For too long, planning of walking and cycling infrastructure has been too localised, with short bits of trails going from nowhere to nowhere and often seemingly designed to do nothing more than allow TDs to be seen to fund local projects. I welcome that a minister had the courage to override such small-minded thinking and allocate funds to allow for the construction of Ireland’s first long greenway linking Dublin to Galway.
Cycling tourism is a huge growth area worldwide, often described as ‘the new golf.’ A Fáilte Ireland survey in 2006 found we had no penetration in this market, but nothing was done by successive ministers in the interim. Survey data from this year shows 11.5 million German tourists alone would consider taking a cycling holiday in Ireland if we had sufficient mileage of interconnected infrastructure. Because of lack of vision by government, we have just a few short cycle trails that only sustain local amenity and short-stay cycling; nobody is going to spend a week cycling up and down the Great Western Greenway like a hamster in a wheel.
Any notion that tourists or Irish leisure cyclists are interested in holidaying along main roads is clearly delusional. Alan Kelly is to be lauded.