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Right to worship being overtaken by right to cycle, church elder claims (Irish Times)

Howth Presbyterian church clerk of session Margaret McKenna Clerk and minister Alastair Dunlop are criticising Fingal County Council plans for a cycle lane. Photograph: Alan Betson

Cycle lane decision ‘plain wrong’ as Howth Presbyterian church parking will be blocked

The “right to worship is being overtaken by the right to cycle” under plans to install a segregated cycle path on the Howth Road in Dublin, the local Presbyterian church has said.

Fingal County Council plans to install bollards from Howth to Sutton to segregate the cycle lane from traffic. The intervention will prevent on-street parking for several kilometres, including in the area in front of the Victorian church.

Church elder Michael Sparksman said the congregation comes from a wide area across north Dublin and many elderly parishioners would be cut off from the church if unable to access it by car.

“The council suggested people walk, cycle or take public transport but that is really not viable given our age profile and the distances people come from,” he said. “We have a constitutional right to worship. People have been going to worship in this church for 121 years. For the council to decide we can’t do that because we can’t access the place is plain wrong.”

‘Beggars belief’

In addition to Sunday worship, the church hall is used for Bible studies, youth and children’s clubs and ballet classes. There is also a Montessori school to the rear of the church.

“The council suggested parents could park in Howth and walk with the children. That would take 15-20 minutes, and what are they to do in the rain? It is an attitude that beggars belief and borders on arrogance,” he said.

In a statement, the council said the installation of bollards was “intended to improve road safety and create a safe environment for vulnerable road users and children to safely walk or cycle”.

It said parking was already prohibited along both sides of the Howth Road, as cycle lanes were in place, though not protected. “There is also car parking available within the church grounds.”

Blocked by bollards

Mr Sparksman said he accepted parking was “not strictly” permitted on the road, but that churchgoers had never been ticketed for the short duration of services.

He said a similar “common sense” stance had always been adopted for parents dropping off children and that the most practical solution would be to leave a short section of the road without bollards.

“We have tried to reason with the council but they will not alter their plans one iota,” he said, adding that there was space for fewer than 10 cars in the church grounds.

“The church is 121 years old we’re been parking here since cars were invented. We support cycleways, but the right to worship is being overtaken by the right to cycle.” (As reported in the Irish Times)

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