National cycle network,
Cycle network design,
Social and cost benefit analyses
Tourism in Ireland is facing challenging times and thus new ways of attracting tourists into Ireland are required. Recent reports on the current state of Irish tourism highlighted the need to identify and invest in key market segments, such as leisure tourism, where Ireland can gain a competitive advantage. Cycle tourism is an established industry internationally, especially in Mainland Europe and should thus be a priority market for Irish tourism. This paper demonstrates the potential for the development of a cycle tourism industry in Ireland that can have additional benefits for commuter and leisure cyclists.
The value of cycle tourism in Europe in 2009 was approximately 54bn, with cycle tourists spending an average of 353 each per trip. Current cycle tourism in Ireland is underperforming in comparison with the rest of Europe. In 2009, only 2% of visitors cycled while on holiday in Ireland, spending 97m. Not all of these would be classified as cycle tourists in many European statistics, thus the number of cycle tourists in Ireland is probably lower than 2%. The restraints on the development of a more lucrative cycle tourism industry include the lack of a safe, high quality, sign-posted cycle network.
A review of the UK national cycle network shows the health and environmental benefits of such a network were worth 328m and 36m, respectively in 2009. A comprehensive analysis of the C2C route in North East England showed an economic benefit of 12m along the route, thereby creating or safe-guarding 173 full-time jobs. Analysing data from this route, it is shown that the businesses most likely to benefit from the construction of a National Cycle Network (NCN) in Ireland, and the development of cycle tourism, would be restaurants, pubs and B&Bs.
The establishment of a NCN has been proposed by Fαilte Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The proposed NCN connects major urban centres and opens up extensive rural routes, with the aim of encouraging cycling for the purposes of commuting, leisure and tourism. This paper shows that issues such as route selection and engineering design can impact the tourism potential of the route and that careful consideration must be given to the needs of cycle tourists in order to maximise tourism revenue along the route.
This project, using the Galway to Clifden corridor as a case study, will investigate (i) the factors affecting the route selection (ii) methodologies for the estimation of cost for each proposed route (iii) the potential economic benefits of such a route and (iv) the engineering consideration such as pavement design, maintenance and the safe operation of the route. Guidelines drawn from this project could be used as a basis for rolling out the proposed NCN in Ireland.