Cycling enthusiasts are sick. Reading last week’s extensive coverage of the Salthill Cycleway issue in the Galway Advertiser caused our stomachs to drop as we read how the opinions of some of the elected councillors on the proposal have changed.
In certain cases, this would not be a shock to Insider, or to many of his other fellow cyclists. We knew some of the support was precarious. However, we have been let down too many times by some of those who had an avowed dedication to our cause, joined our protests, rode alongside us in our community cycles, and sought and received our support and acclaim on social media.
Knowing where you stand
It is great to know where you stand with people, it is great to know who you can rely on, and indeed who you cannot. There are some representatives who would not be supportive of our position; other councillors will give proposals that come forward real thought, and give us their honest judgement, which we can accept or argue with.
Then there is the infuriating type of representative that courts our support, leads us to believe in them, provides comfort to us, and advises us we can trust them, and then changes tack.
Since the local elections of 2019, cycling has been prominent on the city council agenda, too much so for some members, who feel cycling and proposals to create cycling infrastructure in the city are ‘unfairly’ dominating the agenda.
However, councillors of this viewpoint should recognise that these efforts to address the lack of cycling infrastructure are what is required to rebalance the scales, after so long with cycling occupying little or no room on council agendas.
Not giving up
One issue that will remain an aim for the cycling community in Galway is the development of a cycle lane in Salthill. Irrespective of where this current proposal ends, the cycling lane along the promenade and onto Barna is something supporters of the proposal are not willing to give up.
Politicians though, they are something we are willing to give up on. Well, some of them. Sorry, most of them.
When the Mayor, Independent Galway City Central councillor, Colette Connolly, considered putting her motion to the council on the development of a cycle lane in Salthill, she weighed up the support. The Mayor knew she could rely on the two Greens - councillors Martina O’Connor and Niall Murphy - they realised how great an error they had made when they previously voted against such a proposal - and the Social Democrats’ Galway City East councillor, Owen Hanley. In considering the intentions of other members, she got help from a report in a local paper which asked each councillor how they intended to vote.
As was Insider’s own experience, the Mayor was probably surprised and delighted after reading the answers of the other councillors. All five of the Mayor’s Galway City Central colleagues were supporting her motion.
Former Mayor, Cllr Mike Cubbard had voted for the previous temporary proposal, and his comments in the paper noted that “the positives outweigh the negatives.”
Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Imelda Byrne, who at the time seemed to be a lone ranger among the Fianna Fáill group, pledged her support, noting the need to “be positive and progressive”.
Incredibly, Fine Gael were fully united behind the Mayor’s proposal. Cllr Frank Fahy said, “We have to encourage people to move away from the car.” His Galway City Central colleague, Cllr Eddie Hoare, claimed the opportunity could not be lost and if the Mayor’s motion was not passed “a cycle lane wouldn’t progress for a long time”.
Crucially, their colleague in Galway City West, Cllr Clodagh Higgins, said she had always advocated for the project, that it would transform Salthill, and “increase its amenity value.” Cllr Higgins was also using her strong social media presence to promote her stance claiming it to be consistent with her views on the issue from the start.
Cllr Higgins claim that she had always advocated for the project contained some truth. When the council first placed temporary barriers along the prom to prevent people parking there after Covid first hit, Cllr Higgins suggested the space would be suitable as a cycling lane. However, as was reported in last week’s Galway Advertiser, Cllr Higgins said she “will not be supporting either option [currently proposed as the Salthill Cycleway]” in its current form, and that she was now “calling on my fellow councillors to follow suit”.
Nevertheless, Insider knew the Mayor to have been buoyed to see such support for the proposal. The two Green councillors, three Fine Gael Councillors, Cllrs Cubbard, Hanley, and Byrne were all invited to a zoom meeting prior to the council meeting where the issue was voted on, and to agree a strategy to ensure the proposal would pass.
Clearly some feared the impact a debate on the issue would have in allowing the undecided some get-out options. They agreed the motion be taken without debate. However Insider, and the wider cycling community, thought this was an indication of their strong desire to see this project developed.
The least that might be expected then is that the councillors would have the courage of their conviction to see this project through - but from here it sounds like many are returning to their old-fashioned ways.