Council spent less than 5% of money allocated for walking and cycling infrastructure

Figures released by the National Transport Authority (NTA) have revealed that almost €4.3m of funding that was made available for walking and cycling infrastructure in Westmeath was not spent in 2021.

According to figures released by the NTA, Westmeath County Council spent just €205,038 of the allocation for 2021.

Green Party councillors are calling on the public to demand safer paths and cycleways outside homes, schools, places of work, to help create a safer and more liveable community.

Green party councillor Hazel Smyth, Mayor for the Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District, said, as the Chair of the Transport and Planning Special Policy Committee in Westmeath, she is very interested in hearing any proposals that locals may have for active travel routes in their area.

"There is €4m allocated for Westmeath in 2022. The money and the skills are there, now we need action. We are asking the public to call on your local councillors, across every party, to demand safer paths and cycleways outside your homes, your schools, your places of work, to help create a safer and more liveable community. It’s time to put people first," commented the Mayor.

“There is so much potential in Ireland to get more people walking and cycling and reduce the congestion and air pollution we face on a daily basis. Kids should be able to walk and cycle to school safely.

"Taking a walk in your local community should be safe and enjoyable with good lighting and safe crossings. Let’s do better in 2022 and call on Westmeath County Council to get spending and make walking and cycling a priority.”

The transport sector represents approximately 18% of Ireland’s carbon emissions nationally, with road transport and private car usage carrying the most significant carbon footprint. Research indicates that an increase in walking and cycling could significantly reduce car use.

Councillor Louise Heavin, who represents the Athlone-Moate Municipal District, said "we need to do better for our community".

"It is understandable that the significant increase in funding since 2019 requires increased capacity, and there have been many additional challenges for our local authority during Covid.

"Westmeath County Council currently has an active travel team with three members, based in Athlone, who are driving active travel in the region. However, with the funding allocated we need to start seeing faster progress.

"As a result of decades prioritising cars in Ireland, many people in both rural and urban areas feel they have no option but to drive, even for short journeys.

"Since being in Government, the Green Party has been addressing this by delivering record increases in investment in walking and cycling projects, jumping from €45m in 2019 to €289m nationally in 2022. These projects include new and improved pathways, cycleways, safe routes to schools and lighting," she explained