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It was suggested that tour operators visiting the Cliffs of Moher and not sticking to allocated routes should not be allowed park at the leading visitor attraction. Photograph by John Kelly.

Sat navs blamed for heavy tourist traffic on small Clare roads

A NUMBER of councillors in West and North Clare have raised concerns about the impact of tourist vehicles using smaller roads and boreens in the district.

The Green Party’s Liam Grant was first to raise the matter at a meeting of councillors, in a motion stating, “A number of bus operators are using unsuitable roads to travel to tourist attractions in North Clare. I call on Clare County Council to write to the National Transport Authority and request stricter enforcement of the allocated routes.

“I would also request that the Cliffs of Moher consider not allowing bus operators, who do not take the allocated routes, park at the visitor centre.”

The finger was also pointed, however, at GPS navigation systems, which routinely point drivers towards the quickest, most direct routes, regardless of the state of the road.

Later in the meeting, Councillor Ian Lynch had a motion which asked for signs to be put up in certain places, urging people not to follow GPS directions.

“Due to the continued issues around sat-nav guidance choosing the shortest route from A to B resulting in traffic being directed along unsuitable roads I request that the West Clare Municipal District erect signs stating ‘Local Access ONLY – Do not follow GPS Navigation’ along these routes,” he stated

A written reply to Councillor Grant’s motion regarding coach routes was provided by Acting Senior Executive Officer John O’Malley which stated, “The National Transport Authority regulate the licensed coach tour operators that visit the county.

“A large number of coaches that use the roads in North Clare are not required to apply for a licence under the Public Transport Act, 2009 as they are exempt from the Act as private hire services.

“If there is evidence that licensed tour operators are not complying with their licences on the routes that they are taking this should be highlighted to the NTA and Clare County Council.

“The Cliffs of Moher are responsible for managing their facility. Similarly licensed tour operators are required to comply with their licences and where issues are highlighted this is communicated to the NTA. Not all coaches that visit the Cliffs are licensed due to the nature of their operations.”

Councillor Joe Garrihy said that there are a number of problematic areas.

“We have, north of Ennistymon, the most visited and the most trafficked area in the county for tourism and the most marketed area. We welcome the mobility plan process that kicked off earlier on this year.

“There are very problematic rat runs, we all know them, the most famous is between Kilfenora and Doolin.”

He said that reviewing speed limits on some of the back roads would help.

“We really need to hammer this home when the next opportunity comes, to review the speed limits on these roads and to take the opportunity to nail that again.”

Councillor Garrihy also said that investment in the main routes could also help.

“It’d be smart to invest in the main roads, have them signposted properly, keeping people off the rat runs and enhancing the experience with the investment into the main trafficked roads that we want people to take to go through our towns and villages.”

The meeting also heard that the NTA has enforcement officers, and if people are aware of problems, complaints need to be made to them.

However, it was also explained that when license terms are breached the matter goes to court, which can take a year.

Councillor Joe Killeen said that in some instances sat-navs are advising people to take roads which are quite unsuitable, being far too narrow for the level of traffic sent onto them. 

He said that if speed limits on such roads were adjusted, it would result in the sat-nav providers changing the advice they give.

It was agreed that the Council would write to the NTA about the matter.

In a reply to Councillor Lynch’s motion about sat-nav guidance systems, Senior Executive Engineer Alan Kenneally was positive in his response.

“It is acknowledged that GPS navigation systems or “sat-nav” directs users along roads that are not always suitable for volumes of traffic.

“When using the Killimer – Tarbert ferry, I notice tourists’ cars using some of the smaller roads around Killimer. I assume that they are being guided by sat-nav.

“I sometimes encounter bursts of ferry traffic coming against me on these smaller roads, and it can be difficult for cars to pass safely.

“If the councillor would be kind enough to supply me with a list of the roads where “sat-nav”
directions cause an issue, the West Clare MD will look at erecting suitable signage along these roads, if appropriate to do so.”

Councillor Lynch said that the matter was similar to what had been discussed earlier and that the larger vehicles are causing problems.

“We have a lot of camper vans and people are feeling very unsafe on the road. One poor farmer didn’t get the hay done in time because he spent most of the time pulling cars out of the ditch. And with a cashless society he wasn’t even given a few bob,” he joked.

Fianna Fáil’s PJ Kelly joked that the Council should bring over the woman whose voice is heard on many people’s GPS devices. “We might invite that well spoken lady to the county for the weekend and drive her around and show her the mistakes she is making.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.