Sligo Cycling Campaign very much welcomes Sligo County Council’s plans for an enhanced public realm at the seafront. The introduction to the proposal identifies several key issues which impede enjoyment of the space as it is currently configured. These include narrow footpaths, speed and volume of traffic, lack of pedestrian space, traffic noise and congestion. We feel that option three addresses these issues while still providing parking space for Blue Badge holders and people who would find it difficult to walk from the car park, as well as dedicated space for deliveries.
Sligo County Council and the Community of Strandhill have been hugely successful in having the village recognised as an outdoor activity destination. This is evident from its attraction as a year-round surfing destination and the popularity of the various walking trails. Thousands of people from the locality and further afield visit Strandhill with the express purpose of going surfing or going for a walk. They have no difficulty in walking from the Shore Road car park to the seafront. In fact many visitors to the seafront have walked along the Dunes from the airport car park. Others have walked in the Shelly Valley, around Killaspugbrone or have climbed Knocknarea. Strandhill shorefront businesses have been hugely successful in positioning themselves as “go-to” destinations. Shells Cafe, Mammy Johnstons ice cream shop and Voya Seaweed Baths have all featured regularly in “Best of” Travel Features for food and experiences. They have nothing to fear from a shorefront reconfigured for people rather than cars. The Fáilte Irelan report describes how well Strandhill fits the EDEN Health and Wellbeing criteria.
However, we acknowledge the fears of Strandhill residents who contend that removing 160 parking spaces without providing alternatives will lead to illegal parking on footpaths and in housing estates. The Council has said it will provide extra spaces in the existing car park but in our opinion merely relocating car parking is unambitious. It is also inappropriate at a time when national policy is to enable active and sustainable travel and to reduce emissions from transport.
There are three interventions the Council could consider to reduce the number of cars moving around the area of the Shore road and seafront.
Bus services are not within its direct control of Sligo County Council but the Council could engage in talks with the Department of Transport and the NTA with a view to increasing the current hourly bus service to half hourly. The S2 bus service is popular but Strandhill and Rosses Point are effectively suburbs of Sligo town as well as being popular tourist resorts so a similar service to the S1 which is half hourly is in our view appropriate. The recent reduction in bus fares and the availability of free travel for older visitors means that a more frequent bus service would reduce the pressure on car-parking space.
2. The urban realm proposal mentions access for bicycles and the need for cycle parking. This is welcome but not remotely ambitious enough. After all, the shorefront already has standard cycle parking. The urban realm plan needs to recognise the increasing popularity of e-bikes which can and increasingly do replace car trips. The first trial of an e-bike share system is about the launch in Sligo and will serve Strandhill and Rosses Point. Individuals are also increasingly purchasing personal e-bikes. They are a very viable option for trips from Sligo town to Strandhill and for Strandhill residents to deal with the hilly terrain. But for their use to be optimised ebikes need secure sheltered parking and charging facilities. These need to be incorporated into the urban realm plan. The various forms of micro-mobility which are currently being legislated for will also change the way locals and visitors move about in Strandhill.
3. These little road trains are a very popular attraction in resorts both in Ireland and abroad. They are in service in Malahide and Clonakilty for example and along coastal tourist resorts in France. The Fáilte Ireland EDEN Report proposed a trackless electric shuttle servicel running from the car park to the seafront. Such a service could run along the seafront, through the village and to the Knocknarea trailhead at the Rugby Club. On Sundays it could service the market at the airport. Funding would obviously be an issue since fares would need to be set at an attractive price point. A combination of train, bike and micro-mobility as well as the option to walk means that visitors may well arrive in Strandhill by car but not need to use it while they are there.
In conclusion, It is the view of Sligo Cycling Campaign that option three should proceed but that further thought needs to be given to measures to reduce car traffic and not just relocate it away from the shorefront. As well as reducing the volume of traffic it will be important to reduce the speed of traffic. This is especially important if the proposed pedestrian walkway from the car-park is no longer viable. Narrowing of the carriageway, as proposed, is one part of the solution but adopting the German/Dutch model of streets where “Cars are Guests” may be necessary to make it clear that people walking, cycling and wheeling have priority.
Sligo Cycling Campaign wishes Sligo County Council well with its urban realm plan for
Tuesday 7th June 2022
Submission on the proposed National Cycling Network in County Sligo
Sligo Cycling Campaign is a member group of the National Cycling Advocacy Network, Cyclist.ie. Our Vision is for County Sligo to become cycling, walking and wheeling friendly for people of all ages and abilities. We welcome the announcement of plans for a National Cycling Network but we have particular concerns regarding the plans for this region. Unfortunately, the anonymous multiple choice format of the submission template does not give communities the opportunity to explain specific concerns they may have. Hence, our contact via email.
The N15 as a corridor:
Firstly we wish to address some of the issues that arise on the Sligo-Letterkenny section of the proposed NCN corridors. We will confine our comments to the section of the N15 from Sligo town to the Leitrim Border at Tullaghan. We are addressing this issue at the request of members and supporters who live on this potential cycling corridor.
The objective of the planned network is to link towns of 10.000 population and in areas of lower population, towns with a population of 5,000. Between Sligo and Letterkenny there are no towns with a population greater than 5000. Only towns with a population greater than 1.000 are circled in purple on the map. Thus, the first circles after Sligo on the N15 section of the map are Bundoran and Ballyshannon.
However, on the County Sligo section of the N15 between Sligo and Ballyshannon there are villages at Rathcormack, Drumcliffe, Grange and Cliffony and a substantial amount of dispersed rural housing on the N15 itself and on the adjoining roads. There are 5 Primary Schools situated directly on the Sligo section of the N15. These are, Rathcormack, Grange, Carns, Cliffony and Castlegal. These schools have a combined enrollment of 749 pupils. There is also a post-primary school in Grange, situated only metres from the N15. Adults living in the N15 catchment area mainly commute to work in Sligo which is a centre for Manufacturing, Education and Health Care as well as an important retail centre.
Currently it is not possible for the adult or child population living along the N15 to commute by bicycle. This is the case whether the trip is a few kilometres to school in Grange, Cliffony or Rathcormack or 25 kilometres or less by ebike to work in Sligo
Some sections of the road are straight and wide with a speed limit of 100 km/h. Other sections have hills and bends and no hard shoulder.
Euro Velo 1:
The consultation documents for the NCN consultation state that the network will link into existing infrastructure such as Greenways and Euro Velo Routes. The map for our region shows the Euro Velo 1 which follows a coastal route through Sligo from Ballina in Mayo to Tullaghan in Leitrim. The Eurovelo Route crosses the N15 at one point and travels along it for a short section but it mainly takes a winding route around the coast. It is of value to tourists and leisure cyclists but in our opinion it has no value as a commuting route as it is not direct. You will be aware the main points to consider when designing cycling infrastructure are that it be safe, coherent, direct, attractive and comfortable. County Sligo needs a direct safe route alongside the N15. We are aware that given the low population density a route between Sligo and Letterkenny would not be the highest priority. However, the Consultation documents also say that regional balance will be a priority. and given the number of settlements and schools on this 28 km section of the N15, a road which is the direct responsibility of Transport infrastructure Ireland, we feel it needs urgent attention.
Why do we need a direct route on the N 15?
Without such a route it is not possible for any of these schools to become part of the Safe Routes to School Programme.
It is not possible for adults on the route to commute to work by active means
Unless commuters have other options it is not going to be possible to alleviate traffic congestion in Sligo town.
Without the option to commute by bike the co-benefits of cycling such as liveability of towns and villages, improved mental and physical health outcomes, and reduced emissions from transport cannot be unlocked.
The N15 in County Sligo needs carefully designed village Gateway schemes which do not impinge on space for cycling and a segregated cycleway between them and onwards into sligo town.
Sligo’s other N Roads:
We are aware that the newly opened section of the N4 has short sections of segregated cycle route at Collooney and at Castlebaldwin and we understand that there are plans to join these up to make a continuous cycle route
There are plans to upgrade the N17 between Knock and Collooney and we understand that these plans will include provision for vulnerable road users.
This leaves the N16 to Manorhamilton and the necessity to connect Sligo town from the N17 at Collooney and the start/finish of 2 planned greenways, the SLNCR and the Western Rail Trail.
We recognise that the N16 does not have the same settlement pattern as the N15 but we contend that the short section of cycleway planned as part of the Lugstober works will not provide any benefit to people cycling unless it is extended back into Sligo.
Collooney to Sligo:
Again, this route is currently served by the circuitous Euro Velo1 via Union Wood, Ballygawley Road, Holy Well Road, and Cleveragh and the Riverside. This is fine for touring but not much use for commuting or for direct access to Sligo. The declassified N4 is available but carries heavy traffic and has numerous bends for the kilometre into Ballysadare. Because of the presence of roadside drains we don’t think it's possible to have an on road cycle route the whole way but this road could and should be made safer for cycling. This would be in keeping with the RSES for this region which has RPO 3.7.51 saying “Continue the expansion of cycleways and walking routes throughout the urban area and outwards to the satellite villages of Ballysadare, Strandhill and Rosses point linking established and planned recreational trails”.
We will be sharing our submission with local and national politicians representing our area as well as with the Western Development Commission and the North Western Regional Assembly. We look forward to engaging with the local TII Road Office also.
Risteard C Cooney
PRO: Sligo Cycling Campaign