Smarter ways to travel

A DECLINE in traffic on the roads has become very noticeable since the recession began — a trend that’s likely to continue due to the increasing price of petrol and diesel.

More people are now cycling, walking, or car-pooling. As well as reducing travel costs and being better for their health, such action also has other benefits, not least reduced pollution and traffic congestion.

Around 400,000 people travel 4km to work, school, or college each day. That offers plenty of opportunities for eschewing lifts and vehicular transport in favour of walking, or cycling. !All of which would be in line with the Smarter Travel transport policy which basically urges us to think about our means of travel, reasons for travel and travelling in more environmentally-friendly ways.

Earlier this year Limerick city, Dungarvan and Westport were announced as the inaugural winners of a Smarter Travel competition. They are sharing a €23m fund to help them become Smarter Travel areas over a five-year period. The idea is to promote cycling, walking and the use of public transport and reducing car travel.

It is hoped to transform these areas, enhancing road safety and creating local employment opportunities. It is also planned to improve cycle ways, including safe routes to school and encourage more people to work from home and set up car clubs.

Being largely rural, Co Waterford has a high dependency on the car, with 76% going to work or school by private transport, according to CSO statistics for 2006. Only 12% walked. Comparative figures for Dungarvan showed that 63% went by car and 21% walked.

Safety concerns are often at the root of negative attitudes. For that reason, the success of the Smarter Travel plan in Dungarvan depends on fairly radical changes in outlook, which is the focus of a campaign being undertaken by Go-Dungarvan. We’re told, however, there’s a ‘momentum of change’ in the town.

In St Augustine’s College, Dungarvan, a consultation process involving the college, parents and pupils revealed that just 16% of the pupils walked to school, with 66% going by car and 18% by bus. So, there’s ample room for improvement.

If you have an interest in Smarter Travel towns, Thomas Rodgers, co-ordinator of the Dungarvan project, will speak at a Transition Kerry seminar in the Carlton Hotel, Tralee, next Wednesday at 8pm.

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