Plans to develop a network of rural cycleways on secondary roads have been put at risk following a Bord Pleanála ruling, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has said.
The planning board has refused permission to Kerry County Council for an upgrade for a 28km segment of the N86, a scenic road from Tralee to Dingle, which would have included a segregated cycleway along the 28km length.*
The road was to be constructed to the new design standards set down by the NRA for secondary roads. The cyclepath would have been separated from traffic by a grass verge.
In its ruling , An Bord Pleanála said that increasing the width of the road to facilitate the cycleway would have a detrimental impact on the "visual amenities and landscape character" or the area and "would seriously detract from the tourism value and amenities of the area".
However the NRA said it was not possible under new standards to design a road that could be any narrower and still incorporate a cycle lane. “This is the design required for the safe travel of cyclists on secondary roads. If it doesn’t satisfy the board in relation to the N86 it calls into question whether it will be accepted on other national secondary roads,” a spokesman said.
A spokesman for Kerry County Council said it was "hugely disappointed" by the board's decision. "The Minister for Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar opened a 4.2km section of the same road with the new cycleway last July and it has had a hugely positive reaction from locals and tourists."
It was difficult to understand the board’s decision when it had previously granted permission for the same design on this shorter section of the road he said.
“It is hugely disappointing. The N86 has to be upgraded anyway so we will have to go back to the drawing board.”
*This article was edited on September 18th, 2013