Council contradicts Department of Transport on cyclists dismounting at zebra crossings

— NTA confirms it agrees with the Department of Transport

Despite a clear position taken by the Department of Transport that cyclists must dismount and become pedestrians before using any zebra crossings, Limerick City and County Council has described the zebra crossings on a cycle route as “a shared surface for both pedestrians and cyclists” with no need for dismount signs.

On March 22 we published our original story on this issue — Zebra crossings increasingly used on cycle routes, but without warning cyclists must dismount — and last week we followed this up with the news of a plan to make the Walkinstown Roundabout cycling friendly which depends on zebra crossings where cyclists dismount by law.

In Limerick City, zebra crossings form part of the city’s Smarter Travel Route 3 at the Groody Roundabout on the R445, near the University of Limerick. The project was funded by the EU.

The roundabout (pictured above via Google Street View) is a large roundabout with three entry lanes at two of its four arms.

IMAGE: Zebra crossing from National Cycle Manual

IMAGE: Zebra crossing from National Cycle Manual

“There are four zebra crossings on the roundabout that allow for safe passage for both pedestrians and cyclists through the roundabout,” said Laura Ryan, communications officer at Limerick City and County Council.

She said: “The project was designed, by independent Engineering Consultants, in line with best practice and the National Cycle Manual. The Groody Roundabout is designed in line with the Fully Segregated Roundabout outlined on page 127 of the National Cycle Manual.”

“The zebra crossing in this instance is a shared surface for both pedestrians and cyclists. In the National Cycle Manual it also states ‘Cyclists are also bound to exercise due care and attention to other road users and themselves. Erratic, unpredictable or inconsiderate behaviour may cause accidents’.” Adding: “There is no requirement for cycle dismount signs.”

After our March 22 story was published, we again contacted Limerick City and County Council. We put the following to the council: “The Department of Transport are clear on this: Cyclists must dismount at zebra crossings. There’s no such thing as a shared zebra crossing in Irish law. The council’s response seems to be contradicting what the department has said: Could you please say what’s your source for this?”

The council’s reply was simply: “We take our guidance from the National Transport Authority so that’s the source.”

So, we asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to clarify their position. Sara Morris, a spokeswoman for the authority, said: “There is no disagreement between the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the issue.”

Seven days ago we contacted the council again outlining the NTA’s position — the council have yet to respond.

In full, the NTA stated:

There is no disagreement between the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the issue.

The DTTAS response to you is as follows:

  • The Department is aware of the designs included in the Cycle Manual published by the National Transport Authority.
    With regard to the design included for zebra crossings at roundabouts nothing in the legislation has changed and cyclists are required to dismount before crossing at a zebra crossing.
    Separately a number of changes to our legislation with regard to cycling are being considered as part of the mid-term review of the National Cycle Policy Framework.
    These changes are being discussed internally by the Sustainable Transport Division and the Road Safety Division (who have primary responsibility for implementing change to the legislation) and with the National Transport Authority.

The NTA has included zebra crossings in the National Cycle Manual between areas that are shared between cyclists and pedestrians because:
(i) The zebra crossing function remains appropriate to the pedestrians
(ii) The legislation does not preclude cyclists from using the crossing in conjunction with pedestrians.

However, as the Department points out, as it stands, a cyclist needs to dismount in order to effect a formal request for traffic to stop, as this request is currently restricted to pedestrians.

As DTTAS has stated, the NTA has been in prior communication with the Department regarding various changes to legislation to facilitate improved provision for the cycling mode, and indeed, the review of the National Cycle Policy Framework itself.

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4 Comments

  1. Maybe in their design, the NTA were trying to bridge a gap between Dutch designs and Irish design norms, taking account of the expectations of Irish drivers and what’s possible under current Irish law. The compromise they’ve come up with, however, is clearly unworkable. Having to dismount is a deal-breaker for any cycle infrastructure – this design won’t fulfil its aims in terms of increasing (segregated) cycle usage in a meaningful way and when it attract new people to cycling they’re likely to use it in illegal and potentially dangerous ways. The also design falls into the common trap of forcing cycle users into the unfair choice between safe but slow and indirect routes, and fast and deadly ones mixed with motor traffic. (See here: https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/infrastructure-for-all/)
    More generally, zebra crossings here in Ireland likely suffer from the same shortcomings as those in the UK (although I haven’t checked in detail): https://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/the-problem-with-british-zebra-crossings/
    Ultimately, the NTA should go back to the drawing board with this design. The alternative of redefining the meaning of all zebra crossings to allow mixed use (conflict) between walking and cycling seems unwise. There is plenty of good information on what works best (See here: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/05/the-best-roundabout-design-for-cyclists.html)
    This debacle illustrates the folly of cutting corners when copying Dutch designs. We just need to get on with amending the relevant laws and guidelines to harmonise them as far as possible with the Dutch equivalents (zebras, roundabouts, “sharks teeth”) so that proper designs can be built here.

  2. Very poor design here anyway: zebra crossings are only suitable on low speed routes with short crossing distances (ref. Traffic Management Guidelines 2003) and certainly not on the arms of large high-capacity roundabouts. Surprised that a Stage 1 Road Safety Audit did not kill off this design proposal at prelim design stage.

  3. A rather English design isn’t it DfT IE?

  4. @Cycling in Edmonton from the Eyes of a Teen

    In Ireland much of our roads guidance is a straight copy of UK guidance. Also many of the civil engineering consultancies that bid for such schemes are local branches or partners of large UK consultancies.

    It would be a mistake to view the Irish Roads Engineering profession as some self contained entity with its own identity. They are simply an offshoot of their UK equivalent.

    This is one aspect of Irish life where quite literally the British never left Ireland following independence.

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