Noting the dangers presented to pedestrians by cyclists who are regular users of footpaths as they make their journeys, Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, has noted an upsurge of complaints pertaining to this issue in recent times.
“In recent weeks I have had a number of complaints from members of the public about cyclists who chose to cycle along pedestrian footpaths endangering those using the paths. In one instance, a woman walking with her daughter was struck by a cyclist who was talking on his phone while on the footpath in the Crescent area. I have also had a number of elderly people stop me recently to complain about this growing problem, as more people seem to be on bicycles.
“To have more people out on their bicycles is a great thing but they need to understand that there are rules and laws in place. And, these laws are there to protect them as much as they are to protect footpath users,” the Town Mayor asserted.
The Town Mayor has called upon the local Gardaí to become more vigilant with regard to this issue in the coming times.
“I am calling on the Gardai to be extra vigilant of this growing problem. A number of the incidents brought to my attention were extremely dangerous, for example cyclists pedalling at high speed from Garden Vale into the pedestrianised entrance area of the Town Centre shopping centre is another regular occurrence.
“Also, the narrow footpaths along the Ballymahon Road close to Roslevin Lawns are regularly used by cyclists, sometimes forcing walkers off the path and onto the road to avoid a collision. The same situation exists in Bonavalley where the footpaths are narrow in places and people have reported cyclists forcing pedestrians out onto the main road,” Cllr. O’Rourke stressed.
The Town Mayor has urged the local authority to address the need for a ‘green’ cycle route in Athlone and its environs.
“It is an offence to cycle on footpaths, cyclists should understand that. However, Westmeath County Council have questions to answer in this regard.
“I am years raising the matter of a ‘green’ cycle route for cyclists in Athlone and while many promises were made, no meaningful plan has been presented to Council members. I first raised the matter eight years ago.
“Furthermore, on regular occasions, I have asked that the Council to install proper signage for cyclists, for example ‘Dismount Here’ signs clearly setting out the parameters for all cyclists, but unfortunately, we have no signage in Athlone advising cyclists of their obligations or the rules for cyclists.
“Cyclists are allowed on footpaths with their bikes but not while cycling. If they need to be on the footpaths they should be walking with their bikes. Granted, cyclists will need to use the paths where they can not cycle on the road at certain points, but they should be walking with their bikes.
“One-way streets are an example, cyclists can not cycle in the ‘wrong’ direction on a public road, so they must walk with their bikes along that road or on the path, but never cycle on the path.
“The Gardai and the Council have a job of work to do in this area and I will continue to raise this serious matter with both at every opportunity,” the Town Mayor stated.