Impacts of Proposed Cycle Lane through Salthill

With regard to the current proposals for a cycle lane through Salthill, along R336 Seapoint Promenade, R336 Salthill Road Upper and the R336 Knocknacarra Road.

Actions have implications and impacts. If the negative consequences of a proposal outweigh the positive then a “do nothing” response is the appropriate one, at least until such time as a modified proposal is developed that eliminates or mitigates the negative impacts to an acceptable degree. This is one such proposal.

The impacts of what is currently proposed would include:

  • Loss of parking. When there are events in Pearse Stadium or Leisureland it is assumed that parking is available along the Prom. Indeed such availability has been used in the past and accepted by Galway City Planning department as part of the justification for many contentious planning permissions.
  • Loss of access to Prom and beaches of those not fit and active enough due to age or other reasons.
  • Turning local residential areas into full-time car parks. An immediate concern to residents in roads off the Prom is where displaced parking would be accommodated. We already have overflow from the commercial centre of Salthill, but should this proposal go ahead we are likely to have outside our homes blocked up with traffic date and night. Residential estates become routes for commuter traffic making a mockery of the statements in the city development plan to preserve and enhance the amenity and character of such neighbourhoods.
  • Making local residential areas where children and others currently walk and cycle, play, push prams etc. effectively into no go areas. In other words transferring the problems the pro lobby sees for the existing situation on the route to the local residential areas.
  • Increased duration and distance of travel for thousands of commuters daily, resulting in delay, frustration and extra emissions from traffic.
  • Emergency services will not escape the delays. Every minute added to the arrival time of the fire brigade may make the difference between a property being saved or totally destroyed. It might mean the difference between saving or losing a life. The same goes for the ambulance and other emergency services.
  • Threadneedle Road would be backed up and gridlocked at all it’s junctions with one of the options. They would not be the only ones.
  • Overall the traffic situation which has been identified as a major problem in Galway will be worsened. If frequency of buses is reduced because of longer travel time to cover modified routes will this drive more from public transport to the comfort and convenience of their cars for daily commutes to work? Commuters have to start earlier to get to work on time and arrive back home later in the day? Will the distance between stops be increased in an effort to compensate, again making the bus option less attractive to some commuters, particularly the less agile?
  • The Salthill business community has expressed the view that it would be disastrous to the area, leading to bad feeling and seriously affect a number of businesses that rely on nearby parking to facilitate their customers. This in turn may mean some loss in jobs.
  • Like it or not some people depend on cars for their mobility. Many an elderly person is not fit enough to cycle or walk to where they want to go. Their car is their independence.
  • In bad weather, mostly coinciding with the school year but not the proposed time for this experiment, along the exposed Prom is not the route of choice for most children cycling to school.
  • It does not take six months to do a quick test run and see what happens. We would question the nature of the trial proposed. It does not appear to be a sensible approach. Much less drastic actions could be taken to better define the problem and potential solutions and discovering the extend of any overlooked or unintended consequences as a result of implementing the proposals, before committing such a high level of resources.
  • How will thousands of cars daily passing through residential areas affect the safety of those areas for the residents? How will the traffic noise in the early hours of the morning affect their sleep? How many jobs are likely to be lost in local businesses? What will be the actual cost to different people in terms of health, finances, living standards, amenity value? How many more car miles will be travelled. What will be the net effect on the environment? Where are the projections?

On the plus side for the small minority of people who are both fit enough and inclined to cycle this route they get a few km of car free road all to themselves.

When you weigh up the pluses and minuses this definitely comes down to a situation where “Do Nothing” is the appropriate response until a plan is put forward that more reasonably balances the losses and gains to different groups.

Part 2

As currently proposed it is both thoughtless and selfish. In addition to the problems with the actual proposal there are concerns about how it was arrived at, and the nature of the “public consultation”.

If initial support for the idea was due to a hazy notion that it would be good for the environment to put in a cycle lane, again it was based on flawed logic which had not been thought through. Some people may take to their bikes for some of the time but thousands of people will have to make longer round trips in cars and buses in their daily commute all year round, causing massively more emissions and congestion than that saved by converting a few to cycling.

Our council’s senior engineer is quoted as saying that the “do nothing” option presented to councillors at the meeting was only a “benchmark”; and doing nothing was “not an option in this scenario”. He said the public consultation was not about “asking the public if this is a good idea or not ”. It was about “tweaking it to meet certain needs of stakeholders, businesses, residents’ ‘. Further, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council told a local authority meeting “unless councillors make a different decision”, he was “doing my level best to implement” the decision. It would seem then, that the city council management have decided to implement a proposal not because it makes sense but because the elected representatives passed a motion. That they consider the “public consultation” a box ticking exercise that can basically be ignored. The motion passed by councillors was proceeded by an extraordinary situation. A vote not to discuss the motion before voting on it. They voted to pass a motion without discussing it and several have since claimed they did not realise the implications and if they had to vote again they would vote differently. If they are honest, then, there is only one correct thing to do. Have a serious debate on all the pros and cons and then with their new found appreciation of the implications vote on the matter again. The city manager is obviously leaving this option open to them as his “unless councillors make a different decision” statement shows.

There should be honest, open and comprehensive discussion and debate on this matter, and the public should be allowed a genuine voice. To claim that everyone who supports the idea of a cycle lane is for this particular proposal would be as wrong as to assume that everyone who is against this particular proposal as presented so far is against a cycle lane.

We all make mistakes from time to time. When we do, it is to be hoped that we have the courage to admit it and do what we can to rectify the situation. We expect no less from our leaders in any sphere of life. If the people who have great control over what happens where we live and who make decisions that greatly impact our daily lives lack the courage and character to do likewise, if they find that they no longer represent their constituents, then surely it is time for them to relief themselves of their positions or be relieved of them by those whom they are supposed to represent.

It is up to the people of Galway to make their voices heard. If you have views on this issue make them known. But please do so in a reasoned, considerate and honest manner. And don’t leave it until it is too late to count. Do it now.

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