The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, has announced that he is making €620,000 in the period 2009 to 2012 available to Westport Town Council to develop a new walking and cycling greenway in Westport town, linking Westport Quay to Knockranny. The project will be largely based on an existing network of disused railway lines and will create new cycling and walking links between Westport’s urban areas, residential areas, and schools. The new greenway aims to encourage a shift to cycling and walking over short urban journeys. The overall cost of the scheme is €1.04m, with Westport Town Council funding the remaining €420,000.
“This project has huge potential,” Minister Dempsey said. “It not only involves the construction of 3.5km of greenway but it includes the provision of stands and shelters to cater for 2,000 bikes by 2012. This new cycle and walking path is capable of directly serving 60 per cent of Westport’s population. We already know that nationally over 200,000 people drive less than 4km to work every day. Investing in safe, attractive, cycling and walking facilities will help to encourage more people out of their cars, particularly for short journeys.”
In Westport, 75 per cent of people are commuting to work by car, even over short journeys, and cycling has been in decline in the area in recent years. In addition to the development of this new cycling and walking pathway, this project will also involve the construction of a new access point at Altamont Street bridge, the development of bicycle facilities, and promotional signage at strategic locations in the town and environs.
Westport Town Council has set a target of 15 per cent of secondary school and five per cent of national school students to travel by bike to school by 2012.
The council also plans to encourage 10 per cent of all trips in Westport to be by bike by the end of 2012 — well ahead of the Government target of 10 per cent cycling by 2020.
This new project has a catchment area of some 3,000 people, and is in a town that attracts around 950,000 visitors annually.
It is anticipated the works will commence immediately and that the infrastructural work will be completed by July 2010. The project will continue until 2012, with further cycling promotion and monitoring taking place to ensure the value of this and other investments is maximised.
The development of off-road cycle and walking routes is identified in the Department of Transport’s National Cycle Policy Framework as one of the necessary steps to establishing a “culture of cycling in Ireland”. The policy framework, which was developed by external international experts on cycling, notes that we must address all aspects of cycling in both the urban and rural environment if we are to ensure that people cycle regularly to meet their transport needs. Not only will the development of such routes provide transport corridors but they will also promote active living in line with the Government’s strategy to combat obesity.
Westport Fianna Fáil councillor Margaret Adams has welcomed the allocation.