Maynooth Cycling Campaign and the Naas Access Group have joined together with others in a national campaign to #KissTheGatesGoodbye. The campaign wants the removal of barriers to towpaths and recreational areas for people with disabilities and users of non-standard bikes. We invited Kildare County Council’s Access Officer to Sallins to see for himself the difficulty that some people have in accessing the Grand Canal due to kissing gates or similar barriers. Members brought a wheelchair, a tandem and a cargo bike to demonstrate the difficulty for someone young or not able bodied to pass through the gate. We would like to thank the Access Officer for meeting us.
Kildare has relatively few of these barriers. Most are located along the Grand and Royal Canals such as at Leixlip and Sallins. Some are in lands owned by Coillte near Edenderry. A few are in miscellaneous places such as adjacent to Limetree Hall in Maynooth (See photo below).
Responsibility for the majority of such barriers in Kildare primarily lies with Waterways Ireland. Although Waterways has a responsibility for universal access in its own right, the Council also has a responsibility as planning authority to ensure that new developments are fit for purpose and do not discriminate. Maynooth Cycling Campaign calls on the Council to implement best international practice which in this case is to design an access to cater for a Bicycle Vehicle (2.5m long and 1.3m wide).
Admittedly, in some areas, there is a problem with quads and scrambler bikes. The default solution to this of bodies like Waterways Ireland is to put barriers like kissing gates in everywhere whereas the right solution is enforcement by An Garda Siochana. In February 2021, Minister Eamon Ryan announced that An Garda Siochana would be given powers to seize scramblers and quads on private property so the issue has been getting attention at a high level of government.
In the north, some councils erect signs advising people to ring the police. It is not the emergency number ie 999 – it is a lower priority but still gives some assurance that the police takes the problem seriously.
We call on Kildare County Council (1) to replace any such accesses for which it is responsible, (2) to require third party developers such as Waterways Ireland to design for “Bicycle Vehicles” in new developments and (3) to urge Waterways Ireland to replace other existing substandard accesses.