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Galway City should be made more ‘walkable’ and pedestrian-friendly, a city symposium has heard.
Over 100 people attended the event at NUI Galway on Friday, which was hosted by Galway 2040, a community-based initiative that aims to “curate a vision for the future of Galway City and County”.
Speaking at the event, Professor Kevin Leyden, Professor of Professor of Political Science at School of Political Science and Sociology and the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway, stressed the importance of improving street design for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, and reducing the impact of vehicles on residential streets.
Citing New York as an example, he said that cities around the world are recognising that they cannot provide enough parking and roads to accommodate cars, with more emphasis being placed on making streets more ‘complete’ and ‘liveable’ by, for instance, increasing pedestrianisation and landscaping.
“We can do better than this,” he said, pointing to an image of NUI Galway’s new entrance on the Newcastle Road, adding that Galway should have “beautiful” rather than “ugly” city streets.
Pointing out that about 68 per cent of trips to work are by car in Galway and its suburbs, compared to 55 per cent in Dublin, he suggested that one possible goal for Galway 2040 is that 85 per cent of all trips here could be on foot, cycle, and public transport by 2040.
He also pointed out that about 13 per cent of all ‘daily trips’ in Ireland are on foot or cycle, compared to 50 per cent in the Netherlands and 33 per cent in Sweden and Germany. “Their infrastructure, their planning, enables walking, cycling, public transport more than Ireland,” he said.
Acknowledging the current economic situation, Professor Leyden proposed low cost initiatives that could help Galway develop a more sustainable travel system, including stricter enforcement of traffic laws, and small infrastructural changes to make roads more pedestrian friendly, such as more adequate footpaths.
And he suggested another possible aim of Galway 2040 could be to make Galway to more ‘walkable’ or even the most walkable city in Ireland. This could be done in part by increasing pedestrianisation in the city centre; from the end of Quay Street, over Wolfe Tone Bridge to Raven Terrace, along Dominick Street and back to Bridge Street, a proposal first mooted in the 1980s.
“In the name of recession it’s important to know that walking and cycling schemes oftentimes don’t cost very much money and the return on investment can be very large,” said Prof. Leyden, adding that a “post-recession” discussion would be needed in future on a light rail system to connect suburbs in a “fast, convenient, efficient and beautiful way”.
Citing the example of Spielstrasse or home zones in Germany, he explained that an advanced form of traffic calming where a 7 km/h speed limit is in place could also be introduced, where motorists are required to yield to cyclists, pedestrians and children.
Friday’s symposium was also addressed by representatives from local groups including Delo Collier from Galway Civic Trust, who stressed the importance of protecting and developing Galway’s cultural heritage.
She also suggested that while a light rail system is “a while off”, the tourist train currently serving the city or something similar could be used, so that the public could get used to availing of such a service.
“Let’s make a pathway from Wolfe Tone Bridge up along Merchants Road, around the Square, up by the Skeffington, we could make it pedestrianised the other side, down along Eyre Street, over to the Cathedral, down Mill Street into Dominick Street, let’s pedestrianise that too, and back around to Wolfe Tone Bridge. No cars, nothing allowed in there. Walk. Behave yourself if you have a bicycle,” she said.
For more details on Galway 2040, visit www.galway2040.ie.