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Driver behaviour needs to change to become accustomed to the controversial road layout linking St Flannans College to the Kilrush Rd, a leading official in Clare County Council has said.

Residents from College Grove and College Green were in the public gallery for the October meeting of the Ennis Municipal District where a preliminary review on the ‘low cost safety scheme’ was discussed.

Addressing the meeting, Director of Service, Carmel Kirby pointed out that the Council aims to introduce infrastructure to “promote walking and cycling, we want to encourage cycling and walking for all”. She highlighted that the scheme was introduced on the request of elected representatives in October 2016 “who were rightly concerned”. Negotiations between the local authority, bus companies and St Flannans College are ongoing.

Kirby stated there is now an increase in buses bringing students to the Ennis college since the new road design was introduced. “So far what I see already is this location has been made safer, traffic has slowed down, it has down what it is intended to do. People contacted us about clipping mirrors, people need to slow down, there is enough space 5.5m for a local road in passing width. There is more emphasis being put on pedestrian and cycling safety more so than private car owners, road has been designed to enable safe passing vehicles”.

Speed surveys conducted in the vicinity of the college in May 2018 found that 15 percent of drivers were travelling over 60kph on the route and 3250 vehicles (52 percent) were going faster than 50kph. Council officials said the road width is now narrowed to 5.5m “in line with the Design Manual for Urban Road and Streets published by the Department of Transport” which they felt was “a very effective method of slowing down traffic”.

Cyclists have contacted the Council to say they feel protected by the new measures and segregation from drivers. “It has been the experience in Ennis that speed limits on their own are not enough to slow drivers down. Physical measures are effective however”. Bodies such as the Health Promotion Department of HSE, Clare Sports Partnership, Éire Óg GAA and Ennis National School have welcomed the new design.

“It’s a big issue, one of the biggest issues in over 20 years I’ve seen in this town,” Cllr Pat Daly (FF) declared. He described it as “a new culture for people on this road”. “If I saw a cycling lane or a bollard outside my house I’d get worried too, the cycle lanes are very welcome, the residents don’t have any problem with them but it is time St Flannans played their part, all the estates have put up with it for the past 50 years, traffic every morning from 7:30 – 9:30, their lives are upside down and now they have the cycling issue. Traffic restrictions will come, it’ll hopefully be 30km/h in a few years. It has ensured cyclists are safe but not motorists, there are mirrors being broken every second day. I suggested before the meeting, moving cycle lane 18 inches, remove bollards and put in cats eyes”.

Accidents involving students prompted the call for traffic calming measures, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) reminded the meeting. “The buses have been the big problem, there are approximately 14 of different sizes but only 200 students use those buses, the other 1000 walk, cycle or get dropped. The school has no problem letting buses go on site when students are going off to play a Harty game or a football game”. She repeated her call for the school to use the gate by Gallows Hill in dealing with the issue.

Opening dialogue with St Flannans is a positive in the eyes of Cllr Mark Nestor (FF). “We talk about behavioural change and how we use the road, I welcome the introduction of cycle lanes, the safety of young people on the road is of utmost importance. We also have people driving on that road all their lives and we have to take on board their concerns”.

Clarecastle representative, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) wished to see the traffic layout remain as it is. “I am very much in favour of the whole project. We talk about mobility plans, getting children out of cars, it is incumbent on us to get a solution but I’m in favour of the cycle lanes”. He has noticed an increase in the amount of children travelling to Ennis NS by bike in this school year.

“We will be continuing discussion with bus companies and St Flannans, we will continue to listen,” Carmel Kirby confirmed. Of the public backlash, she said there had been “a full public consultation” and was welcome to representatives of the residents feeding into the review so long as they are “representative of the entire community”.

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