SLOWING traffic on some routes around Clare has the potential to increase cycling tourism, the minister for transport has told an online Active Travel briefing.
Responding to queries from some of the 200 people who attended the event last Thursday night, Éamon Ryan discussed the possibility of encouraging cycling by reducing speed limits.
Minister Ryan outlined how he had operated cycling tours for 15 years before his political career and brought thousands of people around Clare, by bike. “I’ve real experience of it,” he said. “My sense is that I could do that on the existing road network. Sometimes, you pick your roads, but it doesn’t always have to be segregated to my mind. In my mind, all our country roads, local roads, should be suitable for cycling. It depends on the volume, but critically, it depends on the speed.
“I always judged it in terms of that old-fashioned things when you’re driving along and if someone’s walking or cycling the other way and they lift the finger from the steering wheel just to acknowledge you. If someone does that, it’s an indication that it’s a reasonably safe road to cycle on because you’ve got that connection. That was always my metric. But, we need to bring speeds down on a wide variety of roads, urban as well as rural.”
Green Senator Róisín Garvey, who organised the virtual briefing, noted that slow routes exist in in England. “Currently we only have them as an urban idea, maybe outside schools, and some housing estates – there’s a Love 30 campaign,” she noted. “It has come across tonight and in the lead up to this event that maybe we could get Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and the department to look at dropping speeds on secondary roads.”
Minister Ryan noted that a presentation by Senior Engineer Seán Lenihan on the 320km EuroVelo cycling route along the Clare coast was relevant to the issue.
“We used to do a Clare Tour, which I did dozens and dozens of times,” he said, “and it was similar to the EuroVelo route and I’m interested in that because I assume it’s by and large on roads and it’s not segregated. One of the difficulties we found in our business was that The Wild Atlantic Way was brilliant, a huge success, but it took some roads that we used, which no-one else really knew about and suddenly [they were] full of cars and that did take away from the experience.
“I think the councils have a role here as well because some routes are routes where we don’t want a lot of traffic. So, through signage or whatever [we might] divert cars onto other routes and try and keep some routes relatively quiet. That’s a tricky thing to do, because you have access for local people as well and you have to look after them. As I said, we put local people first here in everything we’re doing.”
He also noted that cycling tourism tends to create longer stays and greater economic benefits. “The Cliffs of Moher are spectacular, but a lot of people are there for a couple of hours and they’re out of Clare a couple of hours later,” Minister Ryan said. “The great thing about cycling is that you can’t get out of Clare in a couple of hours. You’re at least a couple of days. Cycling and walking [is the kind of tourism] that stays and sticks. That tourism pays.”
Senator Garvey suggested working with the council to look at specific roads and undertook to follow up later with Mr Lenihan on the matter.