Celbridge Road Cycling Facilities
In the June issue of the Maynooth Newsletter, there were details of a Municipal District meeting at which Cllr. John McGinley raised the issue of lack of cycling facilities on the Celbridge Road. The issue had been raised in the context of the National Transport Authority providing funding for the extension of a footpath between the Maynooth Educate Together School and Rockfield estate. The response of the Area Engineer was that “Unfortunately there is insufficient space for a cycle path”.
Of course, it is incorrect to state that there is insufficient space. There are no people who have to be uprooted from their homes. There are no buildings that have to be demolished. There is, as far as we are aware, no rare plant or animal that will become extinct as a result. As can be seen from the photograph, there is ample space for a high quality facility except for a short section close to the Straffan Road. So why does the Council give this response?
Government policy has been to favour increased cycling for some twenty years. It originated in the early 1990s in the aftermath of the Taoiseach John Bruton being stuck in a traffic jam on Pearse Street and since then all political parties have supported increased cycling. This promotion was reinforced in 2009 when the government published the National Cycle Policy Framework and adopted a national target of 10% commuting by bicycle to school and work by 2020. In practice though, while cycling has increased in Dublin City, in Kildare it remains less than 2%.
In the early 2000s when Kildare County Council granted planning permission for Gaelscoil Uí Fhiaich on the Celbridge Road, no cycle facilities were provided. Some ten years later, when permission was given for the second school, Maynooth Educate Together, no cycle facilities were provided either despite the objectives of the Kildare County Development Plan to promote cycling and Safer Routes to School. The latest version of the development plan, the Draft Kildare County Development Plan 2017-23 includes a list of proposed key cycle projects but there is no mention of the Celbridge Road. So nearly twenty five years after the first school opened, Kildare County Council still has no plans for cycle facilities on the Celbridge Road. Does this matter? Yes if you want to encourage young people to have a more active lifestyle. Yes if you are concerned about the loss of children’s’ independent mobility. Yes, if you want to decrease traffic congestion in Maynooth. Yes if you are concerned about child obesity. Yes if you want a high quality environment. Yes, if you want a more active and vibrant community.
One definition of ‘unfortunate’ is ‘not favoured by fortune or luck’. One thing is quite certain – luck has nothing to do the lack of cycle facilities in Maynooth – it is due to decisions by officials who ignore political policies and targets and to a lesser extent elected politicians who do not hold officials to account. Kildare County Council bears most of the blame for the lack of proper planning of the Celbridge Road but the National Transport Authority is also to blame for ignoring the needs of cyclists.
Road Safety Issues
Two other items of interest appeared in the Newsletter under the Community Council Notes. The first concerned children not using the footpath at Rail Park and walking on the road instead. It is human nature for pedestrians to take a direct path to their destination. If they have to divert from their direct path to access a footpath, then the footpath has been constructed in the wrong place and this should be corrected.
As for the statement that someone is going to die because a vulnerable road chooses to use the road, if the road is so dangerous, where do you recommend that children ride their bikes to school? Where do you recommend that adults cycle? No pedestrian (normally) dies because of walking. They die because the driver of a motorised vehicle chooses to travel at an inappropriate speed and strikes a pedestrian with their vehicle. Rather than criticising children for walking, the Community Council should be singing their praises and calling on motorists to slow down and take more care around vulnerable road users.
The Notes also stated that the schools on the Celbridge Road have a ‘good’ delivery and pick up system. The schools have a system which is designed around and normalises travel by car, which discriminates against people walking and cycling and which accepts cars parking on the footpath in front of a school. Rather than a ‘good’ system, many people would consider such a system ‘broken’.
In relation to the second item – bike parking at the crossing on the Straffan Road being an obstruction and a danger, while this could be construed as a nuisance, It is hard to see what the danger is unless it falls over when a pedestrian is passing. Rather than a traffic warden, the simple solution is more cycle parking. It is hoped that similar concerns will be expressed at the much greater danger arising from vehicles parking on footpaths and cycle lanes – a custom which is endemic in Maynooth.
Maynooth Cycling Campaign is a non-party political cycling advocacy group. Its aims are to promote cycling as a healthy leisure pursuit and as a safe, enjoyable and efficient mode of transport for everyone in the Maynooth area.
It is affiliated to Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cyclist Advocacy Network and through it to the European Cycling Federation.