Westport Smarter Travel (WST)
Smarter Travel is all about reducing our preference for the car as our default choice of transport and opting instead for more sustainable travel modes such as walking, cycling, skateboarding, public transport or car sharing. It’s a lifestyle change with health and well being benefits. Smarter Travel is all about choices, choosing how we travel to and from work, to meetings, to the post office, to the cafe for lunch. We have become dependent on the car but Westport Smarter Travel is encouraging everyone to reassess their choices and to choose options that help improve our community, our environment, our quality of life, our health, and our pocket. These options include walking, cycling, using public transport, carpooling (sharing the journey with a neighbour or colleague) and Park n’ Stride (parking a distance from the workplace and walking the rest of the way).
In 2009 Westport Town Council was successful in an application for funding from the Department of Transport to upgrade and extend the existing Railway Walk into a high standard Greenway facility. The Greenway facility caters for cyclists and pedestrians and has significantly improved links to adjacent housing developments, schools and municipal parking areas. The Westport Greenway was officially opened on the 16th of April 2010. This event coincided with the official opening of the Great Western Greenway betweenNewport and Mulranny on the same day. The Great Western Greenway is the longest off road walking and cycling network in the country, and is the first portion of the National Cycle Network to be constructed.
In 2012 Westport was selected as one of three Smarter Travel Demonstration areas in Ireland. Each of the three areas will receive Government funding over a 5 year period. In Westport there will be an investment of €5.5m over the period 2012 – 2016. Much of this investment has been on infrastructural works, particularly new Greenways which connect residential areas with schools, workplaces and the Town Centre. Since 2012 there have been multiple projects around the town to make it more pedestrian friendly and to better cater for cyclists. Footpaths have been widened, a number of raised crossings have been introduced and some car parking spaces have been replaced with public spaces. New street lighting and furniture have been provided and bike parking facilities and lockers have been introduced. There has been continuous work on upgrading and developing new Greenway links around the town and work will begin in 2015 implementing the Greenway through the grounds of Westport House, this will mark the final stage in linking the whole town with a Greenway network.
Change in travel behaviour is also a key element of the WST Programme. Residents of the town are being encouraged to travel to school, work and recreational activities in a more sustainable way. WST have developed a number of successful initiatives under the “Winning Hearts and Minds” campaign aimed at changing the behaviour of residents and visitors in Westport. This campaign involves working closely with schools, communities and businesses as well as linking in with the multitude of festivals and events that take place in Westport. WST run competitions, provide cycle skills, carry out safety awareness campaigns, and organise events to promote smarter travel.
The Westport Bike Buffet was launched in April 2013 and has been a great success for WST. The Bike Buffet is a cycling tour stopping off at multiple dining venues along the route. Westport Smarter Travel held its first ever Bike Buffet in April. Sixty hungry cyclists met up in the Mill Times Hotel for Mocktails and from there they began their cycling dining adventure. It began by cycling along the Greenway to the Westport Coast Hotel where cyclists were treated to delicious starters, then on through the beautiful grounds of Westport House to Gracy’s Bar for some gourmet pizza and live music. Next the cyclists had to tackle the Quay hill but the downhill all the way to the main course in Hotel Westport made it all worthwhile. With full bellies the group of cyclist headed off around town with bells ringing and lights on to the final destination, the Clew Bay Hotel, for dessert. Venues for the Bike Buffet change for each event keeping many of the local businesses involved and repeat customers happy!
Operation Transportation is another initiative run by WST between business and communities where by participating businesses and communities compete against each other. Operation Transportation typically runs for a month and challenges people to leave the car at home and use other modes of transport during this time. This year Hibernia College took the first title as Westport’s Smartest Travel Business. The search for Westport’s Smartest Travel Community is currently underway!
Another WST initiative is to have bike friendly cafes in town. A bike friendly cafe has space for commuters to put their coat and helmet. It also has a bicycle pump and puncture repair kit. WST has teamed up with Westport cafes and provided a pump and puncture repair kit to interested cafes so that they can be a Smarter Travel Café. These cafes have the WST logo on display in their windows. Why not pop in to say hi!
If you’re in town look out for Sir-Walk-A- Lot our very own Mascot. A competition was open to the public to come up with a suitable name for the mascot. Over 200 entries were received with all sorts of fun names included. However, the winning name was submitted by Louise Murphy, 4th Class, Scoil Phadraig. The name incorporates the fun, fit and healthy aspects of Smarter Travel. If you see Sir Walk-A-Lot out for a walk or cycle with his bag on his back make sure to give him a hi-five.
Check out the Greenway Town Map or Click here for pdf version