To encourage a modal shift to cycling, the Irish Government has introduced a range of measures including the establishment of a 2,000 km National Cycle Network (NCN). The NCN will connect all large urban areas in Ireland by opening up extensive rural routes. Given Ireland’s disperse population, a robust route selection process will be paramount to maximise the benefits of the NCN. The identification of factors affecting the route selection process is vital. Such factors are anything of an engineering, environmental, economic or legislative nature that could affect the development of a cycling scheme.
The National Roads Authority (Ireland’s highway development agency) Project Management Guidelines consider three categories of ‘constraints’;(i) natural (water bodies, protected areas etc.)(ii) artificial (man-made; settlements, roads etc.), and (iii) external parameters (cost, policy etc.). However, significant amendments to this methodology are required for the route selection of national cycle routes, for example, most factors affecting the development of a road scheme are considered inhibitive, hence the use of the term ‘constraints’. Many negative factors for a road scheme may facilitate a cycling scheme, eg towns, parks and railways, and vice versa.