There was sense of disbelief among followers and advocates of the three decade long Great Southern Trail saga while listening to Tuesday’s edition of the Kerry Today programme which featured former Councilor Din Stack extolling the benefits of the proposed greenway.
Mr. Stack a former Listowel Town Councilor was the sole member who opposed a proposal for the council to back the greenway project and was also a key member of the North Kerry Abandoned Railway Line Action Group (NKARLAG) who not only objected to the development of the greenway but also claimed ownership of the former railway land, a demand that was dropped in 2013 when CIE stated that they would fight any ownership claim.
As mentioned in the interview the change of heart came after a of a number of former objectors to the project paid a visit to the much lauded Waterford Greenway,
Following the transfer of the two North Kerry railways from CIE last year, Kerry County Council has this week begun the consultation process with interested parties along the proposed North Kerry Greenway.
Letters were delivered to residents and landowners adjoining the route which will run from the current Great Southern Trail head at the county bounds to Tralee where it will join with the Tralee to Fenit Greenway.
This is a long awaited development in a project which was originally initiated 30 years ago this year. In 1988 Sustrans was commissioned by Shannon Development to carry out a comprehensive feasibility study on the development of the Great Southern Trail.
The report outlined Ireland’s first planned greenway, over the intervening three decades the entirety of the Limerick section of the route has been converted. While Kerry has fallen behind there has been action on both ends over the last number of years with the opening of the urban section in Tralee and the ongoing clearance of the 10.5km section between Listowel and the Kerry border. A survey of this section is currently being carried out, and it’s expected the design of the greenway will be completed by the end of August then preparation of the necessary planning documentation can begin.
Last year Limerick Council took over the running of the Limerick section of the route from the volunteer led GST Ltd. and plans to invest significantly in the amenity allocating €1.2 million in their 2018 budget to the project. They are currently in the process of re-branding the route as The Southern Greenway, along with the installation of new signage there are also plans to rejoin the Barnagh tunnel to the route which was previous cut off due to road realignment as well as resurfacing the trail. Longer term plans include extending the route right into the heart of Limerick City.
In Kerry the route would not only provide a much needed boost to tourism in the area but would also serve to provide a safe off road link connecting the North Kerry towns of Tralee, Ardfert, Abbeydorney, Lixnaw and Listowel, as well as linking isolated rural communities.
The Great Southern Greenway which if fully developed would be almost 100km in length making it Ireland’s longest greenway. The route will also form part of Trans-European EuroVelo 1 and in time will link up with other greenways such as the Waterford and Mayo greenways in order to provide a dedicated cycle route from Wexford to Belfast along the Atlantic coast, much of the route would be in parallel with the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Road Safety Association have released their report into fatal collision statistics on Irish roads for 2017.
Overall 2017 saw a 15% decrease in road deaths with 158 fatalities compared with 186 in 2016 while the same period saw fatalities of cyclists increase by 50% with 15 deaths up from 10 in 2016, a record for the decade.
Of the cyclist fatalities:
all 15 fatalities involved motorists
13 fatalities occurred during the hours of daylight
2 occurred during darkness
the majority of fatalities occurred in zones of 80km/h and above
County Kerry had 8 road fatalities, an slight increase from the 2016 figure (7) with 38% (3) of these deaths being cyclists in stark contract with the national average of approximately 10%.
Of these 3 deaths one was a tourist, and one a sport/recreation cyclist cycling with a group.
At the July meeting of Kerry County Council Cllr. J. Sheahan proposed that
That Kerry County Council write to the Minister for Transport to negotiate with the TII and recommend that any future road developments along major routes within Kerry will have the inclusion of a cycle lane.
Cllr. J. Sheahan stated while he accepted it is all down to finance we as a Council must insist that the way forward is the inclusion of cycle lanes. We are encouraging people to leave their cars at home and avail of the cycle to work schemes but we can’t offer them safe passage the way our roads are currently designed.
Cllr. Sheahan added that he would like to see Kerry leading the way as pioneers of cycle lanes being in corporated on all major routes.
With the recent fatalities on Kerry’s roads and calls for a Minimum passing distance law it is great to see local newspaper Kerry’s Eye has launched a massive safety campaign aimed at keeping cyclists safe on the county’s roads.
The newspaper has announced June as Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 Month in Kerry – with the full support of Kerry County Council, the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, local cycling clubs as well as the founder of the national Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign, Phil Skelton.
Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 is a safety campaign highlighting the need for drivers to observe a safe minimum passing distance of 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and aims for this minimum passing distance to be written into law.
Kerry’s Eye started the campaign with coverage on page 1, 2 and 3 of this week paper and the campaign will run for the rest of the month of June. As well as this Kerry County Council began erecting signs promoting the Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign at strategic locations around the county, Kerry’s Eye will also be distributing car stickers and posters
“The Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 campaign is a vital initiative that will hopefully save lives and make the county’s roads safer for everyone,” said Kerry’s Eye editor, Colin Lacey. “As a cyclist and driver myself, I see how vulnerable cyclists are and how dangerous our roads can be. But as drivers, if we change our behaviour just a little, and adopt the minimum 1.5 metre passing distance, it will help ensure that all road users can safely share the our road space.”
Kerry TD John Brassil raised a parliamentary question recently regarding funding for the stalled Tralee to Fenit Greenway:
To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will allocate funding to Kerry County Council to allow it to proceed with the Tralee to Fenit greenway now that all land ownership issues have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As part of his reply Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross stated that:
…it is not intended to issue a further funding call in the immediate future.
I expect to be announcing a new competitive round of funding later this year.
We are not too sure if things change that much in a week but it seems that a new funding round for Greenways may come on stream later this year, this can only be good news for the Tralee to Fenit Greenway and similar projects around the country.
Update 21st April
John Brassil has indicated that he has sought clarification from Minister Ross.
Minister Ross has responded to the additional PQ raised by John Brassil in order to clarify the funding timeline.
Unfortunately it seems that additional Greenway funding may not be available in the near term. This has implications not only for the Tralee-Fenit Greenway project but also for the South Kerry Greenway and the Kerry section of the Great Southern Trail.
That said it is good to hear that the department is committed to funding these project over the remaining years of the current capital plan.
There will be no new funding calls for greenways until the review of the Capital Plan is complete and there is clarity on the funding that will be available for greenways for the remaining years of the capital plan.
As a fan of Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes, alas one who has yet to cycle any of the routes, I wished someone would write a similar book with routes closer to home. So I was delighted when I learned that David Elton, Donnacha Clifford of the Kerry Cycling blog had written a book on Great Road Routes in the kingdom.
With some of Ireland’s most beautiful and untamed scenery, 400km of rugged coastline and enticingly peaceful roads, what better way to explore County Kerry than by bike? Enthusiastic cyclists Donnacha Clifford and David Elton have joined forces to write the first guide to the best cycling routes the Kingdom has to offer.
Each route description is illustrated with colour maps, photos, a gradient graph and key facts and statistics. Information is provided on the natural landmarks and historical sites you’ll see along the way. With over 2,500km of road covered, the graded routes suit all abilities.
In a county famous for its climbs, some of the country’s most spectacular ascents, summit views and descents feature, including the Conor Pass and Ballaghbeama. Take a trip through majestic mountains and along wild seashores: a cycle in Kerry will take your breath away in every sense.
There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding the proposed bill by Fine Gael Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty which would see motorists forced to obey a minimum passing distance of 1.5 metres- and one metre in zones with speed limits of under 50 km per hour- when overtaking cyclists.
Radio Kerry invited the Kerry Cycling Campaign on to their Kerry Today show to give the view of cyclists to the proposed bill.
As part of National Bike Week Kerry Cycling Campaign presents Who is Dervla Murphy ? a new documentary which explores the life and the renowned Irish touring cyclist and travel writer Dervla Murphy.
Murphy is best known for her 1965 book Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, which chronicles her overland cycling trip from Ireland to India via Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Dervla Murphy is Ireland’s most prolific travel writer who for five decades has traveled the world alone and with her daughter Rachel. A fiercely independent woman who turned her back on societal conventions at a time when few were as brave, she observed and recorded the world with wonder and curiosity, and an astute political sensibility.
But, Who is Dervla Murphy?
This new documentary explores the woman behind the words in an interview which shows her personal life to be as fascinating as her extensive journeys. The minutiae of life at home in Lismore and journeys abroad with her grandchildren provide an intimate backdrop to interviews with Dervla, her daughter Rachel, her publisher John Murray and fellow travel writers Manchán Magan and Michael Palin.
This film is a free event (limited spaces) and will take place at Kerry County Library, Tralee, Thursday 16th of June at 6.15pm
Kerry County Council have publish a newsletter on the South Kerry Greenway.
The purpose of this newsletter is to update the public and in particular the people of Reenard, Cahersiveen, Kells, Glenbeigh and the surrounding areas of the progress to date on the proposed 32km greenway from Reenard to Glenbeigh. The newsletter outlines the plans for 2016 and summarises the procedures involved in delivering the project.