Supporting Opinion

Galway Active Travel schemes becoming a byword for waste


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway Active Travel schemes becoming a byword for waste Galway Active Travel schemes becoming a byword for waste

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

The publication of Galway’s Active Travel funding allocation would send shivers down the spine of anyone interested in obtaining value for taxpayers’ money. And not shivers of excitement, shivers of fear.

Since the Greens returned to power four years ago, Government has been actively firing money at Active Travel schemes.

In theory, they’re great. Money is invested in infrastructure and projects that entice people out of cars and encourage them to walk and cycle. People drive less and are more active. It’s better for the environment and their health.

What’s not to like? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out. Especially if you value public money.

Unfortunately, Active Travel in Galway has become a byword for waste of public money.

The street furniture, known as parklets, is the most obvious example.

Two of these red parklets, at Dominick Street and Middle Street, cost the taxpayer around €250,000 . . . while businesses are being crucified with commercial rates hikes.

They’re ugly monstrosities and the one on Dominick Street is now being used by rough sleepers. Ironically, for the cost of two parklets, you’d buy an apartment down there.

But it’s all in the name of Active Travel, so they get away with it.

It’s the same with the conversion of the Martin Roundabout. An Active Travel scheme, that we learned – through the dogged persistence of Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) – was €1.3m over budget and delayed.

The same day it was launched, another Active Travel scheme was also officially opened.

But unlike the Martin Junction, which does make travel safer for all users, the Doughiska Road South Cycle Network arguably has not achieved its aims.

Shedloads of Active Travel money were spent on this scheme that uniquely managed to piss off residents, businesses, and cycling advocates at the same time. The result was a revised scheme which placated all sides while pleasing none, without achieving a whole lot. It left a bad taste.

The Eglinton Canal Active Travel scheme was less controversial but still problematic. The resurfacing of the canal’s shared surface, from the University of Galway to Dominick Street, was welcome. But the installation of just one zebra crossing on one leg of the four-street junction Back West – despite road markings suggesting there would be more zebra crossings to and from Monroe’s at Dominick Street and Raven Terrace – at best confused pedestrians and motorists. It was hardly the ‘optimal’ safety solution.

Then there’s the bike-rack on Henry Street. Temporary bike stands were installed at the playground. But, apparently, they didn’t meet specifications. So they were taken up again and replaced with new, permanent bike stands to the proper spec. More waste.

We could go on. The perversity of Active Travel is people don’t want to criticise it or be seen to knock it.

Active Travel is good, therefore the schemes must be good and any criticism must be avoided. This is nonsense, of course.

A survey, released this week, suggested Galway people are amenable to change and want investment in active travel.

But if the Council keeps overspending, keeps making a hash of it and keeps treating people with contempt, goodwill will evaporate.

Galway City Council got €14.1m for Active Travel this year, so it’s coming to a street near you – be afraid, be very afraid!
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the March 8 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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