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Call for rural roads to be ‘returned’ for cycling and walking

A CALL has come from the new Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District for local and secondary roads to be given back to local communities to provide safe places for people to cycle between local towns and villages.

Councillor Joe Garrihy told the June meeting of the district that, during lockdown, record numbers of people had been able to safely walk and cycle and get to know their localities. “I saw people of every age out cycling,” he said. “My 14 year-old son learned how to cycle on roads he wouldn’t have been able to travel previously. We are all aware of how dangerous North Clare roads can be. Lately, people have been able to cycle and walk in a safe manner. We also have a vast number of roads in the district which poses a challenge in terms of maintenance.”

Reacting to a council response outlining the complexity of making his motion a reality, Councillor Garrihy said he was grateful for the update, but keen that his call might be pursued. “If something is worth achieving, it’s worth adjourning,” he said. “I realise that this is something that won’t happen in the morning. There is a massive opportunity here.”

Backing the motion, Councillor Róisín Garvey noted that she has been working full-time for 12 years to get people out of their cars on the school run. “Kids love cycling and walking as much as we did,” she said. “We are doing them a disservice by not allowing them to. It could save the State millions in terms of health spending.”

Acknowledging the complexity of the local roads network, Councillor Garvey said, “We have lots of roads. There are literally seven ways to everywhere, but this would be a really pioneering thing to do. In rural Ireland, we have been forced into our cars.” Welcoming the extension of the national Euro Velo Cycling Route into Clare, Councillor Garvey added that she had talked to truck drivers who had recently gotten out on their bikes. “I have also been teaching kids who haven’t been able to learn to cycle until their teens, it’s a huge issue,” she said.

Responding to Councillor Garrihy, Enda MacNamara, Senior Executive Engineer said in a written reply that changing the use of local roads to local access only or one way local access would require “extensive consultation with various stakeholders including the Department of Transport, community groups, an Garda Siochana and affected households/landowners”. The response said that the local district office would explore this proposal further with Councillor Garrihy and “investigate what options, if any, are feasible”.

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