Smyth wants segregated, tree-lined cycleway from dog track to hospital
A suggestion that a segregated cycle lane be provided from Mullingar Dog Park to Mullingar hospital has been made by Cllr Hazel Smyth. The Green Party councillor added that where possible, trees should be planted alongside any such lane.
Cllr Smyth argued that funding should be available, as in 2021, Westmeath County Council was allocated €4.5m for Active Travel but spent just €205,000, and in 2022, it spent just €1.6m from its €4m allocation.
She said it would bring health benefits to users as well as improving air quality, as it would reduce traffic congestion.
The route would, she said, benefit the Gaelscoil and the Educate Together NS, and make walking and cycling an option for hospital staff, students and teachers.
Cllr Smyth said there was quite a large “hard shoulder” along much of the route, which should make segregation possible.
The formal written response from the executive stated that the Active Travel Team will examine the route as part of overall plans.
Cllr Mick Dollard had reservations about the proposal that trees be planted on the route: “I think we need to be careful about the type of trees we plant,” he said, adding that considerable damage is occurring to footpaths now due to the impact of trees planted 20, 30 or 40 years ago.
“And it’s having a huge impact on our budget now,” he said.
“There’s not a week goes by I don’t get a call from different areas of the town to have trees pruned,” he said.
Cllr Ken Glynn said he agreed with both Cllr Smyth’s proposal and the comments on trouble from trees as described by Cllr Dollard. “Cllr Dollard has hit the nail on the head,” he said.
Occupying the same position was Cllr Frank McDermott, who said that while he loves trees, there are trees causing serious problems all over the place.
Cllr Emily Wallace also supported Cllr Smyth’s call for a segregated line, but said the demarcation could be achieved by paint.
She added that the greatest threat to walkers along that stretch is not cyclists but moped users.
The danger during times of leaf fall, and also, access to the pathway for cleaning machinery were also concerns listed by Cllr Wallace.
Cllr Bill Collentine said that over the last two years, Mullingar Tidy Towns would have sown about 1200 trees around the town.
Responding to the concerns raised, Cllr Smyth said she agreed absolutely that the trees selected should be “appropriate”.
“I think we can learn from councils across the country where this is the case, but just to let you know, there are numerous benefits to having trees along pathways like this,” she said.
“They provide shade, they actually are known to increase property values. It helps with biodiversity. It’s good for people’s mental health. It encourages a healthy lifestyle and in terms of making the area more attractive and appealing. It’s known to slow driver speeds. It helps with water management and it also helps to offset carbon.”
The mayor of the municipal district, Cllr John Shaw, said he was confident the Active Travel Team would take a sensible approach on the issue.