Westport and the surrounding Clew Bay region has been awarded the accolade of becoming Ireland’s first cycle friendly visitor destination.
The Westport Cycle Friendly Town initiative will be a major boost for tourism in Mayo and is being promoted by Destination Westport, Westport Chamber of Commerce and Mayo County Council.
They are now looking for service providers, from hotels to restaurants, bike hire businesses to pubs, to sign up and be put on the map on a dedicated website for visiting cyclists.
Michael O’Boyle of Cycling Solutions Ireland gave a presentation to local councillors on the initiative, which captures the EuroVelo Route and Wild Atlantic Way. It includes ‘local knowledge’ routes, such as the Westport greenway, as well as the Clew Bay Loop, pilgrim routes, lake routes, and the Keenagh loop, to name a few.
The routes extend out as far as Cong, Finney and Lough Mask in south Mayo, as well as Clare Island and Achill.
Visiting cyclists will be able to plan their trips with downloadable maps that have details on route distances and elevations, what you’ll experience along the way, and soon to be added services such as hospitality.
Until now cycling has been geared around the greenway, he said, but this offers a choice for a longer stay and more diverse routes, keeping people in the area and opening up huge opportunities for local service providers.
With bike ownership rising in Ireland, and cycle tourism an enormous net contributor in Europe, it is now taking hold here, offering a sustainable and active green tourism product.
There is a huge advantage in being the first in Ireland to have this initiative, as Westport is now a more than viable alternative for international tourists looking for a new cycling destination. Councillor Peter Flynn said Westport has always taken pride in being a leader, and this was a fantastic opportunity not just for the town but for the whole county.
A number of Westport’s employers have recently become fully accredited cycle-friendly employers, providing shower facilities and places to leave bikes if employees cycle to work. The growing cycling culture in Westport offers a promising insight into what lies ahead for our towns and cities as cycle tourism and cycling to work becomes more popular.