09 Aug 2022

OPINION: Developing walking and cycling facilities will improve quality of life in Offaly

Developing walking and cycling facilities will improve quality of life in Offaly

THIS week's announcement of grant funding to the tune of €72 million towards the development of high quality walking and cycling facilities across the State is very welcome news.

As well as playing an important role in combatting the growing threat of climate change the investment will also improve the quality of life for people, particularly in less well connected rural areas.

In Offaly a massive €3,439,000 is to be invested in a number of initiatives including the Tullamore Urban Greenway Project (€575,000), Phase  one  of the Tullamore Cycle Network (€500,000) and footpath improvement works in Birr and  Crinkill (€470,000).

The investment nationally is the highest spending ever in a major active travel investment programme for rural Ireland.

The €72.8m earmarked for rural counties is greater than the entire 2019 funding for national walking and cycling programme.

Originally €50m was allocated for this scheme but due to the volume of project proposals being developed by local authorities, the total investment was increased to over €70m.

General projects in the scheme include the reallocation of overall road space which will include segregated cycling lanes and widened footpaths.  Cyclist parking,  raised pedestrian crossings and reducing road width at crossing points as well as other improvements.

The National Transport Agency will be tasked with overseeing and supporting the development of the high-quality mobility infrastructure across all projects and will also ensure that projects are accessible, age-friendly and maximise comfort to people of all ages and abilities. 

Announcing the grants on Monday, Minister Eamon Ryan described the overall programme as “another significant step forward in providing green sustainable transport options to those outside of the large urban centres.”

He rightly predicted that developing high quality walking and cycling facilities will encourage more people to switch to active travel and will contribute to tackling climate change.

“Connecting communities and making walking and cycling attractive, safe and accessible to everyone is what this funding will help to accomplish,” stressed the Green Party leader.

“The projects being funded will make a real difference to rural communities across the country,” said the Minister who added he looked forward “to developing high quality walking and cycling networks over the course of this Government.” 

The focus of the funding on rural areas is to be particularly welcomed and hopefully it will help generate economic and tourism activities in areas which have been hard hit by the pandemic and the demise of Bord na Mona.

We have all witnessed the growth in popularity of cycling and walking during the long months of lockdown and hopefully this will continue to be a feature of life long after the battle against Covid has been won.

In Offaly the Grand Canal Greenways have proven a great success and credit must be given to Offaly County Council, local public representatives and community groups for their vision in championing and developing these assets.

Monday's funding allocation comes on top of generous grants from central Government for the development of the Greenways.

When completed Offaly will boast a strong network of canal-side and other cycling and walking routes which will be the envy of many other areas in the country.

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