Cycling campaigners have urged the Transport Minister to scrap funding for the greenway altogether rather than locating it along the old N6, accusing both farmers and the NRA of sabotaging the economic recovery of East Galway.
The Galway Cycling Campaign said both sides are at fault in the current row over the greenway route through the county.
The approach by the National Roads Authority (NRA) is poorly managed and has ignored standard practice of not splitting farms to create such routes. The threat to impose Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) was unnecessarily divisive.
However the lobby group is also critical of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), whose proposal to locate a section of the cycling and walking route along the old Galway to Dublin road was described as equally flawed.
“It would make the country a laughing stock to put the Galway greenway beside a busy road. A reality check is needed,” remarked spokesperson Shane Foran.
“The greenway represents strategic international infrastructure and, if implemented correctly, could open up a huge new tourism product for East Galway. Elsewhere in Europe, cycling tourism is big business.”
Members of the campaign group met briefly with Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe on Monday and called on him to reject IFA proposals to locate it beside the old N6.
“The cycling campaign endorses the view that it is better to redirect any funds elsewhere in the country than to spend them on a second class version of a cycling route in Galway,” said Shane.
They point to the massive network of country lanes and boreens that exist across the county which would create a far superior greenway.
“Look at the intense cycling use on the Aran Islands where you have hundreds of cyclists using country lanes in the presence of traffic. Why can we not find a way to do this elsewhere in the county?” he asked.
Campaigners point out that over 5 million Germans take a cycling holiday every year. Domestically, the German cycling tourism market has sales of more than €9 billion annually.
In 2010 just over one million Dutch people went on a cycling holiday with the potential market estimated at €1.7 million. For the Italian tourism market, adventure holidays, including cycling generated €510,000 million of travel retail sales in 2008.
In 2008, around 970,000 UK holiday makers took part in cycling while on holiday.
Between the towns of Gort, Loughrea and Ballinasloe there are currently over 5000 people on the live register. Retail in Ballinasloe has been decimated.
“The cycling route represents an enormous opportunity for communities along its path – including the farming community. By pushing a solution that would destroy the essential nature of the greenway, the IFA are open to the accusation that they are sabotaging economic recovery for local communities and towns in East Galway.”