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Second level pupils demand that voice of Galway’s youth is heeded on transport

Infrequent and unreliable buses, insufficient pedestrian crossings and a need for cleaner greener footpaths and safer interconnected cycle lanes – that’s the shopping list produced by students after a pioneering transport survey.

The secondary school students from Galway city and Oranmore presented their findings to local election candidates last Thursday at the Galway City Youth Assembly organised by Youth Work Ireland Galway and the Galway National Park City initiative.

The results of 715 responses from teenagers were presented and discussed with student representatives from the schools at an online meeting attended by the Mayor of Galway City Cllr Eddie Hoare and candidates from the Social Democrats, the Green Party, Fine Gael and People Before Profit.

The survey identified barriers and possible solutions to active travel and revealed that 44% of respondents travelled to school by car, 25% walked, 22% by bus and 8% by bike.

The main barriers to cycling were too many cars on the road (44%) and unsuitability of school uniform for cycling (29%).

Barriers to walking to school were distance (76%), dangers (13%) and narrowness of footpaths/too many cars (11%). Barriers in using public transport included infrequency and unreliability of buses (64%), expense (14%) and anti-social behaviour (12%).

The teenagers made recommendations on how to secure a more climate-friendly, sustainable, attractive, safer active transport infrastructure that they felt would also provide greater independence for young people in Galway.

To encourage more walking, they wanted more pedestrian crossings (45%), better cleaner and greener footpaths (44%), as well as better lighting (20%).

To improve cycling, they recommended construction of safer interconnected cycle lanes (54%), separation of cycle lanes from roads (30%) and lockers in schools to store bike gear (27%).

And to encourage more youth to use public transport, the students recommended improved frequency of buses (58%), improved bus tracking at every stop (46%) and cheaper fares (31%).

Leti Gorini of SAUTI-Youth and Youth Work Ireland Galway explained that the survey came about during roundtable discussions at the recent Galway City Youth Climate Assembly held in the ATU.

“Participants themselves identified transport as one of the biggest issues of concern for the city’s young population, and to look at the main obstacles in the way of securing a sustainable transport infrastructure which are the only forms of transport that that they have control over,” said Leti.

“This assembly was the fourth of its kind held in the last two years and is organised by SAUTI-Youth (Youth Work Ireland Galway) in collaboration with the Galway National Park City initiative with its patron being President Michael D. Higgins.

“The main aim of these events is to foster youth participation in climate action and support young people to connect with local government.”

Brendan Smith is the convenor of the Galway National Park City initiative, and he was wholesome in his praise for the concept.

“The assemblies provide a wonderful, ongoing and unique opportunity for our city youth to gather together in a physical space where their voices can be heard, be listened too, and where they can be involved in initiating positive change with practical solutions to be implemented in their homes, their schools and in their city,” he said.

“The bi-yearly assemblies hosted at the University of Galway and the ATU, attended by professional experts and community campaigners, have looked at issues of waste, circular economy, biodiversity and energy.

“But it is transport that has been most talked about at present by school students. So they have had presentations at the assemblies from the Galway Cycling Campaign, GLUAS light rail advocates and from the Galway City Council’s Active Travel Unit.

Though these teenagers may not have a vote at present, nevertheless we hope that election candidates recognise that they form a huge section of the local population and must be listened too.

“Furthermore when the next city council completes its term in 2029, all of these secondary school students will by then have a vote.

“So the successful candidates in this election will be deciding the future of our young people and should listen to the feelings and concerns of youth on issues will shape the city’s development and that of its inhabitants over the next few years,” he added.

Pictured: Members of the Galway City Youth Assembly discussing the findings of their transport survey, when they met last week in session at ATU.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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