outfits. And the calibre of the judge – a sustainable fashion designer – added another level of appreciation to it all.

I had heard great reports of the Waterford Greenway over the years so I was really looking forward to this activity. And it didn’t disappoint. Kilometres of beautiful scenery – long, majestic coastal sections, acres of farmland and rich hedgerows – all with a smooth surface, plenty of width to chat and overtake and chicanes that would allow any (?) bike to navigate.

Hugh Raftery from the Cyclist.ie delegation enjoying the greenway!

The route also includes a number of viaducts and a magical fairy tunnel. Although my favourite bit was through the section of what felt like a tropical forest – shown here.

Even the thunder and lightning storms and heavy showers didn’t take away from the fabulous ride. Karen, the amazing coordinator, had also cleverly arranged for the last torrential downpour to happen while we stopped for lunch. Brilliant!

I did get a puncture along the way but luckily I had just passed the support van when it happened and later Damien patched it up for me – turns out he knows a thing or two about bikes! Thanks Damien!

We finished the day again with some good food and conversation.

All in all, it was a great opportunity to spend time with the gang, meet the other partners, explore Waterford and enjoy lots of Brompton nerdery.

Jo Sachs Eldridge
Leitrim Cycling Festival
https://leitrimcyclingfestival.com/


Monday 26 June – Hugh Raftery
After the workout on the Greenway cycle, we were delighted to have a relatively easy day on Monday. It started with a coach journey to Shanagarry, County Cork where we could rest and enjoy the scenery passing the window. Our destination was Ballymaloe.

First stop was Ballymaloe House. The hotel and farm have been operating using sustainable methods since the 1960s. The head groundskeeper, Tobias (pictured below), gave us a tour of the gardens and he explained how even small changes at home can make a big difference. We should all make some space in our gardens for nature, just leave it alone.

Next stop was Ballymaloe Cookery School. Our host was Lydia Allen. In the kitchens, we were shown how nothing goes to waste – all the ingredients are used to their fullest, an important lesson for home too.

Lydia brought us around the gardens to see where they have corridors for pollinators, and to see the veg growing in the greenhouses. 

After Ballymaloe, we were back on the bus as there was a ceilí mór planned for the evening. We were not disappointed. To start us off, we had some interactive fun with the drama teacher. We were swapping chairs and testing our numeracy; a challenge and good fun at the same time. A surprise on the night was a quick lesson in sign language.  We learnt to sign Somewhere Only We Know, with some help from Danielle for the lyrics. Danielle (age 10) was the youngest participant in the project, accompanied by her dad Denis, the most senior of the Cyclist.ie crew. 

Denis and Danielle Mc Auliffe

We were then treated to some Irish dancing, performed by four local stars. The talent on display was a super finale. The dancers then lead us all on a few reels, showing us the steps, which we tried to follow. I was certainly out of my comfort zone but gave it a go anyway.

These four days have been a wonderful experience. I learned some tips for social media, shared some of my knowledge, and made some great friends. The activities were great fun, and informative too. I will be using some of the ideas learnt in the future.  

A final reflection for me was that the availability of e-bikes for those less fit or experienced participants for the (40km+) greenway cycle was a real boon – it enabled delegates with different fitness levels to cycle alongside each other and chat and enjoy the amenity together.

Hugh Raftery
Dublin Cycling Campaign
https://www.dublincycling.com/


Some Final Remarks – Damien Ó Tuama
The Waterford leg of the Erasmus+ Generations Pedaling for Inclusion and Climate Action project was a wonderful success. The Cyclist.ie delegates got to spend some quality time with our Continental counterparts, but also with ourselves – a nice contrast from all of the Zoom meetings over the last few years. You can’t beat meeting up in person for plotting and scheming!  

We wish to pay a special thanks again to Karen Keogh and all of the staff from Newtown School for the warm welcome and the fine programme of activities laid on for us. 

We hope that Cristina (from Biciclistas de Corella) and Libia (from IES Estella) are back on track after their respective leg and ankle sprains incurred on the first day of the trip. We look forward to spending time with them and all of our new colleagues at the next Erasmus+ gathering which will take place in Azambuja in Portugal in October 2023. 

Note that you can find more photos from the trip here https://www.facebook.com/BiciclistasdeCorella – a big thanks to Chefly from Biciclistas de Corella for all the great pics.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the funding support of the European Union without which this Erasmus+ project would not happen.

Cyclist.ie at Sustainable Mobility Stakeholder Forum

Cyclist.ie attended the National Sustainable Mobility Forum on 20 April (2023) in Athlone, Co. Westmeath organised by the Department of Transport. 

Cyclist.ie was represented by our National Cycling Coordinator, Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, with Clara Clark from Cycling Without Age also there. 

The purpose of the Forum was several fold: firstly to reflect on the key achievements of the first year of the Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) such as the Pathfinder Programme; secondly, to facilitate the exchange of information between public, private, voluntary and industry representatives on sustainable mobility; and thirdly, to seek the insights of stakeholders on policy objectives such as road space reallocation, demand management, and shared mobility.

The event featured an introduction by Minister Eamon Ryan, a keynote presentation by Dr. Peter Lunn from the ESRI, and a panel discussion between key representatives in this area including the OECD and the National Youth Assembly on Climate. It was particularly refreshing to hear the views of Stephen Murnane from the Youth Assembly (pictured below with the mic) – the insights of this age cohort are not heard often enough in debates on what type of transport future we ought to have.   

The Forum presented an important opportunity to re-articulate why investment in active travel makes so much sense, and to argue for reallocating road space away from private individualised motorised transport and over to public transport and cycling and walking. 

We stressed the importance of bringing local authority staff and Councillors (and perhaps also other community leaders / influencers) on study visits both here and abroad, so as to experience new street layouts and transport networks etc., to meet their peers and to discuss their concerns. This spend is ‘small change’ in transport expenditure terms, but valuable in helping to change hearts and minds. 

Clara made the point that in every town and village and on every street in cities, we need to replace one car parking space with a Sheffield rack with five stands – or replace two car parking spaces and you can have ten bikes and one cargo bike parking. This is a “Quick Win”, needs no legislation and can be done overnight. It ticks all the Active Travel boxes and re-enforces the visibility of cycling as a normal mode of transport for all ages & abilities. The cargo bike space will encourage more families to replace one car with a cargo bike, and shops can avail of the space for ‘last mile’ deliveries.

Clara also reiterated the point that cycle lanes and tracks need to be sufficiently wide to properly accommodate the Cycling Without Age trishaws (dimensions of 1.2m wide x 2m long); there are simply too many cycle facilities being built which are too narrow for non-standard bikes, including trikes, cargo bikes and mobility aids. It is also essential that the surfaces of cycle tracks are smooth – and are not dotted with sunken drain covers which can destabilise a person cycling along. 

The Forum also provided a wonderful opportunity for delegates to take a look at the nearly completed Cycle / Pedestrian Bridge over the Shannon – as shown in the image at the top there (and thanks to Westmeath County Council for this photograph).

The bridge forms part of the Dublin to Galway leg of the longer EuroVelo #2 (the Capitals Route) which Cyclist.ie has been advocating for over many years through our membership of the European Cyclists’ Federation and of the EuroVelo Coordination Centre for Ireland. We look forward to seeing the bridge completed and opened in the near future. 

Active Travel Investment Grants: 2023 Allocations – Cyclist.ie View

Cyclist.ie welcomes the continuing high level investment in Active Travel projects and personnel from the present government. These investments are critical in helping Ireland to match its Climate Action Plan ambitions. The most recent announcement on 1st February 2023 allocated funding of €290 million nationwide for 2023 and sees a wide array of projects being funded. These range from small footpath schemes to full blown urban greenways and bus corridors. The allocation of this National Transport Authority (NTA) funding recognises the breadth of work that needs to be done to begin to increase cycling and walking, and reduce the use of the private car in our society.

Funding allocations range from a high of nearly €60 million for Dublin City down to several million Euro for some of the less populous local authorities. The four Dublin local authorities together account for nearly 43% of the allocated funding. 

A sketch of a section of the Fairview to Amiens Street scheme in the Dublin City Council area

In this article, we provide feedback from some of our own member groups in the Cyclist.ie network on allocations for particular counties / local authority areas. Our contributors have highlighted where spend seems appropriate and is to be lauded, but they also have concerns on the spend on some more questionable schemes (particularly road resurfacing projects). 

This is just a sample of counties – we would love to hear your own opinions on how you feel your own county fared in the allocations. You can study the full list of Action Travel allocations by LA area here

Limerick
Limerick Cycling Campaign warmly welcomes the allocation of €21m in funding for Limerick as part of the NTA funding allocation of €290m for walking and cycling projects in 2023.

It will see delivery of large primary routes such as the TUS (Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest) to City Centre and Hyde Road schemes in this calendar year as well as a number of key secondary routes in all three metropolitan wards. Progress on Active Travel measures on the Dublin Road are particularly welcome. It’s currently a very hostile road for those who walk or cycle and is a significant barrier to modal shift for those residents and UL students living in the area.

There has been a significant increase in rural funding including a fund of nearly €5m for active travel improvements in rural towns and villages as well as an expansion of the Safe Routes to School Schemes for many primary and secondary schools in the city.

One slight concern is the low funding amount attached to the Pathfinder project from Park Canal to Clare St. We would hope that we would see a significant increase to this essential project in 2024 as plans progress.

While it’s encouraging to see the Ballycummin area of Limerick City West included, we would hope to see progress to deliver the full orbital route around the Ballycummin / Church Hill Meadows area and the inclusion of the main Church Hill Meadows Road and the remaining small stretch of Dooradoyle Rd as soon as possible. With excellent projects on Fr. Russell Road and the Quinns Cross route being delivered in 2023, these will be the natural next steps to connect the largest estates in Limerick City West to the rest of the network. 

Overall the funding shows the work that Limerick’s Active Travel Team, supported by the larger council and our elected reps, is advancing is gathering significant steam. We would call on all Limerick stakeholders to see the huge opportunities that this funding presents for Limerick as we move to a transport system that supports our climate responsibilities, our health and well-being and a more sustainable way of moving around our city.

Meath
Meath’s allocation of €14,135,000 is very welcome and, outside of the four Dublin local authorities, Cork and Limerick, is the highest allocation to a county from this year’s funding. The allocation is spread across 38 different projects, and in total almost half of the total funding (€7m) is for schemes in Navan. 

The majority of the funding for cycling infrastructure in Navan is for ongoing schemes which are already in various states of planning, such as the Trim Road Cycle Scheme, the R147 Kells Road Scheme and the R147 Martha’s Bridge to Circular Road Scheme. One notable addition is the inclusion of the Pathfinder Project, on the R161 Navan to Trim road.

Of the €7m funding for Navan, €3m is for the ongoing Navan 2030 works at Kennedy Plaza, which unfortunately do not contain any plans for cycling. €1m is allocated for the new LDR4 bridge from the Kells Road to Ratholdren Road. While this new bridge and road will incorporate active travel infrastructure, it is well documented that new roads only serve to further embed car dependency, a phenomenon known as induced-demand. It is unclear how this project can be awarded funding under active travel. 

We feel that active travel funding should have been secured for this area of the town to facilitate the installation of cycle lanes along the Ratholdren Road. We have been advocating for safe cycling infrastructure along this road since last May. There are two schools at either end of the road, a leisure centre, the town’s only park and the trailhead for the soon to be opened Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway. We are very disappointed about the lack of progress as Navan’s residents are denied safe cycling access to the host of amenities mentioned above. The new greenway is highly anticipated and we are very concerned for the safety of children and other vulnerable road users, either trying to access Navan town centre if coming from Kilberry/Wilkinstown/Nobber or Navan residents trying to access the greenway from the town. This existing problem will only get worse as demand for greenways around the country has proven to be exceptionally high. We cannot wait years for the completion of the LDR4. 

Sligo
Spokesperson for Sligo Cycling Campaign Joan Swift said the Campaign very much welcomed the €3m Active Travel allocation for Sligo and is particularly pleased with the Safe Routes to School funding for Scoil Ursula, St John’s, Strandhill and Enniscrone. Giving children and parents the freedom to get to school on their own fuel is key to unlocking the health and well- being benefits of active travel.

Sligo Cycling Campaign is also pleased that funding has been secured  to commence the Pathfinder schemes, Carraroe to town centre and town centre to the ATU (Atlantic Technological University). The Campaign will be looking for clarification on some schemes which merely say “Active Travel” as it’s unclear what this means in practice. We very much welcome the proposed footpath scheme from the station in Collooney, but we are concerned for example that in a social media post Councillor Thomas Walsh included road resurfacing as well as footpath enhancement and junction tightening in his description of the Collooney schemes. Road resurfacing, while necessary in our view, should come from the roads maintenance budget and not the Active Travel allocation. The footpath from Collooney to Ballisodare also appears to be already well advanced, so again we will be asking for clarification in regard to the purpose of the €550,000 allocation for this scheme. A further concern we have is why a parklet costing €70,000 is included under Active Travel.

Clare
We note the allocation of €4.5m for County Clare and more than 50% of this is allocated to Ennis town and surrounds. €400,000 is allocated to Active Travel Team staff costs. €1.2m is allocated to footpaths in towns and villages.

Almost €6m was allocated to Active Travel in Clare in 2021. Many of the proposed schemes in 2023 seem to be very similar to those that were proposed in 2021. There is not enough evidence that the schemes proposed in 2021 have actually been completed. We would like some clarification on what was spent from the 2021 allocation and on what exactly, and how these schemes differ from what is being proposed in 2023. 

There has been virtually no funding allocated to cycling infrastructure in this round. Some such infrastructure was implemented in Ennis from the 2021 funding.

No funding at all seems to be allocated to active travel in rural areas, or visitor attractions and sites. There is very little in North and West Clare, except for small amounts in Lisdoonvarna and Miltown Malbay / Spanish Point for footpaths and pedestrian crossings.  

For example, there is a section of cycling / walking path between Lahinch and Liscannor which was started a number of years ago, and it remains unfinished and dangerous to walk or cycle on. This is not included in the current allocations, but needs to be remediated at the very least.

Many of the Active Travel Schemes have very limited funding allocation, apart from one on the Tulla Road in Ennis which has been allocated almost €1.8m (40% of the total budget). There is also no detail on what any of the Active Travel schemes will actually include, so we would like clarification on this and exactly what these schemes include and hope to achieve.

South Dublin County
The South Dublin Sub-group (of Dublin Cycling Campaign) welcomes the allocations in the Active Travel Investment Programme 2023 which advance the Cycle South Dublin Programme.  We are especially pleased to see all the unfinished sections of the Dodder Greenway included in the Programme as well as major investment in the Wellington Lane Cycling and Walking Scheme, the Castletymon District Enhancement Programme, D24 Neighbourhood Cycle Network, Killinarden Park and Greenway Scheme, Active Travel for Clonburris and the Grand Canal to Lucan Urban Greenway. We are pleased also that some funding has been allocated under the 2023 Greenway Programme for the Grand Canal 12th Lock (Lucan) to Hazelhatch scheme but disappointed that the allocation is not adequate for completion of the scheme in 2023. 

Conclusion
Cyclist.ie welcomes the investments in Active Travel projects countrywide. However, we stress here the need for spending to go on those schemes which form important elements of local cycle networks and which connect to important destinations such as schools, colleges, town centres and greenways. We do not support AT funding being spent on motor traffic / road capacity expanding schemes with minor ‘tag-ons’ of cycling infrastructure or on road resurfacing projects. We will be following up with the NTA and with the local authorities in due course in regard to these. 

For more information on the Active Travel Grants Programme delivered by the Active Travel Investment Section of the NTA, see here

Playback: Developing and Cycling EuroVelo Route #1

Listen back to a special online public meeting jointly hosted by Cyclist.ie and Dublin Cycling Campaign on Tue 15 November 2022 on the topic of EuroVelo Route 1 (EV#1) in Ireland, also known as the Atlantic Coast Cycling Route.

Our speakers were Doug Corrie from Sport Ireland, who explained the context around the development of EV#1 and the main considerations in identifying, signing and improving the route, and Florence Lessard, who tuned in from the North Coast of Quebec to share her experiences of cycling EV#1 and camping along the way.

You can see the original notice for the meeting and more information about the speakers here

Great southern Trail extends into kerry

Liam O Mahony, Cathaoirleach of the Great Southern Trail Ltd (GST) visited the Greenway work in progress at Kilmorna near Listowel. The GST which has campaigned for over thirty years to convert the disused railway from Rathkeale to Tralee into a Greenway welcomes this long awaited extension of the Limerick Greenway across the Kerry Border and which is scheduled to be opened to Listowel by the summer.

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

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.

Turning the sod at Listowel & Fenit

In Listowel, County Kerry on Friday 29 November 2019

Brendan Griffin T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, turned the first sod of the 10.5km section of the Great Southern Trail Greenway (GST) which will connect Listowel to the existing 40km in County Limerick.

Later, at a similar ceremony in Fenit he inaugurated the 10km of works to link Fenit to Tralee.

When these two projects are completed attention will be turned to the remaining 28km from Listowel to Tralee of the old railway line so that the villages of Lixnaw, Abbeydorney and Ardfert can also enjoy the benefits of a Greenway. When that is achieved the GST will become the longest Greenway in IrelandOther

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