“Intolerable barrier to cycling” blocking new section of Dublin-Galway greenway

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IMAGE: A man dismounts his bicycle to get past a barrier on the Dublin to Galway Greenway.

— Council discriminates against bicycle users who are disabled
— Barriers block bicycles but dumping ground along route left open
— Gates put up after greenway section opened by Tánaiste

Restrictive barriers on the Royal Canal Greenway in Dublin were only put in place after the €2 million route was opened by Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Joan Burton and former minister for transport and tourism Leo Varadkar.

Around a week after the opening, readers started to complain to IrishCycle.com that the barriers installed on a new 2km section of the Royal Canal Greenway, between Castleknock and Ashtown, were too restrictive. Some users of the route said that they had to lift their bicycles over the barriers which are designed to keep motorcycles off the path.

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No barrier: An area along the route being used for dumping

The section of route is supposed form part of a premium commuter cycling route for the Greater Dublin Area, and part of the 290km Dublin to Galway greenway. But a report published in January 2013, which was commissioned by the National Transport Authority, labelled such gates as “an intolerable barrier to cycling” which should be removed.

The report, which covers another to-be-upgraded Dublin greenway —  the River Dodder route — states that: “All kissing gates along the route should be removed. These are an intolerable barrier to cycling and other means of controlling anti-social behaviour should be identified, including CCTV. A bollard or two at the entry to a 4m wide track would prevent vehicular access but can accommodate cyclists.”

It adds: “Occasional abuse of the greenway by motorbikes may be a problem but the solution to this should not be to render the proposed cycleway unusable by the vast majority of responsible pedal cyclists.”

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A typical section of the greenway

It’s our understanding that the National Transport Authority (NTA) has been unhappy with the use of restrictive gates for some time, holding the view that such barriers limit the potential of cycle routes. Adjustments made to the kissing gates on the Grand Canal Greenway, which was opened by South Dublin County Council in 2010, were deemed to be unsatisfactory. Regardless of this, Fingal County Council went ahead with the same type of barriers on the new section of the Royal Canal route.

We asked Fingal County Council does it accept that the price being paid in this case to restrict motorbikes is to also exclude legitimate users including people who have bicycles adapted to suit their disabilities, commuters and tourists with loaded panniers and families with children in trailers, cargo bicycles and cargo trikes.

A spokeswoman for Fingal, Florence White, said:

“The council sincerely regrets that dangerous misuse of this wonderful public amenity by a very small number of users could prevent it from being used to its full potential by cyclists and pedestrians including those specific groups you mention. However as a public authority we must and do take our responsibility for public safety very seriously and therefore we have to take the steps we can to minimise what we believe is a potential risk to public safety caused by motorbikes or scramblers that have caused a nuisance on this route in the past. As outlined, the use of the Greenway will be promoted and reviewed to see if restrictions can be relaxed if the problem with motorbikes and scramblers is resolved.”

Excluded from the greenway — unless they are willing and able to lift their bicycle over the barrier — are the users of bicycles with large panniers, bicycles with trailers, cargo bicycles, recumbents, and other bicycles adapted for people who have disabilities. The council has the means of locking the gates in a less restrictive position without construction alterations but it would not confirm if it will ever do this or if this would allow all types of bicycles to pass.

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No entry: Cargo bicycles excluded

Keith Byrne, the chairman of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “The use of these barriers will hamper the development of first in class routes that Ireland needs to build for a sustainable smarter travel future.” He said the route should be attractive to people using “any type bicycle” including heavier city bikes, electric bicycles, bicycles with panniers or trailers, cargo bikes and mobility trikes.

“We see this route as a very important off road and quiet route that will attract a large variety of cyclists to go about their business. We would expect people to use these routes for commuting and leisure with their kids on a variety of bicycles,” said Byrne. “It is not to be underestimated the importance of building and encourage cycling on quieter off road routes, and by trying to stamp out a small problem it will exclude a much larger number of people from enjoying a fantastic piece of their community the way the project intends.”

He added: “There has been no statistics provided for this problem and without that, it is building in restrictions for something that may be so rare. It should also be noted that these types of restrictors may well be compromised by other ways to gain access to the same routes. The actual problem needs to be addressed first. It is imperative that if there are issues raised by a few individuals that these be enforced by the Gardai.

The Department of Transport said that Galway to Dublin Greenway “remains a priority” and noted that the NTA issues with the barriers.

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The northren end of the Castleknock to Ashtown greenway along the Royal Canal as the canal crosses over the M50 on a viaduct and under the N3 junction

A spokesman for the department said: “The NTA is the body responsible for the implementation of this cycle way and they share your concerns in regard to barriers on the route. The NTA is working towards developing a new access arrangement which will meet the needs of users while at the same time restrict undesirable use by motorcycles and other inappropriate modes.”

While the department claims that Ireland’s first intercity cycle route is a priority, it did not directly reply to how the route is this supposed to be attractive to tourists traveling on bicycles with panniers. We were also left in the dark on how it is expected that our routes will be attractive to Dutch and German tourists when the Netherlands has comparatively no barriers on 4,500km of national cycle routes.

For its part, the NTA said that the use of restrictive gates on key off-road cycle routes is “undesirable” but it added that local authorities and other public bodies “have well-founded concerns over unimpeded access in certain situations, leading to potential use of such cycle routes by motorcycles and other inappropriate vehicles.”

Sara Morris, a spokeswoman for the NTA, said: To balance those competing needs, we have designed a new access arrangement which facilitates access by bicycle without dismounting but which restricts undesirable vehicles. This new bike gate is scheduled to be trialled with South Dublin County Council and Waterways Ireland on the Grand Canal over the summer period. It involves a combination design suitable for all bicycle types (within reason) but precluding motorcycles etc. If that trial is successful it is intended to retrofit that new access arrangement into appropriate locations, including along both the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal cycle sections.”

The NTA did not reply to questions on the detail of the trial.

In an earlier statement, Fingal County Counil said:

“While at design stage the council did consider an access control system that would exclude vehicles but permit free flow of cycles (ie removable bollards). However, this could not be included in the final design as we were forced to prohibit the unauthorised use of motorcycles and the like from the path as this had been a problem in this area. Even before the current gates were erected, there were complaints from the public about motorbikes, scramblers and quads travelling along the path at excessive speeds. Regrettably, the minority of users have negatively affected the use of the Greenway for everyone else. However, we must take measures to protect the safety of all users including local families and young children availing of the traffic free status of the greenway. This is why we had to put up the gate restrictors.”

“While the council has largely adopted the same design as per the Grand Canal (as requested by Waterways Ireland), we have incorporated minor improvements so that the gates can be adjusted to cater for larger bikes. We have also installed a second socket for the gate locking post so that the gate can be locked in a partially open position, thus giving a little more room to pass. The strategy at the moment is to leave the gates in a restrictive position in an attempt to eliminate nuisance use of the greenway and to open them to the less restrictive position for the long term. This plan is dependent on how the greenway is used in the years ahead and we hope many people will be able to enjoy it.”

15 Comments

  1. Very well written article on a disgraceful situation.
    I cannot understand why, after spending so much money on superb surfaces , lighting and CCTV the authorities have decided to frustrate all cyclists and others with prams etc by the imposition of these hideous and frustrating obstacles.
    Are they uniquely a dublin thing? I have not seen them on the continent. They are also absent from the Cork to Passage West and Carrigaline to Crosshaven excellent cycling /pedestrian routes.

    Paddy Mulhern
    Cork

  2. The gate you highlighted – close to Navan Road Parkway rail station – is bad enough, though it is possible to get through the gap on a bike with standard panniers without dismounting. However, the gate at the top of the route, at the 12th Lock, is worse. Not only is the gap about half-an-inch to an inch narrower (which makes more difference than you’d imagine), it’s also on a steep incline – not at the crest of the hill, but on the slope itself! That makes it all but impossible to get through without dismounting – unless you follow the desire line across the dirt mound to the side that many cyclists seem to be opting for instead.

  3. Absolutely unacceptable for a local authority to do this to solve an ASB issue.

    You deal with ASB activity by law enforcement by Garda and not by deliberately and calculatedly erecting an impediment to the design users..

    No road authority on the Continent would act this way towards commuting or touring cyclists.

    It is not just cyclists that are seriously discommoded by this action – parents wheeling children in buggies also are forced to think about how they should get through. Wheelchair users are disregarded.

  4. @paddy no not just a Dublin thing. I regularly cycle in France and have encountered similar rubbish on their greenways at various locations.

  5. I second MacDara’s comment about the gate at the 12th lock – an absolutely terrible design that makes the whole project a dud.

    If more people were encouraged on to the route, it would act as a deterrent in itself to the antisocial behaviour.

    Intolerable isn’t a strong enough word; I’d resort to expletives to describe these barriers.

  6. On a follow-up note, I once had an unprovoked punch to the face from a teenager while negotiating one of these barriers. I have no idea what caused him to want to do that, but
    1. It probably wouldn’t have happened if there was no barrier, as I’d have kept cycling and wouldn’t’ve come near this kid
    2. These barriers don’t discourage ASB.

  7. These barriers encourage anti social behaviour in two ways. One by making the greenway unattractive and inacessable to the users it was designed for, it abandons the public greenway to the antisocial groups wasting a large amount of public money and not solving any tourist or travel issues. Secondly in my experience it gives anti social groups some where to sit and hangout forcing many to retrace their route rather than get trapped in a kissing gate. It must be illegal for the council to deny access to some law abiding citizens while at the same time dening it to others going about their lawful business. For example a person with a hand cycle which can be seen used locally in the Phoneix Park but denied access to the greenway. Pure and simple discrimination.
    This is just another example of the incompetence and lack of imagination present in our civil management which requires them to be cleared out and replaced. The name of the person responsible for the decision to mount this barrier should be made public and we should demand their resignation as they are not fit for duty. Then maybe we will get thoughtful infrastructure when we have people’s attention.

  8. Next up: putting barriers on and along bus lanes so motorbikes can no longer use them ;-)

  9. How can they get it so wrong, every time without fail words fail me, and the ones I can come up with are not fit to be written down.

  10. I know we all just want the gates gone, but does antisocial motorcycle riding happen mostly at night? Would there be any benefit at all in the short term in having the gates fully open during daytime and peak commuting hours, and closing them at maybe 8 or 9 pm? Also, what is the penalty for people that are caught doing this?

  11. Are the council going to build a separate facility for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and the like? Surely excluding swathes of the population from this facility contravenes equality legislation? There has been some discussion on this in the UK:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmtran/116/116vw23.htm

  12. In the photo it is clearly possible to take a motorbike onto the route between the tree and the gate. So this doesn’t actually do anything except inconvenience legitimate users of the route. Incredibly stupid.

  13. Same issue exists on the grand canal from inchicore out to clondalkin. would make a great cycle superhighway but the access restrictions make it pointless

  14. Lennart Thomsen July 8, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Around the Westmeath area is trouble free only issues I have seen is dog litter on several tracks no regard for anyone using the facility disgraceful

  15. Route from adamstown to inchicore unusable by tandem because one gate at I think kylemore rd has only a kissing gate and no slot.stops blind and disabled stokers enjoying a supposedly public amenity. No access at all for box bikes or trailers .meanwhile on section from hazelhatch we have pony two wheel rigs being lifted over gates and raced along path. This lazy attitude of councils preventing genuine users must stop.we need a map showing every barrier to use installed by officialdom in the country.there is no use letting councillors get kudos for great work when they then screw it up for the people who paid for it.
    My experience of velovert in France is of great routes with no obstructions,you get the feeling that anyone who abused the facility might wish they had not done so.

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