Could a cycling revolution be on the cards for Waterford city?

Cycling in Waterford is currently for the brave and the fit, but is this about to change? Eoghan O’Hara gives his local perspective on cycling in Waterford and changes planned for the city’s streets.

Manor Street

IMAGE: Planned two-way cycle routes on Manor Street (cycle paths light red, with section of cycle lane in dark red).

Waterford City and County Council have put forward and passed plans — under the banner Waterford City Centre Urban Renewal Scheme — which will change the city dramatically. Certain routes will change and areas in the city centre will be pedestrianised. At least some of this is now funded as part of an announcement by the Department of Transport last week.

The centrepiece of the new plans is new pedestrianisation. But despite pedestrianised, bicycles may be permitted except during very busy shopping times, such as Saturdays — this will save cyclists time and also have more people going through the city centre.

One of the most controversial parts of the council’s plan is to make Manor Street and Poleberry Link Road a one-way system. This is to facilitate two-way cycling on both streets, including contra-flow cycle paths. There will also be some bus priority measures, with a small section of bus lane on Manor Street and bus lane on most of the link road near Tesco.

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IMAGE: A new one-way system: Waterford City and County Council has opted to make more streets one-way in a cycling-friendly way — this is often done in the Netherlands.

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IMAGE: A view of the section of Manor Street which is to be turned into a one-way street with space for cycling in both directions and a contra-flow cycle path.

Many of the Junctions that which will change are very dangerous for cyclists. During busy hours, there is very little distance between the curb and the car meaning cyclists cannot filter to get to the junctions. These junctions will have segregated bike lanes when the road modifications are made.

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IMAGE: This section of Manor Street is to be widened to include cycle and bus lanes (the previous image is of the street after traffic lights shown in this image).

Manor Street junction

IMAGE: Plans for the junction of Manor Street, College Street and Bath Street (A strange hybrid of Dutch and Irish? It could be a lot more Dutch using no extra space! – editor). KEY: Light red = cycle paths; dark red = cycle lanes; bus lanes = light blue.

Bath Street and Poleberry Link Road junction at Tesco

IMAGE: Plans for the junction between Bath Street and the Poleberry Link Road at Tesco.

Car-centric attitudes

The attitude of Waterford City residents will be very hard to change. The car is the be all and end all as far as many of them are concerned, even for very short journeys. Many people object plans for the city centre renewal as it will change the car-centric streets that they are used to. Waterford once had a high percentage of people cycling but this decreased dramatically during the 90s and 00s and has never recovered. But an illustration of some people’s car-centric mindset is that some still complain about the city centre being pedestrianised 20 years ago.

Missing links

Under the area of the Urban renewal, there is the WIT college street campus and the Waterford College of further education (Parnell street). Connecting to the mall and the Quay, the urban renewal area will connect students cycling to the WIT architecture Building on the Quay. My one observation is that due to a busy roundabout outside the renewal area, there is no direct cycling link between WIT main campus and the city centre.

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A busy roundabout between the city centre and the WIT campus

IMAGE: a busy roundabout between the city centre and the WIT campus – where there’s no changes planned so-far.

Parking and enforcement 

On–street parking on Parnell Street can be dangerous for cycling. Cyclists often have to cycle within the door zone to allow vehicles to pass them which is deemed very unsafe. Fly-parking on the Quay and the Mall have never been tackled by the Gardaí or the Council. Certain planned lanes running adjacent to the road may be spots for fly-parking which will not result in penalty for the driver, if current practice is anything to go by.

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Greenways

The city and county council are also in the process of laying a greenway between Waterford City and Dungarvan, which will be good for local tourism and recreational cycling which should be open officially in mid 2016. The Deise Greenway Waterford Facebook page details the progress and illustrate how Waterford could become the greenway capital of Ireland. 

Within the city, a one kilometre greenway has also been opened along John’s River, between Poleberry and Kilcohan. Which can be good for both recreational cycling and make it easier and safer for people getting between these areas. This was built as part of flood protection and connect to the St John’s River greenway, Kilbarry. 

Reclaimed space

Parts of the city have already been reclaimed from the motor vehicle to add beauty and vibe to the areas, mainly tourist areas such as the Mall (pictured below).

The city and County Council aim to create a “To provide a citywide cycle network to link all areas of the city to each other via main routes”, which perhaps is a good sign for the future. Waterford, as Ireland’s smallest city, commuting times are short and distances to travel within the city are not very far making it viable for many people.

— Eoghan O’Hara

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The Mail in Waterford

IMAGE: The Mail in Waterford is an example of space transfered from cars to sustainable transport, but many of the new cycle routes in the city will be segregated.

Extra images: A look at other sections of the plans:

Drawings and reports for the project can be found on Waterford City and County Council’s website. Cian Ginty takes a quick look at a sample of some of the other sections of the changes.

While the plans mark a move to segregated cycle paths for the city, cycle lanes also feature:

Cycle lanes

Here’s the street layout at Mayor’s Walk as planned and the current layout from Street View:

Mayors Walk

Mayors Walk StreetView

Contra-flow cycling on Patrick Street and Stephen’s Street, both of which are currently two-way. On Patrick Street there is a significant hill and the planned up-hill contra-flow lane should give people space to cycle up the hill without having to worry about cars behind them:

Contra-flow cycling on Patrck Street - Stephens Street

While the details of the project is not of Dutch standard, the designers of the scheme seem to have strived to give space for cycling in a way other Irish councils often don’t even attempt: Including separate space for cycling and walking and some bus stop bypasses in central areas:

Bus stop bypass

The northern (city centre) end of the Manor Street and Poleberry Link Road one way system includes an interesting solution which allows people cycling with-flow around the one-way system to only yield when the traffic lights for the walking and cycling crossings stop motorists — all done without mixing walking and cycling:

Manor Street and Poleberry Link Road north junction

The plans for Waterford shows ambition and vision by both councilors and council management. No other city has planned to progress separate space for cycling, walking and motoring in such transformative and interlinked way. Even if the plan is progressed fully, there will be more to do in the mid and long-term, but Waterford on the verge of taking brave steps to making their city more people friendly.

— Cian Ginty

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