JUST 22% of Clare’s allocation under the Active Travel Programme was drawn down in 2021.

Under the Active Travel Programme, Clare County Council was allocated €5.9m in 2021, however only €1.3m was drawn down, The Clare Echo can reveal.

General projects in the scheme include the reallocation of overall road space such as segregated cycling lanes and widened footpaths, cyclist parking, raised pedestrian crossings and reducing road width at crossing points as well as other improvements. The overall aim is to increase the amount of persons using means of ‘active travel’.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) have been tasked with overseeing and supporting the development of the high-quality mobility infrastructure across all projects. The authority are to ensure that projects are accessible, age-friendly and maximise comfort to people of all ages and abilities.

New and widened footpaths to improve permeability, a redesign of the existing network and medium-term Active Travel design projects have been progressed in Clare so far, a spokesperson for Clare County Council stated. Included in the medium-term projects are new footbridges in urban centres, new cycle lanes between key settlements and mobility planning. As part of the redesigning of the road network, old cycle lanes have been upgraded, new cycle lanes have been designed, linkages created and existing roads retrofitted with new cycle lanes. Both of these the medium-term projects and network redesign remain at a conceptual and design stage.

Works completed include, footpath links from schools, churches, shops in towns and villages across Clare, pedestrian crossings, bus shelters and public consultation.

Areas in Clare undergoing works and earmarked for future projects as part of Active Travel include Clonmoney NS, Shannonbanks, Meelick, Ballycasey, Ardnacrusha, Kilmurry, Quin, Tulla, Clarisford and Dromindoora.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) was critical of the lack of urgency shown by the Council. “There’s only so much we can blame COVID for when it comes to the infrastructure we’ve been allowed to build. It is a question of priority, the local authority said before they didn’t have funding or staff, they’ve been given the funding and the staff so I expected we would see it accelerate but it hasn’t”.

She said she has contacted the Council every week on issues such as footpaths, Greenways in West and East Clare, the road to the Cliffs of Moher from Liscannor which she labelled “an embarrassment”. Infrastructure in Ennis leaves a lot to be desired, Roisin noted, “on the Tulla Rd a bit of paint is all that is there, Kilrush Rd should have got a proper cycling lane built with the National School so far out of town,” safety concerns for children travelling to Knockanean NS were also highlighted. Senator Garvey commended the work in Clareabbey which has created a cycleway and walkway and the pace at which Ennis was pedestrianised at the beginning of the pandemic.

“They have the staff and money, we would like to see it accelerated, every year when school finishes for the summer, there is another group denied safe access when going to school,” the Inagh native added. “The piece of paint or the line was okay until we got a Green Minister for Transport who couldn’t get money out fast enough for Active Travel. Local authorities are not spending the money across country.

Citing an energy crisis and an obesity crisis among children, Senator Garvey said more options of travel need to be put forward. “We also need an extension of time for the green man or woman for old people at crossings, we’ve a lot to do”.

Segregated cycle lanes should be provided “at the very least and not ugly armadillos,” the former Green Schools officer remarked. She said public space must be taken back for people and not vehicles while referencing the 71% public vote in favour of pedestrianisation in Ennis as a sign of the public’s appetite. “It would be nice to see the funding be spent and to need more rather than under-spending, we can’t judge the Council until the end of this and next year when they say COVID and lack of engineers”.

Senior officials in the Council have noted that the Active Travel Programme runs for five years but Senator Garvey insisted “they can get €5.4m every year if they spend it”. She continued, “It is a question of priorities, everybody wants safer crossings, footpaths, lighting, greenway, everybody wants these things, that’s what we need to be pushing for. I worked with the Green Schools for fourteen years, we had to struggle to get infrastructural improvements, that was due to staff and money, they have both now, there is no reason for delays. There is a will within politicians, a lot of councillors when they experienced travel safely they realised how much space and control we give to cars only, if you design for people, you will get people, people need to get into cars but we need choices for walking and cycling. We need to see a model shift in urban places to make them safer”.

“Pedestrians and cyclists have yet to kill anyone, there are huge safety issues with big vehicles and we think it is acceptable for trucks to park where they want. We need to rethink our use of space, this Active Travel funding gives us the opportunity to do that”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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