*Safe Routes to Schools are among the eligible criteria for Active Travel funding.
€4.5M OF A €5.9M of an allocation for Active Travel will be spent in Clare by the end of this year, local authority officials have insisted.
In March of this year, The Clare Echo reported how Clare County Council drew down only €1.3m of the €5.7m allocation from the Active Travel Programme issued by the National Transport Authority (NTA). At the time, Council officials flagged how the funding was for a five year programme while Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) insisted “they can get €5.4m every year if they spend it”.
Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) has since called on the Council to source funding to appoint an Active Travel/Sustainable Travel Officer “to support the work already being carried out by the Road Design Team”. He also requested a breakdown of the monies drawn down since the inception of the Active Travel funding stream, completed projects, projects which have commenced and those approved.
Colm McDonagh, an executive engineer with the Council confirmed that a submission has been made to the NTA for extra resources such as an Active Travel Officer. Senior officials in the Council met with the NTA prior to the August break.
For 2021, €1.26m was spent by the Council from Active Travel funding with €1.35m utilised as of September for 2022. The projected spend for the end of 2022 is €4.5m, McDonagh outlined.
Kilrush, Miltown Malbay, Doolin and fourteen towns and villages throughout the West Clare Municipal District have had new footpaths constructed under the scheme. Quin, Kilmurry and Clonmoney has benefitted from new footpaths and pedestrian crossings. Boston and Ruan have seen the addition of new pedestrian crossings while Lahinch has been boosted by additional public lighting. Shared walkways have been built in Shannonbanks, new footpaths in Ballybeg and Cappahard in Ennis while park and stride locations have been assessed in the county town.
Ongoing projects include the upgrade of walking facilities for St Flannan’s NS in Inagh, footpaths and pedestrian crossings for Spanish Point, Shannon, Sixmilebridge, Meelick, Tulla, Killaloe and Dromindoora. Lisdoonvarna is to get five new pedestrian crossings alone with the move of the starting point for a walking bus for Ennis National School prompting the need of a pedestrian crossing at the grounds of Éire Óg GAA club. Cycling facilities are to be upgraded in Ennis along with pedestrian permeability through the town, an Area Based Transport Assessment (ABTA) will also be completed for Ennis. Ballybeg and the People’s Park in Clarecastle is to receive new public lighting. Discussions continue with the NTA on the provision of footpaths through Lissycasey village.
Among the approved projects yet to commence are an upgrade of permeability measures at narrow bridges throughout Clare, new linkages from Ardnacrusha to Athlunkard, upgraded light segregation of cycling lanes in Ennis, new cycling facilities on the N85 bypass in Ennis and upgraded walking facilities for Holy Family NS and Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg in Ennis.
Work of the Council’s road design team would be “strengthened by an expert in the field,” remarked Cllr Murphy who welcomed the submission for funding for an Active Travel Officer. He stressed that he was not critical of the ongoing work. “When you look at the success of the Ennis NS walking and cycling bus on a daily basis, that is the evidence that you can get children invigorated by the measures”.
Clarecastle based Murphy who is an avid cyclist suggested that cycling paths be located on the one side of the road, “it makes a better job of keeping the traffic segregated”. He questioned media coverage in both The Clare Echo and The Clare Champion on the subject of Active Travel funding.
There has been “ambition” within the Council when it comes to applications for Active Travel funding, Cllr Shane Talty (FF) maintained. “What’s been achieved under Active Travel has been really transformative”. He continued, “We can be grateful of the ambition to apply for the maximum we can apply for, okay the delivery can be better but I think it is a positive”. The Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD disputed an RTÉ report which included an Ennistymon pedestrian crossing as an example of Active Travel projects, “that was delivered under the Fáilte Ireland scheme,” he said.
Active Travel projects “can raise concerns” in rural areas “where you’re dealing with bigger machinery and farmers”, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) detailed when recalling the initial feedback in Kilmurry. “It’s a huge positive for the area, it is great to see kids being able to walk and cycle to school”.
Comments of Senator Garvey made Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) “very concerned”. He queried if the €4.5m was part of the total figure of €5.9m. “It is important for people to remember that these projects have been committed to”. Securing Active Travel funding is “simply fantastic,” Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) remarked, “some of our projects wouldn’t have been carried out only for this funding”.
An additional member of staff would reduce the “undue pressure” on members of the roads section in each Municipal District, Cllr Michael Begley (IND) observed.
Senior engineer in the roads and transportation department of the Council, John Leahy said the Active Travel programme “has been a fantastic opportunity” for the county. “We’ve been able to deliver projects that otherwise we would have had difficulty in securing funding for”. He said it “was never going to be the case” that the entire allocation would be spent in the one year. He praised the support of the NTA who shared that “they are very happy with the progress of work in Clare and have engaged very positively in Clare”.