COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Shared paths where cycling and walking are mixed must be avoided to get the best out of the River Dodder Greenway for all users.
It will take innovation, funding, extra new bridges, and a willingness to disrupt some motorists on a narrow residential street which until now has been designed as a rat run, but it is worth pushing to get a top class cycle route which does not interfere with other users of the Dodder’s river banks.
Our comments here are based on cycling the route a number of times (including just a few weeks ago), walking some sections of the river, reading the consultant’s route option report, hearing from international consultants who were paid to review the route, hearing from groups who are involved with cleaning and protecting the route (including complaints about loss of unique walking paths and fears about destruction) and talking to random people along the route.
We have heard that detailed designs are not far from being published. The state bodies involved previously said they wanted to widen existing paths but keep them shared, while others have looked to keep the paths narrow.
Our view is that the best solution is to keep walking and cycling separate — even where that means diverting cycling to a different side of the river. In other cases options are limited, there will be come compromises but hopefully not as many councils usually opt for.
Overall we suggest a mix of use of the following route configurations:
- Two-way cycle paths [green]: These would be used on streets with through traffic, on areas of grass banks, in parks along the river, and on all new bridges.
- Local access / bicycle streets [blue]: These are streets bicycles share space with motorists where residents and other motorists have localised access in low volumes and on streets restricted to low speeds, and it’s clear that the street is a cycle route.
- Pedestrian only paths [red]: Paths where cycling isn’t encouraged and their current design is maintained.
- Shared paths [purple]: To be avoided but necessary, at least in the short-term, in a limited amount of locations. Shared paths could also be used on some sections to provide a more scenic route on limited sections, while commuting cyclists are divided to faster routes.
Here’s how we think the route could be configured, opens in Google Maps:
Solutions differ by area.
In Sandymount, the consultant’s idea of a boardwalk seems like the most workable solution, the current space is too confined for mixing as it is, never mind for extra volumes of users a connected greenway would bring:
At a few locations, there’s nearly ready made segregated. The very best example of this is in Herbert Park, where there’s a wide path which can be marked as a cycle path as there’s pedestrian paths in place on both sides of it:
In Rathfarnham, the riverbank on the opposite side of Bushy Park is the better place for the main cycle path, in terms of space to provide for segregation and a feel of personal security, after dark or in the winter months.
But the current cycle/footpaths layouts is not optimal for safety or feel of safety or an inviting environment. A new two-way cycle path could be constructed here with a large buffer between it and the road, and with views of the river:
Across the overall route, there are many narrower sections, but more typical of the overall route is wide open spaces. There should be no issue constructing two-way paths beside the existing the paths, which can be retained for walking/running/etc:
Local access / bicycle street example
Here is an example of a path which should be retain as it is, the path between Dartry Park and Orwell Park / Road:
Again the red line shows the path to be kept as it is, while this time the mainly blue route shows the route around for cycling:
The blue line represents Orwell Walk. Because the street already holds only low volumes of motor traffic at low speeds, little would have to be done on the street suitable as part of the cycling segment of a he greenway route:
Cycle path on road example
And here’s another of the locations — a path on the north riverbank between Donnybrook and Clonskeagh — which we suggest leaving basically as it it and not providing for cycling here:
Instead, provide for cycling on the opposite riverbank on Beaver Road and Beech Hill Road. To do this, the Beaver Road section would be made one-way for motorised traffic, which would reduce rat running on this residential section of the route:
So, basically avoiding the red line mapped below, while following the green line:
Beaver Road is basically made up of two sections — a section with (informal) street parking and a sectio without, we’ll call them sections A and B respectively:
Here’s two options for the section with parking:
And two corresponding options for the section without parking:
These are just a sample of two options for the street to move from a motor traffic dominated place to a balance between providing access one-way traffic, a high-quality and, maybe more importantly, recognition that this is a place where people live.
Beech Hill Road would remain two-way for motorists to allow access to the businesses located off the road.
The whole project does not require a Big Bang investment, it can be done in stages. The priority for the route overall should be to offer alternatives to the narrow sections and connect sections using bridges and safe road crossings.
FOR MORE: Stay tuned to IrishCycle.com for updates on the River Dodder Greenway project and other cycling issues.