If you hit Robertstown at the wrong time of a weekday morning, and in particular if your journey brings you to or from the Mylerstown/Cock Bridge direction, you’ll find yourself embroiled in the best argument I’ve ever seen for cycling infrastructure.
The national school is a 10 minute (for the most dedicated of dawdlers) walk from the village centre.
There is even a footpath. But for some reason every time I approach the school there’s a huge jam of parents dropping kids to school.
Some are walking, some have parked up properly, some have abandoned the car, some are doing the quick drop and dash, some are moving in, some are moving out and some are just having chats.
Apart from the delay caused to everyone, which probably bothers some more than it does me, it’s mayhem, and it’s potentially dangerous with so many cars moving in a variety of different directions in such a small space.
Before anyone gets excitable and defensive, let nobody think I’m blaming anybody.
This is simply the inevitable consequence of what once was a country school now catering for a greater number than its surrounding infrastructure can accommodate.
It’s a common occurrence all around the county, especially in rural areas that are reasonably near larger urban centres.
The more parents drive their kids to school, the greater the perception that it would be unsafe to let the kids walk.
This is a reasonable apprehension. As it stands right now, with the sheer number of cars trying to squeeze their way into such a small space, they’re probably correct.
But that apprehension leads more and more parents driving their kids to school, which paradoxically only exacerbates that which they already fear.
Naturally the answer is to create a nice, wide and separated cycling path leading from the village to the school. It needs to be ridiculously safe so that nothing would occur to a parent to make them consider not letting their kids use it.
It also should be linked to the Grand Canal Greenway when it is built to make its advantages available to a greater number of school children. It would be perposterously stupid to have a bells and whistles cycling greenway passing through the village and to not take advantage of it.
As I’ve said many times before in this column, the experience of the Great Western Greenway in Westport is that while it was aimed at the tourists, the peak usage corresponds with school start and finishing times.
It’s the ultimate ‘build it and they will come’ logic. The development of the Greenway in Robertstown presents the village with huge opportunity. It will be great for commerce in the village, especially the likes of cafés, bike hire and B&Bs. But if that is to become the case, and the village is set to become busier, then it has a duty to itself to future proof itself against the worst that that busy-ness can bring.
Admittedly in Robertstown, not all of the children who use the national school live in the village. They are considerably scattered away from it, and many don’t even have to come through the village to get to the school, living over towards Donore or Kilmeague.
But that’s where the thinking needs to be clever. A suggestion I’d make is that a few loops of cycling paths should be made out past the primary school to Mylerstown Cross and to turn both left and right.
The left hand turn would go back as far as Healy’s bridge and re-join the Greenway.
The right hand turn would go as far as the right hand turn down into Annsborough, and thereafter bring it back to the top of the hill and back down into the village.
That would take care of a good number of school children, and lets face it although those roads appear to be outside the urban village centre, it is clearly where a lot of the children live.
If you think this couldn’t be done, then go to Ardclough where a good cycling pathway was built from the village out to the school. The school is built a bit away from the village centre, along a quite narrow roadway.
Building the pathway allows kids to walk or cycle to school in safety, but it also allows parents out of the village to bring their kids to the village centre where there is some space to park, and let them walk down from there.
It was a rare moment of forward thinking by the powers that be.
We need to grasp these opportunities to build cycling infrastructure where we can, to make things safe for our kids.