Liffey Cycle Route: A detailed look at the concept (part 1)

LONG READ: Dublin’s Liffey Cycle Route has the potential to be a backbone of a segregated cycle network in the city and a catalyst for cycling attractive to almost everyone — so we are making the below suggestions for the route.

There is currently no official preferred route for the project. The preferred public route — option 3 — would need some changing because of an apartment block in the way of the bus route for that option, and other options can be looked at in light of separately planned city centre traffic restrictions.

IrishCycle.com has in the last year strongly advocated for support for option 3, so we are using that option as the basis for our suggestion. However, most of our suggested improvements will apply to most possible routes. If this is viewed as criticism, it should be viewed as constructive criticism which builds on the good work of designing the route so-far and fitting it on to the north quays route.

We’re really advocating for Option 3 Plus: Plus more greenery, plus better connectivity for cycling and walking, and plus better bus priority measures to make sure diverting buses off a section of the quays won’t notably slow buses down. ‘Plus’ means redefining the design and adding to it to maximising the potential of many aspects of the route.

For anybody not up-to-date with the project, here’s a selection of articles on it:

As per one of the above articles: It’s IrishCycle.com’s view that option 3 is by far the best option because it is the most balanced between walking, cycling, bus users, access, and reforming parkland and public space. The detailed drawings published for the overall option 3 is split into three parts:

This post will start with Section A – Option 3 Bus Croppy Acre, from the Phoenix Park to Blackhall Place — further posts will look at the detailed design of the other sections.

key

The drawings start, at the western end of the route, at the gates of the Phoenix Park. Somewhat confusingly, this section between the main park gate and the Luas tram tracks on Parkgate Street, is marked as part of the “Chapelizod to Heuston Scheme” — a separate, planned two-way route along Conyngham Rd and Chapelizod Rd which will take advantage of the near 3km along the park which has only two entrances.

no crossing at the park gate

One of the major issues at the current park gate junction is a lack of a pedestrian crossing at the park gate — as you can see from these three woman crossing pictured above which Google Street View captured rushing across the roadway. The nearest thing to a crossing is an informal one over 110 meters of a detour into the park.

connections

The above drawing shows a number of fairly serious issues for cycling and walking.

The issue of not having a pedestrian crossing across the park’s entrance is left unresolved — against guidance from the Manual for Urban Roads and Streets which says designers should generally “Provide pedestrian crossing facilities at junctions and on each arm of the junction”.

The two, two-way cycle paths (off-yellow colour) are only connected by a pedestrian crossing with no dedicated cycling crossing. Unlike other shared space areas in the drawings, this is not marked in blue. But even if it was it would be inappropriate for a route aiming to be of high quality.

For cycling, possibly the worst feature is the lack of a direct connection from the cycle tracks/lanes inside the park (location marked crudely by us with a blue X) to the two-way path that leads onto the quays (marked with a red X). This is the main cycle route into the park for city residents and the main commuter cycling route to Dublin 15 — there should be continuous segregation which does not suffer from detours or long delays.

park gate google maps

Street View, as above, shows how there is ample space around the park entrance; how the turning angles to the right would allow fast movement by motorists; and how the park entrance has motorway-chic road lighting and prominent signage on the backs of the existing traffic lights.

pp screenshot

The above screenshot, of the Office of Public Works’ phoenixpark.ie, pictures a historical view of the park entrance which depicts how the gate pillars used to be more evenly aligned… were the pillars moved to allow for faster motor access?

None of the above — from the lack of crossings to the lack of continuous cycle paths or the wide turns — is in keeping with Dublin City Council’s or the OPW’s policies to promote travel by cycling and walking. The junction needs a major re-think which should tie into a segregated rework of the cycle lanes between the park gate and the park’s first roundabout.

Park gate edited

Above is the design for the Parkgate Street park entrance (top of image) and our quickly Photoshopped and (very) rough redesign of the same junction (bottom of image). This is just a concept to suggest better things can be done in current spaces. The old gate pillars may have to be moved slightly but it would not be the first time that that has happened in recent history.

The redesign concept, however, offers a lot for cycling and walking: a controlled pedestrian across the front of park entrance; segregation of cycling and walking; traffic lane shapes which will reduce speeding and a dedicated cycle path into the park. We would suggest that the two-way nature of the dedicated cycle path into the park be continued at least until the first roundabout inside the park and past the entrance to the zoo.

Parkgate Street 2

Less than 100 metres east from the park pages is the junction of Parkgate Street and Infirmary Road — which is a link between the South Circular Road and the North Circular Road. Pedestrians at the junction often suffer from long delays as the traffic lights prioritise motorists over often larger groups of people crossing on foot.

From looking at the drawing, it is unclear how — if at all — people cycling on the two-way route will be allowed to turn on and off Infirmary Road. This will need to be fixed without mixing walking and cycling.

Parkgate Street 3

Further east on Parkgate Street is a very wide area, so it was to our surprise that this section included a shared use area which mixes cycling and walking on a footpath (the area coloured in blue on the drawing). The following tweet from a UK cycling campaigner applies to the above design and the general use of shared footpath space:

Local councillors: if you paint/mark pavements as shared for peds & bikes then you lose the right to complain about cyclists using pavements

As we reported last year, Ireland’s sight loss charity, the NCBI, has already asked Dublin City Council to stop mixing cycling and walking. Are councillors willing to hear their call and act? The answer so-far is no. The Netherlands has a safe and attractive cycling network from one end of their country to the other and almost zero shared use paths within towns or cities.

Parkgate realine B

The above is another quickly Photoshopped and (very) rough redesign — it removes shared use and retains all traffic and bus lanes, and keeps the footpath wide. It also includes a large island bus stop between the cycle path and the roadway.

Frank Sherwin Bridge overview

This is an overview of the area the area around the Frank Sherwin Bridge. To give a sense of direction:

Top left corner: Parkgate Street
Bottom left corner: Heuston Station
Bottom right corner: Guinness’ St James’s Gate Brewery
Top right corner: Park extended to riverside, road redirected along side tram line

permeability A

This map (see key below), produced by IrishCycle.com, demonstrates the major north-south permeability issues in the area. The wider green lines are the only two-way routes in this area.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area: Left/south of the Frank Sherwin Bridge (shown here with the short orange line), the northside riverside quays are eastbound only, while the southside quays are eastbound only. The quays are generally not cycling friendly and the options 1-3 will not address the south quays at this point, so the north quays must provide not just for Phoenix Park to the Point Village cycling but also provide for more north and south links than are currently available.

MAP KEY
Wider green lines: North-south two-way with river crossing and beyond. Left of image: Church St to Christchurch; Right of image: South Circular Road to North Circular Road
Narrower green lines: North-south two-way but do not cross the river
Red: Luas only
Yellow: Southbound only
Orange: Northbound only
Black colour block: Main Guinness site
Other blocks: Limited to fully non-permeable sites

Frank Sherwin Bridge south end

This is the junction between Heuston Station, St James’s Gate and Frank Sherwin Bridge (see current Street View).

Although there’s one pedestrian crossing missing (along the river) at this junction, the addition of two new crossings is a vast improvement on the current offering for people on foot, in wheelchairs, those using prams, with young children walking or anybody who can’t run across two or three lanes quickly.

There’s a major issue here for cycling: The Liffey Cycle Route options 1-3 do not improve the quays for cycling in or west of the core city centre. So, this route is supposed to accommodate people cycling along the quays to Heuston Station, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), the HSE’s HQ, to Inchicore and Kilmainham via the old N4 or via the IMMA ground, and Heuston South Quarter, which includes Eircom’s large HQ, a very large residential development, a large SuperValu supermarket and land yet to be developed.

But the southbound link via the Frank Sherwin Bridge (above and below images) potentially includes the use of one cycling crossing, three pedestrian crossings and share use footpaths in between. Cycling on the Luas lines won’t just remain attractive, it will become more attractive for more people using the Liffey Cycle Route.

A far more direct and attractive cycling link needs to be included. Forget shared use footpaths, cycling and walking should have their own space.

Frank Sherwin Bridge north end

This is the junction at the north end of the Frank Sherwin Bridge, between Parkgate Street (left) and the extended park (right).

Even if more space needs to be used from the section of the park pictured in the top left, the junction needs to be redesigned to allow for a dedicated southbound cycle path and a fully-segregated northbound cycle path. There’s two northbound cycle lanes shown on the bridge, so, there’s space for a two-way cycle path — the junctions just need reworking.

Croppy Acre

Here’s an overview of the Croppies Acre Memorial Park section. Buses and general motor traffic are diverted along the Luas tram line, behind the realigned park. At the east side of the park buses then continue alongside the tram tracks to Smithfield and on to Church Street and back onto the quays.

The two-way cycle path goes along the riverbank, flanked by footpaths on both sides.

Croppy-Acre clear

As the above shows here will be a new combined park (highlighted in green) along the river (blue) with only a cycle and footpath between them.

There is a down side — the new riverside park is only possible by moving the bus and car traffic along the Luas line and this will split the current smaller park at Parkgate Street. The new park however will also take in the current quays roadway which is wider than the overall space that the new roadway will take in.

Benburb St cross-section H2.1

The above cross-section shows how the new road will run alongside the tram tracks. The three lanes — made up of a bus lane and two general lanes — cannot be counted as “road widening” as there’s one less lane than the current road along the quays.

However, the plan needs to be adjusted. The general traffic lanes here are 3.2m — that’s the theoretical minimum width of traffic lanes in the Netherlands for a heavy goods vehicle where the design speed is 90km/h. It’s not appropriate for the width of general traffic lanes on a street where the speed limit is 40km/h below that and a street which is between a tram stop, apartments and an urban park.

links

At the western end of the new combined park is Temple Street West (see Street View). Temple Street West currently runs from the quays to Montpelier Hill and Arbour Hill and onto Stoneybatter (where there’s a relatively high level of commuting cycling).

The plan seems to be to block Temple Street West at the Luas tracks and at the quays. Instead, a walking and cycling link should be retained over the Luas tracks and crossing the new roadway (red arrows) and down onto the quayside cycle route (blue arrows).

Croppy Acre east end

The vehicle entrance to the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks is at the top left of the above image and the pedestrian steps are at the tram stop near the centre of the image. While we’re not going to suggest copying Amsterdam, which has a cycle path under its famous Rijksmuseum, a dedicated cycling link between the two-way cycle path and Collins Barracks is a key missing link in this project. Given the local and international tourism appeal of the cycle route, it would be unthinkable not to have some type of direct cycle path link to the Collins Barracks grounds.

There’s also an issue of having the DublinBikes station and a block of apartments (left of image) with no formal crossing to the park. Moving the DublinBikes station is possibly an option here, but this would not solve the issue of cutting off direct access from the apartments to the park. Pedestrian crossings should directly link the park and the residential areas around it.Sarsfield QuaySarsfield Quay cross-section H4

The two images show above Sarsfield Quay, where general traffic is brought back onto the quays. There’s lots of space here on the building-side of the street. Could the space be better used? Why is the inside lane 3.6m wide?

Note: Directly above is the design of the official cross-sections, while below are the designs of IrishCycle.com’s unofficial alternatives.

Sarsfield Quay A

Above is our alternative cross-section of Sarsfield Quay (made using streetmix.net, please excuse the Americanisms). This is just one suggestion to show different layouts are possible.

Allowing for space for trees could extend the park feel to this section, and there’s a clear need to maximize the space for walking and cycling to future-proof the design for as long as possible.

Sarsfield Quay B

Sarsfield Quay C

Sarsfield Quay D

The above three images are just reminders that nothing should be viewed as fixed in stone at this point and we should be looking a the best approach for each section of the route for more than just traffic of any kind.

In this case, we’ve kept the general traffic lanes, marked as ‘drive lanes’, the same as the official cross-section. It’s not clear why the inside driving lane is marked as 3.6m wide, but we have kept the official widths to show this would not change in case it’s needed for some reason. If 0.6 meters was shaven off the lane, it could be used for a wider footpath or extra planting. Note: The outside general lane should be marked as a right hand turning lane.

Rory OMore Bridge

This is the junction with Rory O’More Bridge and Ellis Street… we’ll use this image to start part 2..

Once the other parts of this mini-series are published, the articles will be linked together. We will also be publishing a short summary of the issues in the future. Read all sections of a detailed look at the concept of the Liffey Cycle Route:

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