Cycling Ireland to Work: Sustainable Job Creation in the Tourism Sector Through the Construction of a National Cycling Network
R Manton, E Clifford, NUI Galway, IE
In the midst of a challenging situation for the tourism sector and the broader economy, Ireland could be presented with the means to cycle its way back to work.
In the midst of a challenging situation for the tourism sector and the broader economy, Ireland could be presented with the means to cycle its way back to work. One innovative proposal is the establishment of a National Cycle Network (NCN), which would connect major urban centres and open up extensive rural, recreational and commuter routes in Ireland. A NCN could lead to significant job creation in construction and maintenance and kick-start the development of a cycle tourism industry in Ireland. This study will focus on one major route corridor in the proposed NCN: Mullingar (a town of 18,000 inhabitants located in the middle of Ireland) to Galway (a population of 72,000 located on the west coast of Ireland). The study will consider: (i) route selection (ii) design issues and (iii) cost benefit analyses, with the aim of prioritising safety, attractiveness and economic development. The study will lead to guidelines on best practice for the development of a NCN.
Cycle tourism is an established industry across much of Europe and it has been found that cycle tourists spend at least as much as other types of tourists, and in some cases more. However, in 2009, only 114,000 tourists (2%) cycled while staying in Ireland. In Germany and the Netherlands, this figure is above 20%. One factor impeding the development of cycle tourism in Ireland is the lack of safe, traffic-free cycle routes. This could be achieved through a combination of on-road and off-road cycle tracks, possibly using existing paths along canal tow-paths and disused railway lines, e.g. the disused Mullingar-Athlone railway line. The use of local, cost-effective and durable construction materials will be investigated and the route selection methodologies carefully studied.
Revenue arising from the development of cycle tourism has the potential to revolutionise Irish tourism, particularly in rural areas. On the Veloland Schweiz network in Switzerland (of similar length to Ireland?s proposed NCN), the average spend per day by holiday cyclists was ? 94 in its first year of operation and the initial investment was returned within 2-3 years of opening the network.
Aside from geographic and engineering issues, the route selection of the Mullingar-Galway corridor will consider linking in with local business and tourism attractions and the potential for start-up business along the route in the Midlands. The guidelines developed for the Mullingar-Galway route will provide a standard that can enable the efficient and cost-effective implementation of up to 2000 km of cycle routes proposed in the Irish national cycling strategy.
Association for European Transport