Traffic has to travel on the wrong side of the road to safely pass out cyclists on a 2km stretch that is currently doubling up as the Greenway.?Pics: Paul Mealey
Greenway ‘a disaster waiting to happen’
Cyclists and walkers compete with fast-moving heavy traffic on busy N59
Westport-based Councillor Brendan Mulroy has called for the urgent completion of an emergency cycle lane and an underpass on two separate locations on the Greenway as he fears it is only a matter of time before “someone will get badly hurt or killed.”
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), the Fianna Fáil representative said that while the “off-road” amenity Greenway has been widely acknowledged as a great success, there were significant safety concerns that need to be addressed “as soon as possible.”
At issue is a two-mile section of the Greenway in Kilbride, on the N59 just outside Newport, where there is no off-road track. Here, cyclists and walkers have no option but to walk on the busy road, which has no footpath and no hard shoulder.
Cyclists and pedestrians are being forced into hedgerows and ditches as they battle for space with passing motorists for two miles of the Greenway. Until further works are completed in 12 months time Cllr Mulroy is concerned that tourists and young people will be unknowingly putting their lives at risk.
“The Greenway is a positive story but this really is a disaster waiting to happen,” Cllr Mulroy said. “I think there needs to be an emergency lane completed in this area, and people need to be made aware that they are entering on to a national secondary route. In the long term, there are plans to address this issue but in the short-term you would be afraid that an accident will happen.”
On Bank Holiday Monday, August 1 last, Mulroy was one of 32 participants who walked the much-heralded tourist attraction, covering a distance of 43 kilometres in nine-and-a-half hours. Other walkers included Castlebar DJ Johnny Oosten and Matt Loughrey of Croagh Patrick 365 fame.
According to Oosten, the two-mile stretch lying between Newport and Kilmeena is ‘frightening’ and he added, “There’s going to be an accident there.”
Cllr Mulroy said, “It’s only when you walk it that you can really appreciate just how dangerous it is. It’s an accident waiting to happen”. He added, “During our walk we met in excess of 500 people on bicycles and 99 per cent of these were tourists. If people knew what they were cycling into, they’d be more careful. Ideally, I think the council should put in an emergency lane or bollards to safeguard tourists and in particular children.”
Funding for the necessary road works, which are estimated to cost in the region of €2 million, were allocated in January. The council believed at the time that the work would be completed by early summer of this year.
Independent Belmullet-based councillor Michael Holmes said he can understand why people are anxious about the situation. “In January this year the money for incorporating a cycle lane in this area was allocated. There was hope the work would be completed by spring or early summer this year. It’s not in my area so I cannot lobby the NRA but that’s irrelevant, I’ve been very vocal about this and I have highlighted it on a number of occasions. I’d be concerned about this if it was in Mullingar.
“Over the last 20 years there has been a lot of accidents (on the N59). It’s been a notorious road for cyclists as long as I can remember. It’s a national secondary road with a large volume of traffic. There should be more signs installed as a precautionary measure. The real answer is to get the job done as soon as possible.”
By law, cyclists are supposed to cycle on the left of the road, with walkers on the right. This picture show a vehicle trying to pass cyclists just before a dangerous bend on the N59.
“Like all things this as been put on the long finger,” Holmes said. “ When the money was allocated we were led to believe it would be done by spring or early summer.”
Cllr Holmes said he would be in favour of the installation of ‘flashing lights’ and added that the NRA could do more to highlight the risks. He agreed with Cllr Mulroy and said a mile-long stretch on the Newport to Burrishoole road is also very dangerous and a footbridge or an underpass is required.
Cllr Mulroy said, “If you’re driving down from Newport in the direction of Burrishoole Abbey there’s an area on the Greenway where you have to cross the road. I’ve seen cars halting to let pedestrians cross and tourists are subsequently overtaking … accidents could easily happen. Tourists fly by and don’t know why cars are pulling in. We’re now flagging it because we don’t want to be held accountable if something does happen.”
Joe Beirne, Director of Services at Mayo County Council, acknowledged that the situation ‘was not ideal’, but said he was confident the segregated cycling and walking lane would be substantially completed by the start of the 2012 tourist season. “The works will facilitate the completion of a segregated track for cyclists and walkers, which will run adjacent to the road, ensuring that participants can travel the route securely and unperturbed,” he said. Beirne admitted there were ‘a few ifs’ but said the main aim was to negotiate the relevant works with a contractor and get the project started by October next.
“We only started at the end of last year and we had some problems acquiring land and in relation to planning. It takes a bit of time. We’ll be reviewing signage in the meantime,” he concluded.
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