8 January 2020
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Groups promoting sustainable travel reject Togher designs
Groups promoting sustainable transport, livable cities, and the environment have rejected Cork City Council’s current urban renewal plans for Togher. Pedestrian Cork, the Cork Cycling Campaign, Cork Climate Action, and the Cork Environmental Forum called on the public to make submissions rejecting the proposed scheme by Friday’s 4pm deadline.
Although the groups recognised positive aspects of the scheme, they raised two serious objections.
Their first objection was to shared pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. They labelled this a retrograde step that created conflict and made both walking and cycling less appealing. According to Orla Burke from Pedestrian Cork, “Nobody likes sharing pathways like this: throwing people who cycle, walk, push prams or use mobility aids all onto one small shared area. This is uncomfortable and feels unsafe for all. It creates unnecessary conflict and stress for those who are just trying to get about our communities.” Ironically, the city’s Chief Executive Ann Doherty opened a recent meeting by drawing attention to complaints from pedestrians about people cycling on footpaths, even as the city has several on-going schemes at O’Sullivans Quay, the Blackrock railway path, and Togher that create this sort of conflict by forcing pedestrians and cyclists into the same space.
The second objection was the failure to deliver quality cycle infrastructure on a designated “primary cycle route” in the Cork Cycle Network Plan, on which key parts of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy are based. The groups noted that a guiding principle of the city’s transport strategy is “To prioritise sustainable transport and reduce car dependency”. The business-as-usual approach of the Togher scheme would see the city turn its back on its own planning documents and transport strategy. The scheme also fails to advance national strategic outcomes to deliver Sustainable Mobility (NSO4) and ƒa Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society (NSO8). The groups pointed out that the area has adequate space to provide separate walking and cycling paths that are also fully segregated from motor traffic.
The groups argued that the scheme was not only a local matter. It would have wider negative impacts on travel throughout the city by missing an opportunity to alleviate traffic congestion, improve the reliability of public transportation, and reduce noise and air pollution.
These are serious failings in a Climate Crisis in which we need to halve carbon emissions by 2030.
Rob Hamilton from Cork Climate Action said: “Transport accounts for 20% of Ireland’s carbon emissions. Private vehicles are completely unsustainable. The declaration of a climate crisis at national and city level must be more than mere words — it must translate into on-the-ground measures that encourage active and sustainable travel.”
Bernie Connolly from Cork Environmental Forum also noted that “Cities are uniquely positioned to reduce climate warming emissions from transport by developing safe and attractive sustainable transport options. In fact cities are seen as crucial in doing so and Cork can lead in this vital transition rather than setting a poor precedent”
The groups emphasised that they welcomed the redesign of the heart of Togher, but that it needed a holistic approach. Positive aspects of the scheme like wider footpaths, raised table crossings, and opportunities for green strips should be retained. But they insisted that providing sustainable transport options is especially important around the schools, community centre and athletic club along this stretch of road. Otherwise it would condemn Togher residents to congestion and unsustainable travel for the indefinite future.
Dean Venables of the Cork Cycling Campaign noted that “More and more people in Cork are starting to cycle as a healthy, low cost, and sustainable mode of travel. Togher is within 4 to 5 km of the city centre and the area’s colleges, an easy and quick distance to cycle. People should have that option.”
The groups called on the city council to consult with all stakeholders and transport groups at an early design stage to ensure that schemes truly promote sustainable mobility and livable communities.
More comments from the Cork Cycling Campaign can be found here