We'll be able to walk the N17 not drive on it
Response from Sligo Cycling Campaign
Like the editor, members of Sligo Cycling Campaign have often been frustrated by the poor condition of sections of the N17, N15, N16. We want Sligo to become a cycle friendly town and county, but we are also drivers and we recognise that the private car will continue to play a role in transport.
However, we disagree with Mr Deering when he claims that “it makes absolute nonsense to start talking about funding greenways and cycleways to the tune of millions of euro when there are so many of our national primary roads in dire condition.”
An alternative viewpoint is that for years, roads, at 20% have received the highest share of the States’ Capital spending while the allocation for active travel has been between 1% and 2%. Now, the Programme for Government has promised to spend 10% of the Land Transport Budget on walking and cycling. The “millions” thus allocated may seem like a lot until you realise the total Land Transport Allocation for this year is €2.9 Billion. Furthermore, numerous research studies have shown that investment in cycling offers the highest return on investment of any transport investment.
Readers of the Sligo Champion may say that our region did not see much improvement in our roads between 2005 and 2019 but it is indisputable that substantial sums are being spent now. The N4 upgrade, as Mr Deering acknowledges is underway at a cost of €150 million as is the N4/N15 Urban improvement Scheme costing €14 million. Planning is well advanced for improvements to the N15 at Lugatober and are also underway on the Leitrim County Council Section of the N15. The N17 upgrade scheme is now at stage 2 of TII’s Project Management Guidelines.ie option selection. In December all local media carried advertisements re consultation on these options So while we do have to be patient we won’t have to put up with “a sub-standard N15, N16 and N17 in Sligo forever”, the scenario imagined by Paul Deering.
The view expressed in the editorial of roads as being essential and greenways and cycleways as being “nice to have all else being equal” doesn’t stand up even on purely economic grounds. Existing greenways have proven to be game-changers for their local communities and other communities are clamouring for them to be routed through their areas.
As an example, last month, Transport Infrastructure Ireland held a virtual public consultation re route selection for the Athlone-Galway section of the Dublin-Galway Euro Velo 2 Cycle Route. Five possible routes are being considered.
There was intense community engagement along all five route corridors and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have received over 10,000 submissions from individuals and groups. On the website https://www.galwaytoathlonecycleway.com/pages/posts/march-3rd-2021-55.php TII state - “The recent consultation has shown us that there is a strong desire amongst the communities of East, South and North Galway and South Roscommon for the cycleway; and we also fully appreciate that the project will only be delivered through engagement and collaboration with the farming community”.
Greenways however are only one part of the solution to enabling walking and cycling. Cyclist.ie’s pre-budget submission in 2019 outlined 10 reasons to invest in cycling. The Central Statistics Office 2019 National Travel Survey tells us that 29% of car trips are < 2 km and only 37% are 8 km or more. Even in rural areas this is likely to be true of trips for the school run or to pick up a litre of milk. Asked what would encourage them to cycle more, 32% of respondents said “safer cycle routes”. These could be greenways or blueways, minor rural roads ie #RotharRoads where cyclists are expected and respected, segregated cycle lanes alongside R or N roads and cycle networks in towns and villages which will provide safe routes to schools, shops and public amenities.
The view of Sligo Cycling Campaign is that roads and cars will continue to be important in rural Ireland but alongside that there is both a desire and a necessity to enable people of all ages and abilities to choose to walk or cycle for the numerous short trips currently undertaken by car. Due to the lack of safe infrastructure that choice isn’t available to people. It will take several years to catch up with the active travel infrastructure which is commonplace abroad but we have to make a start and 10% of the Land Transport Budget for the next 5 years seems to us like a reasonable beginning.