Since the lockdown in mid-March, one of the key messages from government has been the need for social distancing. People were advised to keep a minimum of 2m away from others. The #ChangeOurStreet campaign started in reaction to lack of space for walking and cycling in many of our urban areas. With good weather and time on their hands, there has been a huge increase in the number of people walking and cycling.
Photo 1: Kissing Gate at Killmacreddock, near Leixlip
In north Kildare, people are drawn to the the Royal Canal Greenway to exercise. However, kissing gates control access to the greenway at a number of locations. A kissing gate consists of a semi-circular, square or V-shaped enclosure on one side and a hinged gate that swings between two shutting posts, it allows one person at a time to pass through but keeps livestock out. The name derives from the fact that the hinged part touches – or ‘kisses’ – both sides of the enclosure rather than being securely latched like a normal gate. That hasn’t stopped many clinging to a more romantic notion: that the first person to pass through would have to close the gate to the next person, providing an opportune moment to demand a kiss in return for entry.
Photo 2: New Kissing Gate at Dodder Greenway, Firhouse Road, Tallaght
Whatever the origin of the name, kissing gates are not in accordance with Rural Cycleway Design, the Irish design standard. They prevent or make passage difficult for many cyclists with non-standard bikes such as tag-alongs, trishaws, cargo bikes and bikes with panniers from accessing greenways and parks. However, this has not prevented local authorities or Waterways Ireland from approving their use.
In the post-Corona world, they are a cause for concern as kissing gates cannot be used without moving the gate by hand. As a result, one infected person could spread the virus to several hundred. It is regrettable that in the past local authorities including Kildare County Council installed such features. It is even worse that in recent days South Dublin County Council has installed one at the entrance to the Dodder Greenway in Tallaght. It gave the excuse that there was a need to stop scrambler motor bikes and that the decision was taken earlier in the year. You would think that someone in local authorities would assess the risk from kissing gates, kiss them goodbye and install bollards in their place.