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"We've been calling for a safe cycle lane for six years": Lack of protected cycling infrastructure putting schoolchildren in danger, councillor argues

"I won't let my kids cycle to school alone; it's just too risky," the local politician said of the road which currently has a painted cycle lane that "does not offer the protection our children need"...

A councillor has spoken out about the "risky" lack of safe cycling infrastructure on a major road that runs near five schools and argued that the situation is so bad he would not let his children cycle to school alone.

Demanding action and pointing out that "we've been calling for a safe cycle lane for six years", Galway City councillor Alan Curran, representing the Social Democrats in the Irish city, said the current painted lines "don't offer the protection our children need" and added that providing such segregated infrastructure would not compromise the width of the road or footpath as there is plenty of space, the Irish Independent reports.

The Western Distributor Road crosses multiple large roundabouts, the existing unsegregated cycle lane painted red and running along the kerbside but offering no physical separation from traffic for the cyclists, including some of the 2,000 students from five schools adjacent to the road, who use it.

Western Distributor Road, Galway (Google Maps)

"I won't let my kids cycle to school alone; it's just too risky," Curran said. "We've been calling for a safe cycle lane for six years. The current painted lines don't offer the protection our children need. There's ample space on both sides for proper cycle lanes without removing any road space or footpath width.

Western Distributor Road, Galway (Google Maps)

"People say the council is slow to act, but we can make a quick impact on two important roads: the Western Distributor Road in the west and the Coast Road in the east. The Western Distributor Road already has space for cycling lanes, connecting schools and communities. The Coast Road is popular for walking and cycling but has serious problems with speeding motorists. Taking action on these roads now would make a big difference in promoting better and safer transportation options.

"Immediate action should be taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the community."

It is not just the councillor who perceives the road to be a risk to cyclists and schoolchildren, Curran saying there is more widespread demand for the changes and that for the past six years children have been helped to access the route with the help of volunteers from the Galway Cycle Bus, the idea being to harness the traffic-calming effect of a large group cycling at its own pace to create a safe environment for kids to cycle to school.

Since 2016, the task of improving active travel routes in the city has fallen to the Galway Tansportation Strategy (GTS), Callen noting that some projects have been implemented but others, such as on the aforementioned Coast Road, could have improved another route "popular for walking and cycling" but that suffers from "serious problems with speeding motorists".

Last February the council revoked plans for a cycleway in Salthill, that despite the demands of an unsuccessful last-ditch mass group ride organised by the Galway Cycling Campaign that attempted to convince the local authority to go ahead with the proposal.

Councillors, who initially backed the project, voted 13 to four against the idea after local business owners said it would cause "havoc".

Earlier this year, in June, a cyclist who was struck by a motorist at a roundabout in Galway, leaving him with multiple fractures, including a broken pelvis, called on his local council to do more to protect people riding their bikes and to end the "negativity" surrounding cycling infrastructure.

Simon Rowan said the city is the "worst place I've ever cycled by a long shot" and accused the council and councillors of contributing to that. "It keeps on coming back to the council and councillors and the negativity towards cyclists here," he suggested.

"The decision on the prom [in Salthill] really got to me especially now after my accident… To me it was that car parking space was more valuable than a child being safe, or some adults being safe on a bike."

In August, a transport researcher from Dublin said that he believes the city has become less bicycle-friendly due to a lack of connected infrastructure and policing to keep cycling spaces clear, with many cyclists now fearing for their safety as they are not being recognised and being bullied by other road users.

While just last week, the bereaved partner of a rising star of the Irish racing scene killed in a collision with an oncoming driver spoke of the country's roads being "like a war zone" for cyclists.

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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