Ireland Transforms Abandoned Railways to a Green Cycling Route3 min read
Here’s how a small town in Ireland transformed an abandoned railway line into a scenic, green cycling route.
It all started in 2011 in Mayo, Ireland. The joint efforts of the public and government repurposed the Westport to Achill railway line, abandoned in 1937 to become the Great Western Greenway that we see today. This powerful alliance set the stage for numerous other projects like the Great Eastern Greenway and Waterford’s New Greenway.
The Great Western Greenway was envisioned in 2006 but it was not until the adoption of Ireland’s first National Cycling Policy Framework in 2009 that it became a possible reality. Being the first of its kind in Ireland, it has an interesting journey.
How Did Ireland Achieve Such a Feat?
To begin such an unprecedented project, 162 landowners had to give their assent to strangers enjoying their land without monetary compensation. On paper, this would lead to a fall in the value of their property, which is why it was no easy task convincing people to sign the agreements.
The development officer had to make individual home visits to convince 80-90% of the landowners to get on board. For the ones that wouldn’t change their mind, the route veered off onto adjacent land.
The first 18 km of this phenomenal infrastructure project was opened to the public in 2010 and was deemed a huge success for its relatively small budget of €6.7 million. An additional €3.5 million were pumped to expand the route to 42 km in 2011. It held the proud title of being the longest off-road cycling and walking trail in Ireland until the Waterford Greenway in 2017, which snatched it by 3km.
The Powerful Impact of Green Cycling Routes
Cycling routes have many benefits, both for individuals and the environment. Following are a few.
Cycling routes like these are not only tourist attractions but also a convenient and safe form of transportation for locals. For instance, students can safely use the greenway to get to their schools. This takes cycles off the traffic on the main roads, which is safer for everyone involved.
Cycling is without a doubt the healthiest vehicle to use since it has numerous benefits including cardiovascular fitness, reduced stress, and weight management. Greenways like these can encourage more citizens to pick up cycling.
Non-Polluting and Cost-Effective
Cycles are the most eco-friendly vehicles around, with zero emissions. As compared to e-vehicles, cycles are easy on the pocket and help reduce our carbon footprint.
What’s Happening in Mayo?
As for the small town of Mayo, the transformation of an abandoned railway into a cycling route breathed new life into it. Local businesses of pubs, hotels, and bike rentals witnessed an exponential spike in their demand. Fitzpatrick associates released an economic report in 2016 revealing that the Greenway attracted 265,000 tourists that year and was directly responsible for 200 jobs.
Additionally, the relationship between the government and the people also improved. Convincing landowners to give up their land in the name of innovation and modernity was not easy, but the benefits of the Greenway eventually cleared their concerns.Also Read: Where Are the Greenest Cities in Europe
Ireland’s first National Cycling Policy Framework was adopted in 2009 and aimed at promoting walking and cycling as well as designated rural signed cycle networks through the Great Western Greenway. Reimagining an abandoned railway track into a green cycling route is a state-of-the-art infrastructure. Such projects are environment conscious, cost-effective, and contribute greatly to community development. They light the way towards a sustainable and mindful future.