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New cycle routes to cover 3,500km across State by 2040 at a cost of €1.4bn

National Cycle Network will link over 200 settlements across 26 counties and will be available to 2.8m people

The Government will invest €1.4 billion between now and 2040 to create 3,500km of dedicated cycle routes across the State, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

The new National Cycle Network being developed by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) will link over 200 settlements across all 26 counties and will be available to an estimated 2.8 million people.

Mr Ryan said on Wednesday that the first 1,000km of the network, which will incorporate existing greenways and cycleways, will be completed by the end of the decade. He said it would take a further 10 years to provide the remaining 2,500km.

The Minister, also the leader of the Green Party, was speaking in Sallins, Co Kildare, where he opened a new 11km stretch of the canal cycleway from the village as far as Aylmer’s Bridge. When completed, the canal Greenway will be a continuous, almost entirely segregated route along the entirety of the 130km canal stretching from Dublin to the river Shannon.

National Cycling Network

Mr Ryan admitted that creating the network was “not cheap” but that the infrastructure was being put in for the long term.

He said the savings would come in the form of building communities and avoiding accidents as well as improving health.

“This is the best investment we can make. The cost is going to be 1.4 billion. What we get from that is a country that is fitter, more connected and that has lower emissions. It’s better for business. That’s the big return.”

He said the construction of the network would not compromise in terms of quality or on safety and that the network would be segregated from traffic.

“There may be some places where we use the existing roads but it will be designed in a way so that’s safe. That’s end-to-end four-metre wide carriageways so it’s safe for walkers, for cyclists and someone who is walking their dog.”

The network will extend from Buncrana in north Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork and from Dublin on the east coast, to Galway, Westport and Sligo on the west coast. It will also link in with cycleways in the North: in Newry; Armagh; Enniskillen; Strabane; and Derry.

He said that every local authority in the State had to buy into the idea and lend its weight. He warned that councils who fell behind would not get the investment.

He gave the example of Galway which has come under criticism for its lack of cycling infrastructure compared to other similar centres.

“Why would Galway not have the same infrastructure to help their kids get to school and improve local access and provide the space?”

He said he was picking Galway as an example because its position in relation to cycling was high profile.

“Councils that aren’t willing to do it, or aren’t part of this team and working together, they will fall behind.

“They lose out in terms of the investment. It’s up to local authorities to really decide: are we up for it? Do we want to do this? That’s the democratic Constitutional system. Local government has to be the key, along with the TII and the National Transport Authority,” he said.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times