COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Dublin City Council are suggesting diverting the Liffey Cycle Route off the Liffey’s quays for around 1/4 of the route, but here’s 10 reasons why this is more than a bad idea and why the detour should be rejected:
1. Respecting public consultation and assessing alternatives
The public consultation on the Liffey Cycle Route was widely publicised and, officials said, had the highest response rates of any consultation for a project that the city has run. Yet there’s a distinct lack of respect from a number of quarters for the results, mainly because objectors have run a campaign which has claimed locals were not informed. This is despite residents, businesses and residents-run apartment management companies making submissions to the council (see outline and full report here).
A lack of respect for the public consultation is compounded by the fact that all alternatives were not assessed: We say save the Liffey Cycle Route and consider Option 6. While no route is perfect Option 6 combines two popular and practical options. If they are in doubt, councillors could request a re-running of public consultation with Option 5, Option 6, and leave all as is, as the new options.
2. Not enough information to approve a preferred route
The public consultation provided detailed draft drawings of how the routes could work. While these drawings were always subject to final design, there no such drawings for the totally new Option 5.
There isn’t even a rough sketch showing what route and street space Option 5 will use. Even if it is workable, it’s just not at preferred route stage approval stage for such an important project.
On the other hand, as Option 6 is a combination of two former options, it has drawings for the most part and a number of sketches on how the merging point could work. It’s another reason to support Option 6.
3. Moves the route away from the waterside
How can the Liffey Cycle Route hold its name if it’s detoured from the river for a quarter of the quays? This isn’t a single issue, it ranges from practical issues for all users, and the attractiveness of the riverside to leisure users and tourists.
If it’s detoured the route should be renamed to the River Liffey and Backstreet Smithfield route. Joking aside: If it is detoured it would lose its iconic feel, image, and attractiveness.
4. It doesn’t solve objections from local businesses objecting to parking removal
One of the concerns local businesses and residents had against a bus detour was the removal of street parking and questions around access for loading and to private off-street parking. With Option 5 none of these issues are solved and some are likely made worse.
With a bus detour as part of other options, the limited local access could have shared the bus lane but there’s no way these could share a two-way cycle path. The widths might just about allow for two-way cycling mixed with local traffic and this design can work but here it is complicated by the Luas running alongside and limited space at junctions — it would also limit the attractiveness of the cycle route to the type of people who already cycle.
5. More junctions to deal with — a bad idea for a two-way cycle path
A quayside route like Option 6 would have five junctions (all traffic light controlled with no legal conflicts with turning motor traffic) around the section in question, but Option 5 would have 11 junctions where cars and vans will be crossing.
Many of the 11 junctions in Option 5 would be minor but minor junctions without traffic lights can be a hazard to two-way cycle paths — the Luas tracks and local traffic accessing car parks of apartments etc would complicate this interaction. It’s unclear how these conflicts could be overcome without major and unrealistic changes to the Luas tracks.
6. A section of sharing with Luas trams or footpaths in Smithfield
The now infamous pinch point in Smithfield would still be a problem (the one at the new apartment building which caused the Smithfield bus detour to be a non-runner).
There is only space here for footpaths and the tram tracks. Unless the council has a trick up its sleeve, the options here are (1) take the space from the much-needed footpath beside the new building, or (2) have cyclists share with trams or pedestrians.
7. A detour away from the quays poorly serves the southside quays
Using a two-way cycle path on the north quays was always a compromise for southside users but it was deemed to be a reasonable compromise aimed at a balance between fitting in a protected premium route and not unduly affecting buses and other users of the quays.
If the route goes via northside backstreets, inner-city southside residents and other potential users with southside start or end points will be poorly served to the point that many won’t bother and will find more direct routes or will not cycle.
8. It doesn’t solve objections relating to the parks
While a cycle path is not as wide as a bus lane and traffic lanes, it is still hard to see how Croppies Acre (the park in front of Collins Barracks) and the Croppy Park (the small park on the east end of Parkgate Street) would not have to be used for the cycle path. It would not remain ‘untouched’ as some objectors want it to be.
Or if Option 5 does leave the parks untouched, there is no other space for the cycle path — the footpaths beside the Luas tracks are often busy with people walking and running. Where else will the cycle route go?
9. New issue of conflict with the parking on Parkgate Street
Parkgate Street is a busy street with shops, car parking, loading bays, and access to a car dealership on one side of the street. Option 6 would use the opposite side of the street — with only an entrance to the offices of TII (the NRA and RPA merged) and apartments but without the shopfronts.
Option 5 would use the shopfront side, creating a conflict with the busy footpath and the parking and loading — there isn’t much room towards the west end of the street to put an island / buffer between the cycle path and parking. So there will be more conflict with this design and likely more objectors to deal with.
10. Too many unknowns
There’s just too many unknowns. Above we’ve detailed some of the err… known unknowns, but there could be other issues we can’t foresee. At least with Option 6 the objectors are already out in the open and, as above, Option 5 won’t make many of them any happier.