Our reply to feedback on cycling routes for all ages and abilities

Thanks to readers and others who commented on our draft points for cycling routes for all ages and abilities — below is our response to comments. If you have not commented already, we still are welcoming feedback on that page or in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

FIRST BATCH OF REPLIES:

Citizen commented:

“On-street car parking is a big issue in many areas. Even aside from the epidemic of people parking their cars in cycle lanes, any new cycle routes need proper protection from the door zone. There are many examples of cycle lanes that I won’t use because of the door-zone issue. I’ve been doored in the past and injured, and I don’t want it to happen again.”

REPLY: A buffer for door zones is now added.

“Bike-parking facilities: Many shops, banks, businesses etc don’t have cycle-parking facilities and so even I’m put off going some places because I know my bike won’t be safe if I go there. An example; my local small supermarket has a huge car-park and not a single bike stand. It’s maddening. The shop is about 700m from my house but I walk there instead of cycling because of the lack of bike-parking. I would much rather cycle.”

REPLY: These are important issues and, as part of a seprate project in the future, IrishCycle.com will looking to highlight the lack of high-qualty bicycle parking at supermarkets and shopping centres. However, as inpetto62 said in the comments section of the draft, bicycle parking requires its own strategy.

“Traffic lights: I know it drives people in cars mad, but many traffic lights just don’t make sense when you’re on a bike and thus many people on bikes just go through them. I think there should be a change in the law to allow bikes to go left on red (to act as a yield sign).”

REPLY: Using signs to allow bikes to go left on red (and along the ‘top’ of T-junctions) has only being trailed on a limited number of junctions in 30km/h zones in Paris (or right on red, in their case). We don’t think the Paris approach would gain wide-spread support, but these is another way:

Dutch-style segregation removes bicycle flows from many traffic lights at a far higher and wider level on main roads and streets, while on more local roads traffic reduction eventually leads to the removal of traffic lights.

“Safety promotion by state bodies: This is slightly tangential but still salient to cycling-promotion. Hi-Vis & helmets do not protect people from getting whacked by cars!!! If it did then cars wouldn’t crash into walls, houses, fences, lamp-posts, traffic-bollards, other parked cars etc etc etc etc. The nonsense of promoting hi-vis for pedestrians and cyclists is essentially ignoring the problem (people not driving properly) and shifting the onus onto the victims. Until this mind-set is rooted out from our state bodies which are supposed to be promoting safety then cycling in general is going to be facing an uphill battle.”

REPLY: This is not directly related to cycle routes.

Vincent commented:

“Hit the hammer on the head with these proposals. However One thing is missing, the most important pillar that makes the Dutch cycling system work is the law. You simply do not want to crash into a cyclist…… unlike in Dublin.”

“There is no equivalent for the phrase “strict liability” in Dutch. It is usually described by the general public (“as a driver you are liable when you crash into a cyclist”), or referred to by the article number and the name of the law: Article 185 of the Road Law (by legal professionals). The objective of this article in the law is to protect vulnerable road users from financial damage caused by drivers of motorised vehicles. Because due to the differences between motorised and non-motorised road users, it is very likely that the latter will suffer more and more severe damage and/or injuries when both are involved in a traffic accident. The law also considers the fact that drivers are obliged to be insured for such damage and non-motorised road users are not.”

REPLY: Dutch cycling blogger BicycleDutch starts his post on liability by saying “It is a myth that is really only believed outside the Netherlands” — it’s worth reading his post.

Ronan comments:

“Maintenance. There’s no point building shiny new cycle paths if there’s no ongoing budget to sweep and maintain them to a standard that is fit for cycling.”

REPLY: Maintenance added under continuity and quality and under permeability.

“Priority. Riders should have at least the same priority as cars going invite same direction not be relegated to third spot.

REPLY: We’ve beefed up the section “priority at junctions and across side roads” to make this clearer.

“Pedestrian crossing: pedestrians should not have no warning priority to cross cycle paths. This is usually just a liability cop out.”

REPLY: This isn’t the case currently. All road users, including pedestrians, have a legal obligation not to injure themselves or others.

James Maher commented:

“Sounds like a good plan. I would be very happy if the powers that be adopted this excellent policy. One point i would remove the word ‘generally not’ from the line ‘paint is generally not enough between cars or pedestrians’ to ‘never’.”

REPLY: “Generally” was included because painted cycle lanes are desirable in some locations (ie contra-flow on low volume streets). But we get your point and will look at rewording to make it clearer.

“Are you going to approach the politicians by, email, post or in person ?”

REPLY: Mainly by email and other digital means, while we know some may sign up with our contact, others will need convincing and, for many, contact directly from their constituents will likely be more effective than contact from this website.

André commented:

My first comment: The statements / needs defined in this draft are more than just cycling issues. To make cycling in Irish cities and towns one need more than just cycling infrastructure strategy and cycling manuals. The key issue is to refrain from car dominance, give public space back to cyclists and pedestrians, walking, sitting, stroking, etc.

In order to do so an integrated policy approach is necessary. Many of the phrases in this draft relate to reorganize motorized traffic circulation in larger areas by limiting the motorized traffic routes, including physically measures to limit car speed in houses areas, near schools, shopping areas, play grounds, etc. Around the year 2000 Dublin City Council has studied on so-called Environmental Traffic Cells, based on traffic calming and making traffic more democratic for all road users. Traffic calming is one of the most successful and economic-feasible (cost-effective) cycling measures a city council can take. Retrofitting kilometers of segregated cycling paths is complicated and costly.

Please do not get me wrong. Cyclists need all (!) infrastructure cycling measures which in are in the toolbox (and in the National Cycle Manual), however the first thing is to reflect and decide on the function of any road / street.

One of the key factors of safe and direct cycling in The Netherlands back in the ’70/’80 (where the long urban space restoring process started) was the obligation of the Dutch Ministry for all regional and local governments is to have a serious integrated traffic circulation plan for the whole built-up area, as a CONDITION to gain any Dutch guilder (Hfl) as subvention money from the Minister. This has brought wide awareness of the needs for cycling networks and pedestrians areas / routes / squares. So the first effective urban cycling plans were traffic circulation plans.

With a well-balanced strategy document for traffic circulation one can better derive cycling network plans for the whole urban area or for parts / new areas / rehabilitation areas and use them as serious INPUT for development plans and guarantee permeability from the very start. The greening of the public space should be supportive for cycling and walking routes.

The so-called Integrated Framework Plan, developed by DTO (now NTA) for New Towns as Blanchardstown and Balbriggan developed around 2000 tended to become a strong planning instrument to take strategic decisions and make effective linking between top-down (documents) and bottom-up (designs), vice versa. I am curious what their legal meaning is nowadays. Cycling network planning was certainly meant to be part of that instrument.

REPLY: We strongly agree with the idea that traffic circulation planning should come before building cycling infrastructure. However, our draft points are a reaction to on-going cycling infrastructure design and construction of a lower than suitable standard.

We have added a point on traffic circulation plans under our ‘permeability’ header, but will look at possibly upgrading this to it’s own header or as part of a overview header.

Re Blanchardstown, while some of the planning in this area was better than average,  permeability remains lacking and the cycle network is disjointed and suffers from poor design, including a lack priority at side roads, shared surfaces often split into narrow width and poor junction design — ie the kind of detailed issues the draft is trying to address.

John commented:

“Maintenance is a great point. Even routes merely marked by paint need to be maintained. There’s one example I can think of (in NI) where there’s a painted route in the hard shoulder, but the hard shoulder is where all the road detritus gathers and the hedge grows out over the cycle lane and doesn’t get cut until it threatens to encroach the car lanes.”

REPLY: Agreed, points on maintenance added. If there’s other suggestions around maintenance we’ll look at adding points.

“Continuity: cycle routes shouldn’t just be a tick-box addon to an existing road project, they should take into account where people are coming from and where they are going to. I know that’s sort of covered above, but I think the planning for what cyclists will actually do should be included much earlier in road scheme planning. In some ways such planning is easier since the type of rate limiting plans you need for cars (like one-way streets) aren’t needed. But cyclists have much more flexibility than cars so they don’t have to follow the prescribed routes and you want to get things right early so that there’s no mass disobedience when the project is finished.”

REPLY: Agreed, we hope the draft points already reflects this.

“To get things away from the slightly dry and road-nerd realm of surfaces, maintenance standards and design documents, I think we need a more emotive ‘headline’. In the NI cycling strategy I noticed that at their initial consultation before producing the strategy that there were no targets, so instead of vague percentages of journeys made, I proposed a target of _zero cyclist deaths_. That means the acceptable level of risk of travel is much reduced and so junctions must be designed to prevent dangerous cyclist/motorist interaction instead of tinkering round the edges with things like ASL green boxes. With no cyclists dying on the roads, more parents will encourage their children to cycle, more parents will cycle to school with their children and more journeys will be made by bike because it is seen to be safe as well as convenient.”

REPLY: Zero cyclist deaths is likely a more suitable as a goal in a road safety strategy rather than a point to alter design / planning manuals with.

LiamE commented: 

“Contraflow is essential but must include adequate signage both to alert cyclists and to warn motorists. A number of older existing contraflow routes are seriously deficient in this regard.”

REPLY: Agreed — a signage point is now added to the section on contra-flow.

“Continuity should also include as a design principal measures that avoid stop/start cycling. Momentum is far more critical on a bike than in a car given the lack of mechanical assistance. The Idaho Stop law should be adopted here to ensure fewer stops.”

REPLY: Agreed with your overall point, and many of the designs and principals outlined in the draft keep people moving or means they are less likely to have to come to a full stop. 

“Provision also needs to be made for long distance commuters who also use their commute for fitness/training. Existing bus/bike lanes are often more effective than off road paths for this group as there are fewer stops and a faster average speed can be maintained. While they may not fit in to the idealised Amsterhagen view of cycle-commuting, they form a significant percentage of existing commuters.”

REPLY: Overall, we don’t put Amsterdam down as having even near ideal cycle networks compared to some of the most cycling freely Dutch cities.

In Amsterdam and, more so, other Dutch cities, one of the goals of the cycle networks is to keep bicycles moving as much as possible — so you get priority at side roads, cycling priority roundabouts, bypasses of traffic lights turning right (our left) as standard on main routes, traffic light bypasses of the top of T-junctions, grade-segregated bypasses of large junctions and roads, and they are building a new network of fast inter-urban cycle routes.

To reenforce the above the draft will be updated to include any of the above not yet mentioned and include faster cycling and electric bicycles as users which routes need to be designed for.
Maynooth Cycling commented: 

“I think that you are trying to achieve too much in expecting councillors to get into the minutiae of infra design. Even pro-cycling engineers have different opinions on what should be provided. Cycling advocates, engineers, administrators don’t provide cycling infrastructure. Things only change when politicians get engaged.”

REPLY: We are trying to get both councillors and TDs to sign up to the draft principals with a goal of improving cycling a network standards from different levels. We need, however, to back up what those principals amount to.

It is no more minutiae of cycling infra design, than insulation standards is minutiae detail of housing design — at least two councils have agreed to Passive House standards. And at national level TDs deal with minutiae details of complex legislation.

Re “Even pro-cycling engineers have different opinions on what should be provided” — part of this process is aiming to enable people to constructively demand that politicians get behind better cycle network standards, and basically to follow the Netherlands rather than carry on with our current mix match of standards and generally poor outcomes.

We see space and standards as — currently at least — policy issues and elected members, not engineers, should be responsible for standards.

Where infrastructure is provided, the first priority should be the allocation of road space, followed by minor junctions, signalised junctions and then ‘other’ junctions. We should be able to argue for re-allocation of road space and minor junctions. Many schemes do make best use of space already but many others do not. The problem is lane width but I think that this can be changed. There are also a number of examples around Dublin of the right way to deal with minor junctions. At the same time there are many examples of new jobs where footpaths and cycle tracks stop abruptly at private entrances rather than being carried through.

If we get the reallocation of road space and priority of minor junctions sorted, we can look at protected signalised junctions and ‘other’ junctions. We need to engage with politicians local and national. There are people who are pro cycling and other who are anti-cycling in all parties. The political parties or groupings support cycling but it is soft support so we need to try and firm this up with cross-party support.

REPLY: Re space, yes, agreed. The outlined draft principals and standards will require a reallocation of road space and this is also made clear in the design manuals which we want amended.

Re engagement: yes, we also agree on that point and it has to be central to this process.

I think that the starting point is government targets. We need to either use that target locally or establish new (lesser) lower targets. We also need agree a consistent indicator for modal split – one that is relatively cheap and easy to calculate at a micro level as well as nationally.

I liked the idea of the tour of Belfast which NI Greenways described in his blog. It was a tour of the lowlights not the highlights. We need to bring non-cycling councillors out and show them the shortcomings. One problem is the lack of good design – by which I mean design which encourages or invites mass cycling. A big bang would be good but I see change as being more gradual rather than revolutionary. The outcome of the Smarter Travel Areas is disappointing – an increase of approx 0.2% in cycling per year. At this rate it will be decades before we make any real progress.One of the thing about the STAs was that they were supposed to be innovative but I haven’t heard of any innovation coming out of them. In fact the reverse – they shied away from reallocation of road space. Cycle forums are critical as they are where cycle advocates interface with politicians. These are my initial thoughts on the article.

REPLY: Re the smarter travel  areas: I plan to write about these further, possible after another visit to Westport.

Re a cycling tour: I’m possibly going to plan something along this line: it will in be in Dublin first anyway and would likely cover a critical look at projects of different levels of quality.

SECOND BATCH OF REPLIES:

Colm commented:

“I think the proposal needs some aspiration for sections of main routes which have no space for segregated cycle routes : the Glanmire road in Cork from under the rail overbridge down towards Tivoli for example.”

REPLY: We regularly hear that there’s a lack of space for segregation, usually it’s not as clear cut as a yes or no. It’s a mix of engineering efforts to fit everything and political acceptance to give space over to cycling. With the Lower Glanmire Road there’s a few options in some sections and other sections are more restrictive: Overall I’d suggest a continuation of the use of a two-way cycle path east past the train station. In three sections:

(1) From the train station to Water Street: There’s two options to fit in the cycle path: (a) remove one of the two car parking lanes, or (b) remove one of two one-way general traffic lanes and the usually realigning lanes and paths.

(2) From Water Street to Myrtle Hill Terrace: It’s around 14 metres wide (desktop estimate) and this is the narrowist section, but it can fit this:

14m

I’d give ~6m of a margin of error on the 14m estimate, but for this short section the above can work down to a width of 13m before it is too compromised:

13m

Again: I think the general width of this section is closer to 14m, but, even at 13m, the footpaths are within national guidelines; the two-way cycle path is slightly above the measure for basic two-way in National Cycle Manual, and the driving lanes are wide enough for large buses or trucks to pass each other — with a low-speed environment forced due to the width.

(3) From Myrtle Hill Terrace to Port Park Gates: There’s a few bits which would differ in design, but I’d suggest the radical idea of removing the railway-side footpath (there’s no buildings along the current path and the access paths can be linked by extending the footbridges over the road or by adding pedestrian crossings in the one or two places where needed) and then you can use the space to include a high-quality water-side walking and cycling route with a good buffer between it and the road. Something like this:

16m waterside

From there I’d suggest that it go onto Little Island via a continuous two-way cycle path along the south side of the train tracks with CPO used as needed.

 

Joe commented:

“No to segregation, No to cycle lanes!! The road is there for ALL road users. Cyclists use FULL lane. Get OUT of the gutter! It IS the safest way to cycle.”

REPLY: Such an approach does not make cycling attractive to all ages and abilities, so it does not fit in with what we are doing here.

 

Ronan commented: 

“I’m simply asking the Chicken/Egg question. In other words are there more cyclists in the Netherlands because there’s better infrastructure or is there better infrastructure because there were more cyclists? A lot of the comments here assume the former but I’d be interested in any research that can show a cause/effect between the two. It’s an important point. What would be worse than agitating for better infrastructure on the assumption it will lead to higher participation only to find it actually doesn’t! Before money is spent we need to be sure it’s going to have the desired effect. Otherwise it might be better spent on other measures, like more traffic cops for example.”

“I’m all in favour of better infrastructure if it actually improves things but there has to be a quantifiable definition of “improves” and a defined measure of success. There are always choices to be made so nothing should be a “no-brainer” without evidence to back it up. There HAS been quite a lot of infrastructure built here over the last few years and cycle usage HAS gone up but is there a cause/effect relationship between the two things. AFAIK, no-one can say either way because a) to my knowledge no meaningful research has been done and b) things are more complicated than that.”

REPLY: First, it’s worth saying that this isn’t just about looking for segregation, but a number of linked infrastructure changes which together create a cycling network suitable for all ages and abilities.

Dutch experts point out that their research points to the importance of having cycle networks (single or unconnected routes are of limited use for people unwilling to brave mixing it with high volumes or speeds of traffic). Nevertheless, there is a also growing amount of data and accounts from around the world that segregation works to increase use, and survey after survey shows there’s demand/preference  and public support for segregation.

From a moral and safety perspective, increasing the level of cycling without also increasing safety using good infrastructure is questionable. While more traffic cops are likely on their way with increasing Garda numbers, this can only have so much of an effect as you can’t have a police man or woman on every corner.

We’re often told it’s down to different cultures, but we think the answer to the following is same for 90% of Dutch and Irish parents: Would you allow your child to cycle a busy road like this without the segregated cycle path?

Cycle path

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the follow-up.

  2. Re the tour part, It should be mandatory for the chartered engineer who signs off on the design to cycle any new cycle infrastructure at opening, and just before to snag it. So we have a named person accountable for any poor design.

    I think the proposal needs some aspiration for sections of main routes which have no space for segregated cycle routes : the Glanmire road in Cork from under the rail overbridge down towards Tivoli for example
    Or Bearna.

  3. That’s fair enough, it’s wider than I remembered, the 3 storey buildings make it feel narrower.

  4. It’s sometimes very hard to see beyond current use of any space, and that’s very much so true for roads and streets. It can be very surprising what narrowing lanes or moving things around can do — often without having to remove traffic lanes.

    With the pinchpoint area mentioned above the general traffic lanes are wide to start with and you also have around 1 metre in the middle wasted as a painted buffer between the lanes.

    I was interisted in measuring out and mapping out a route given the recent debate re travel to Little Island. It would have been ideal if the Jack Lynch tunnel could have accommodated cycling in the access / emergency tunnel.

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