Thursday, September 3, 2015

Funding should be scrapped or go elsewhere if suitable route not found says Cycling Campaign


The Galway Cycling Campaign has called on the Minister for Transport, Mr. Paschal Donohoe TD, to reject IFA proposals to put a local section of an international greenway beside the old N6.  Controversy has erupted about the routing of the Galway section of the Eurovelo 2 cycling route.  The route is meant to start in Galway and end in Moscow and much of the mainland sections are already in place. Conflict has arisen between the IFA and the NRA who have proposed to CPO farmers’ land to construct the route. 

The cyclists say both sides are at fault with the NRA approach viewed as poorly managed and divisive.  The county council and NRA seem to have ignored standard methods for providing such routes without splitting farms. The cyclists accept that the appointment of the NRA to lead the project has been highly questionable and that the NRA involvement has not been positive.  However, the IFA suggestion of putting a Greenway beside a busy road is equally flawed and would make the country a laughing stock.

The cyclists say a reality check is needed. The Greenway represents strategic international infrastructure and, if implemented correctly, could open up a huge new tourism product for East Galway.  Elsewhere in Europe cycling tourism is big business.  Over 5 million Germans take a cycling holiday every year. Domestically, the German cycling tourism market has sales of more than €9 billion annually.   In 2010 just over one million Dutch people went on a cycling holiday with the potential market estimated at €1.7 million.  For the Italian tourism market, adventure holidays (of which cycling is a part) generated €510,000 million of travel retail sales in 2008.  In 2008, around 970,000 UK holiday makers took part in cycling while on holiday.  There is also a large untapped Irish market. In 2007, research found that 28% of Irish adults had used a bicycle in the previous year.

Between the towns of Gort, Loughrea and Ballinasloe there are currently over 5000 people on the live register.  Retail in Ballinasloe has been decimated.  The cycling route represents an enormous opportunity for communities along its path - including the farming community.  By pushing a "solution" that would destroy the essential nature of the Greenway, the IFA are open to the accusation that they are sabotaging economic recovery for local communities and towns in East Galway.

Following a brief meeting with the Minister on Monday 31st of August, the cycling campaign is to bring forward alternative proposals for a different process for creating such routes. The cycling campaign endorses the view that it is better to redirect any funds elsewhere in the country than to spend them on a second class version of a cycling route in Galway.

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