|DUNGARVAN and Lismore District Councillors, as expected, approved works for a Section 38 traffic calming scheme for the R674 in An Rinn, the road which connects Dungarvan to Helvick Harbour.
However, a debate about the very existence of cycle lanes turned a straightforward discussion on road improvements in Gaeltacht na nDéise into a wider debate during the special meeting which was held this afternoon.
Senior Council Engineer Gabriel Hynes told Councillors that the works would involve a series of build-outs from Mooney’s Pub to Scoil Náisiúnta na Rinne on the northern side of the road. “The objective of the scheme is that we’ll have wider footpaths serving both schools and we’ll be narrowing the carriageway so that will be effective in slowing down the traffic.”
The Council received one public submission in relation to the proposal from the Comhlucht Forbartha na nDéise community improvement organisation, which suggested a separate cycle lane from Roberts’ Cross down to Helvick Head.
Mr Hynes added: “Some of that is outside the scope of this scheme and unfortunately the carriageway isn’t wide enough to do that. However, what we are saying is that we (will) have a three-metre footpath along a lot of that section and that we have the capacity to cater for pedestrians and vulnerable cyclists and that would be in accordance with standards from the amount of cyclists you’d have there given the capacity of the carriageway.”
Proposing the project’s approval, Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) said he agreed with the thrust of Comhlucht’s submission, adding: “It would be great if in whatever engineering solutions might be available that we would future-proof it or that we would build with the idea in mind that there might be a cycle lane there at some point in the future.”
Cllr Tom Cronin (FF) seconded the proposal, adding his hopes that suitable drainage would be addressed as part of the works while Cllr Thomas Phelan (Lab) also suggested future-proofing the route for the provision of a cycle lane to Helvick.
Sounding a cautionary note from his perspective, Cllr Seamus O’Donnell (Ind) stated: “As far as I’m concerned, them cycle paths are a waste of money because they’re not cycling on the cycle paths, they’re cycling out on the middle of the road and they’re actually dangerous to the public – those bicycles – they think they have it all to themselves that they can cycle wherever they like.”
Referring to an incident he had himself witnessed this morning, Cllr O’Donnell said a cyclist who had been on “a cycle path” then “crossed the road in front of a car and it was just the luck of God that he wasn’t killed. I think they’re no advantage, them cycle paths.”
In response, Mr Hynes said that all cyclists must obey the rules of the road “and that obviously goes without saying”, adding that the three-metre wide footpath would accommodate pedestrians as well as young cyclists and vulnerable road users.
Standing up for cycle lanes as he put it, Cllr Phelan said the need for segregated lanes was clear. Referring to his cycle from Ballinroad to Dungarvan this morning, Cllr Phelan said a car in front of him “was driving halfway in on top of the cycle lane so, God forbid, if any cyclist had been in there, they would have had to share that space with a motorist who shouldn’t have been in the cycle lane”.
Cllr McGuinness took issue with Cllr O’Donnell’s comments, stating: “there is a need for cycle lanes that are separate from the road in the interest of road safety and particularly the safety of youngsters who are going to school. There’s two exceptionally busy schools on the stretch of road that we’re referring to at the moment…contrary to what Cllr O’Donnell has said and completely at odds with what he has said and suggested there, there is a huge demand for a cycle track in the locality and it is coming from parents of children who are going to and from school along that road.”
Replying to Cllrs McGuinness and Phelan, Mr Hynes said their comments in relation to cycle lanes would be noted for the future.
Cllr James Tobin (FF) said that any matters far removed from Councillors should be left to those charged with enforcing road traffic laws. New District Chair Declan Doocey (FG) told the meeting that there was an onus on both motorists and cyclists alike to abide by the Rules of the Road.
A Speed Limit Review, Mr Hynes added, will be undertaken across Waterford’s municipal districts either late this year or early next year.