Westport to become ‘eco-transport town’ after Smarter Travel win
THERE will be a major emphasis on pedestrian and cycling traffic in Westport heading into the future, after it was revealed last week that the town had won its category in the national Smarter Travel Competition.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport Sport and Tourism, Michael Ring, made the announcement on Wednesday, and with a €5 million prize fund to be spent locally on initiatives to encourage people to leave their cars at home, the entire approach towards local travel and commuting in Westport could be about to change.
According to Padraig Philbin, Mayo County Council’s Executive Engineer in charge of the successful bid, the main aim of Westport’s Smarter Travel plan is to change the attitudes and behaviours of people towards local travel - ‘to win over their hearts and minds.’ This will manifest itself physically on the streets of the town, and all members of the community will be encouraged to embrace the changes.
Key among the major physical changes will be raised pedestrian areas at strategic junctions where vehicular traffic enters the town. This is not ‘anti-car’ according to Philbin, rather it is hoped it will slow traffic in the town core and improve access and safety for cyclists and walkers. Bridge Street will not require major change, though James Street can expect work on raised ramps and pedestrian friendly areas and crossings, to bring it in line with other areas of the town. Pedestrian orientated plans are already in place for around The Octagon, and it is also proposed to have traffic calming measures on some approach roads to Westport and to ‘green’ the streets significantly.
Plans are also afoot to construct a Smarter Travel Pavilion somewhere in the town, which will function not only as an information booth for all transport in Westport, but also as a meeting point for car-pooling or other smarter travel initiatives. Bicycle parking will be available, and the Pavilion will have lockers and shower facilities for people wishing to freshen up after a cycle or walk to work.
However, Smarter Travel in Westport will incorporate much more that changes to the town’s streets, as Padraig Philbin explains.
“We are planning to link the existing and proposed Greenways with as many housing estates, schools and businesses as is possible,” he said. “The ultimate aim is that no matter where you live, work, or attend school within the urban area, you will be able to walk or cycle to where you need to get on a daily basis on dedicated traffic free routes.”
Routes for this have been identified right across Westport, and with many are already fully operational, funding has now been secured to try and link them all together.