Will commuters use a two-way cycle path?

GUEST POST: There appears to be differing views within the cycling fraternity in relation to the optimum configuration of the Clontarf to Amiens St. Cycleway so I am guest-posting here to elicit a range of comments on the issue – my thanks to Cian Ginty for facilitating.

If we are serious about making the Clontarf to Amiens St Cycleway work as a commuter route it is essential that we cater well for high-speed commuter cyclists heading in and out of the city; a big learning for me from recent S2S works is that commuter cyclists and pedestrians (and indeed leisure cyclists) do not mix well.

The attached schematic shows the predicted in-bound cyclist volumes (from 07:00 to 10:00 in the morning) as derived from the NTA’s 2021 Cycle demand model. Malahide Road and Howth Road account for well over 75% of the total in-bound. Assuming that cyclists will generally want to go back to where they came from (a reasonable assumption!) then over 75% of cyclists heading outbound will want to go back up either the Malahide Road or the Howth Road.

Is it then realistic to expect that most out-bound commuter cyclists will favour a route that brings them through the park? This will involve:

  • Waiting for some sort of crossing phase at Annesley bridge to cross up to 6 lanes of a busy roadway
  • Potential conflict with pedestrians on the way in to the park
  • A relatively early exit back out through the park railings again with potential conflict with pedestrians
  • Waiting for some sort of crossing phase at Malahide Rd/Howth Rd junctions to get back across to the other side of the road.

Will commuter cyclists do this? They cannot be forced to take this route so in my view they will just not bother, choosing instead to stay on the main road and take the most direct route to the Malahide/Howth Road junctions.

The scheme thus involves an outbound cycle-lane on the Fairview Village side to cater for this.

This concept is fundamental to the whole scheme and I would appreciate some views from the cycling community on it.

Thank you.

Cllr Naoise Ó Muirí – Fine Gael

SEE COMMENTS BELOW FOR REPLIES: 

26 Comments

  1. Thanks to Naoise for the guest post. I would however like to put it on record that:

    (1) The incentive to cross over to the two-way cycle path is to avoid conflicts along the route. Unlike the planned design, the two-way path would — be segregated from buses at stops, offer protected space at junctions, and fully avoid many junctions (ie Fairview Strand and all the minor junctions along Fairview). Overall the two-way path would have fewer potential route conflicts.

    (2) There’s possable an incorrect presumption that everyone will have to cross twice when many trips towards the Malahide Road or the Howth Road won’t include crossing twice — ie those starting in the Docklands, at Connolly Station, connecting from the planned Liffey Cycle Route in any direction or the Royal Canal route heading northbound etc.

    (3) The newer and more segregated cycle routes in London are a good example of dispelling the idea that commuters won’t use two-way cycle paths, see:

    …and:

    (4) There’s enough space in Fairview to provide a two-way cycle path in the park and also provide a northbound cycle path/lane on the west side of the street to provide local access, and a link from Fairview Strand to Howth Road etc without crossing twice.

  2. Firstly, as can be seen from my comments on one of Cian’s posts before (props to Cian for doing this, I should say), I don’t believe that there should be a cycle path only on one side of the road (I don’t rule out a two-way cycle path on one side, as Cian suggests, but I have serious difficulty with a cycle path on only one side. In any case, I think the first question should be: what kind of city are we trying to build?

    1) Amiens Street/North Strand is a city communal area, it is not an arterial route. There’s an implicit assumption in the entire discussion that this road is something to be traversed. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If we care about developing inner city areas, then that includes the ability to move about the area as a walker or cyclist so that the area can flourish as a space, not merely find itself choked with cars (hence: what kind of city do we want: http://dailyhive.com/calgary/sharing-amsterdams-story-of-transformation-into-a-city-for-people <- Amsterdam used to be like Dublin) This is eminently possible but in order to achieve it, we have to finally stand up to the luddites who treat every street in Dublin as a route to somewhere else (using only a car).

    2) You're correct to point out that Malahide Road and Howth Road are significant sources and destinations for cyclists who move through Fairview, however nobody is suggesting creating proper lanes on those roads that I know of, nor is anyone willing to discuss cycle-friendly right turns onto these roads (I tried with DCC rep and was told "but cars won't wait"). Cycle paths need to be seen as routes end-to-end, and junctions need to be designed accordingly.

    3) You're correct to say that pedestrians and cyclists shouldn't be mixed, and yet we have toucan crossings in the design guide. These have the effect of confusing both users, giving the impression cyclists can use pedestrian lights elsewhere, and force cyclists to share pavement space with pedestrians, which does neither any favours. The Dutch solved junctions years ago, do we have the political will to use international best practice?

    4) Lastly, you must address the attempt to mix bus stops and cycle paths. It's crazy to do this. Our goal should be that the path is safe for school-going kids. Nobody should need protective gear to cycle on inner-city streets and we should have the will to aim for that instead of telling cyclists to protect themselves from cars.

  3. @cmcg0vern Amiens Street/North Strand might be other things, but it is also an arterial route and it’s one which requires high bus priority. The easiest way to give bus priority and provide a segregated route is to go with the two-way option.

    If you’re thinking about local cycling access — regardless of where somebody is starting along Amiens Street/North Strand, they will have to cross twice to get, for example, from their house to a shop and back again.

  4. “two-way cycle path is to avoid conflicts along the route (ie the mixing of bicycles and buses at bus stops etc)”

    – This is why we should be implementing “floating” bus stops like London has. IME its by far the best solution.

  5. It requires buses, sure, but insisting on suggesting a two way route because you’re worried you’re asking for too much is a terrible strategy. We’re seeing parking spaces and paths being rolled back at the moment because politicians do not get it, and will never get it until cars stop being top of the pile instead of people.

    Until we drastically change our view of what a street should be, we will never have a proper infrastructure. We have the ear of a politician here, we need them to start seeing the sense in creating a liveable city, not just a set of roads.

  6. @cmcg0vern It’s not that cycle paths on both sides of the street would be asking for too much, it’s because there must be some level of compromise between buses, cars, bicycles and non-transport functions. Two-way allows for full (at grade) segregation while not having too much of an impact on public transport.

  7. My view as a commuting cyclist.

    If there is a safe and convenient access from the NW side of the route over to the park and a safe and convenient route back over again to travel up the Howth Road then I’d consider using a route through the park.

    However, if I had to wait 3-5 mins before I could safely cross, then I wouldn’t.

    I believe that we need a segregated route along or through the park (because this is where a proper segregated route is possible) but we also need some sort of greatly increased facilities on the NW side.

    The obsession by Irish planners with maintaining priority for private cars at every single bloody junction is infuriating. They really need to get their heads out of their arses and look at what can and is done in the Netherlands.

  8. BTW, now that the S2S north is in place, I’d be much more inclined to continue on along that route even though it would add a couple of kilometers to my journey.

    Build proper segregated spaces. Everywhere.

  9. I am very glad cmg0vern chose to post here. I find myself very much in agreement and I thought their previous points about this were shot down pretty much out of hand.

    In general, if I need to cross over the road and then back again the advantages have to be very significant. The shorter my journey the less likely I am to bother.

    The problems of off road cycle lanes in general apply to two-way cycle lanes too. There may be difficulty overtaking slower moving cyclists because space is more limited than on the road. There may be frequent pedestrian activity. If someone parks their car on it it can be far more difficult to get around them. Motorists using minor roads do not yield to off road cyclists at junctions either because they don’t see them or think they don’t have to and this is made far worse when the cyclist is approaching from the ‘wrong’ direction. Motorists waiting to enter the main road block the cycle lane.

  10. Looks like best place for 2 way cycle path is on the west side of fairview road with an alternative cycle route through the park. That way the majority of commuter cyclists would not need to cross the main road at all.

  11. @ Eric — I think dismissing out of hand would be if I posted once and did not engaging with him, but instead I engaged with him and addressed the issues including outlining the the route in Utrecht which disproved his point.

    I’m short on time right now: but the issues you outline with yielding are are legacy design issues from when cyclists were told to yield to everything and much of the issues you raise are used against segregation regardless of one or two way, however the overwhelming public preference is segregation.

    Re it may be difficulty overtaking slower moving cyclists — that’s an advantage of two-way along a route as it allows for more overtaking opportunities, especially along a normal arterial route where there’s peek and counter-peak flows.

  12. @Daramul that’s not the case for the North and South Docklands, Connelly, the Liffey Cycle Route etc — all of these are only one crossing if a two-way cycle path is on the east side of the road.

    In any case, the west side would be unsuitable to two-way — more larger junction and more side roads with higher volumes of traffic (the ones on the east side are limited by the railway and the park cuts down on the number of junctions).

  13. @ cian, fair points, and a welcome discussion btw.
    I was commenting about the fairview stretch of the route in general, and not links to north south docklands etc, but obviously how the cycle route would link with these areas is essential.

    As a cyclist from the fairview area myself I would not use a cycle path on the park side – a 2-way cycle path on the park side would act as a kind of cycle by-pass of the busy fairview road for commuters further out, but is useless for local users. Cyclists need to access all the side roads into marino and along fairview mart too, as well as the main routes at malahide road and howth road. Also cyclists will nearly always take the quickest route – need to look at the ‘desire path’.

    Ideally there would be (from the marino mart side) pavement, 2 way cycle track, north bus lane (with stops and waiting areas) a single lane for cars each way (with turning lanes where needed), south bus lane, park side cycle track and pavement…

    There is also a conflict with what will then work along north strand and down to Amiens street, the space just isn’t there for 2 bus lanes, 2 traffic lanes, pavements, and a segregated 2 way cycle path.

    No easy answers I guess.

  14. Naoise, when you’re analysing the issue, don’t focus on the two-way or one-way issue. It is only a means to an end. The objective which you should focus on is ensuring cyclists don’t have to mix with buses. And while Fairview is important, with the right will, it’s easy to resolve as there’s so much space. The big challenge is further south.

    The proposal involves cyclists joining the carriageway where buses are pulling in to bus stops at all but 4 bus stops. The National Cycle Manual says a route like this with high frequency of buses this must have island bus stops, where the bikes go behind the bus stop.

    Someone decided that, no matter the effect on cyclists, the bus stops need to be out of the bus lanes so that buses can pass each other. Mixing buses and bicycles of course has a negative effect on bus times, but that seems to not be recognised. The combination of offline bus stops and the narrowness of North Strand and Amiens St. means there’s no room on those streets to do island bus stops.

  15. Something that also has to be considered: Let’s say a 2-way segregated cycle track is build along the edge or through the park. What will happen with the route along the road on the NW side of the route? Will it stay the same? Ie – painted lines on the road, and will people on bikes who need to continue on this section of road now face increased hostility from ignorant people in cars who think that they paid for cyclists to use the segregated route.

    This is why I think that if a segregated route along or through the park is built, we still need upgraded cycle facilities to be put in place along the NW side of the road.

  16. The two-way route needs full consideration because its probably the only way to segregate bikes and buses. Because it’s only one side of the road it involves half as many bus stops, and obviously it’s narrower than island bus stop on each side. A two-way route has other disadvantages and advantages but in this instance it is probably the way to achieve the essential segregation from buses. (@daramul a two-way cycle path is narrower than two one-way cycle paths)

    In Fairview, where there is lots of space, the design still includes bicycles passing through bus stops. That’s easy to fix if there’s a decision that cyclists’ safety and bus passengers time is worth taking carriageway space for.

    There are some other major design problems such as lack of protection for cyclists from left-turning vehicles and lack of pedestrian crossings at key junctions. With will they can be solved as well but they will require reducing the capacity of the junctions for general traffic. So the question is do we want to prioritise cyclist and pedestrian safety over traffic volumes? If we do it in the city centre why would we not do it on this route?

  17. It’s so often the case that catering for people on bikes is something that has to be begrudgingly done. Give them a 2-way cycle route through the park and we don’t have to consider any more. That’s good enough for them, is what the prevailing attitude seems to be.

    I know I’m preaching to the converted here but, cycling has to be at the core of planning, not seen as some sort of vanity project to be shunted off to the side and keep them out of the way of grown-up people with grown-up lives (ie cars).

    I’m worried about a 2-way segregated cycle track through the park without also providing for cycling on the other side of the road.

  18. @Daramul Have you watched the videos of the two-way paths in London? Counts show 95%+ of people cycling stick to the cycle paths even when joining the carriageway would be a bit faster.

    There’s enough space in Fairview to provide one-way on one side and two-way on the park side. On North Strand the council’s own consultants found two-way can fit and really it’s easier to fit two-way as it means only one buffer, floating bus stop etc.

  19. @davidhealy @cian – good points on the segregation from bus lanes/stops, if that could be brought into the design alone it would be a major achievement. I’m all for a 2 way route, as long as there is also suitable cycling provision on the marino mart side, also segregated.
    As mentioned there is a big problem with drivers turning left across cycle lanes to access side roads, which is a cultural and legislative issue, cyclists must have right of way in that situation, especially when there is a buffer for bus stops or pavement waiting area between them and main road.

  20. I just want to start by thanking both Cllr O’Muirí for seeking the direct feedback, and Cian Ginty for facilitating the conversation.

    If we want to get an idea of how people respond to new infrastructure, we can look at similar projects here at home. We don’t necessarily need to look at Dutch or UK examples.

    The Grand Canal cycleway was the experiment to showcase how it should be done, and it was a tremendous success. I regularly cycle this route, even though it would be shorter and more direct to use the south bank of the canal, along Grove Rd and Grand Parade. The reason I choose the cycleway is that it is a more enjoyable cycle, and the time is not that different (perhaps a minute more). I’m happy to take a detour onto the north bank of the canal, and I can see lots of others too.

    Overtaking has been mentioned as a potential issue. I can certainly vouch that on a two way cycle route, it is not a problem. By contrast, on a single lane segregate track (as proposed) overtaking is only safe at junctions where the track drops to the level of the road. This puts slower cyclists under more pressure from the speedier ones behind them, and takes from their enjoyment, and will likely put them off. The two-way cycleway is wonderfully democratic. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow, just find your own pace and off you go. I recommend the Councillor sits on a bench along the Grand Canal some evening to observe this for himself.

    With regard to the NTA cycle demand model, I would ask if this reflects the new S2S route. The number coming from the coast road looks light, does it reflect the volume of cyclists today? I don’t cycle the route myself, perhaps other cyclists might comment on the impact of the improved facilities.

    Our experience in Dublin (and Ireland generally) is simple – if we build it people will use it. Anywhere we have introduced segregated cycle, the take up has been dramatic. There is tremendous demand for cycling, but the single biggest barrier is the perception of safety. If we want our children to enjoy an active lifestyle, we have to provide the means to make it part of everyday living.

    I understand the concern about investing public money where the outcome is a bit uncertain, the solution is to do the job to a high standard and that means segregated as much as possible. If we can segregate away from the road through a park, even better.

  21. @Hugh
    I cycle the S2S north every day. There has been an increase in the number of commuters using this route. I can’t give an exact figure as I prefer to cycle to work at off-peak times, when possible, to avoid car-traffic (car-traffic at other locations on my route).

    However, my subjective experience is that there are increased commuting numbers. And I’ve heard from other people that they’d also like to cycle the route but don’t, because of the lack of segregation once you get to Fairview. So a segregated safe route from Fairview to town is definitely needed.

    On a slightly different note: at the weekends there are huge increased numbers of sport and leisure cyclists using the route. The weekend seems to be the peak usage for the route. And it’s also at these times that you see families with little kids on bikes. Great to see. If only we had a proper joined-up network all over the city, then huge numbers of people would be out cycling.

  22. Cllr. Naoise O Muiri September 2, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Dear all,

    Firstly many thanks for all the comments and contributions – it is really useful for me to tap into a forum like this and get the different opinions and builds.

    A few observations in terms of the contributions:

    (1) Good to see a variety of views on two-way segregated versus lane each side of the main roadway; I accept the point that a two-way segregated could reduce route conflicts (particularly by using Fairview Park) but I also believe that a proper two-way segregated from Annesley to Amiens St would require a major change in driver behaviour and capability; we also have capacity issues @ this location

    (2) If this was a “green-field” design it might well be possible to do things differently but it is not – the entire route is already heavily used by a range of road users and very busy at peak times; this has a major bearing on matters particularly between Annesley and Amiens St

    (3) Although views on this matter are not unanimous I think on balance comments on the site reinforce my own view that an outbound component (lane) on the Fairview Village side is essential for the scheme to work well for commuter cyclists

    (4) Noted RE getting proper lanes & (city-bound) right-hand turns on the Malahide Rd and Howth Rd – that’s certainly one for the future; this scheme should get cyclists to/from these locations in good order @ a minimum. As a matter of interest, what do the Dutch use instead of toucan crossings?

    (5) The point in relation to priority/yield/right-of-way for cyclists over cars turning left is a good one and one I need to think about a bit

    (6) I agree that in theory based on population locations the best place for a 2-way segregated cycle-way is actually on the village side of Fairview but I don’t think this is realistic @ this stage (see point 2 above) – perhaps in the future in the event of greater shifts in overall commuting patterns

    (7) Good point about bus-stops being out of the bus lanes vs in them – need to think about that one too as buses could pass each other instead by pulling out into the general traffic lane. Take-away for me here as well is the general bus/cyclist conflict

    (8) In relation to overtaking, is there any minimum (probably international) standard in terms of overall width required for one cyclist to overtake another safely?

    Just to note – the relevant Part 8 for this project is on the Dublin City Council agenda this Monday for consideration (Part 8 is council-speak but is effectively the process by which a Local Authority seeks planning permission to undertake certain types of works and involves a vote of elected councillors).

    Thanks again – Cllr Naoise Ó Muirí – Fine Gael

  23. Naoise — have you watched the videos of London I posted above? These are two highly successful cycle routes which use two-way cycle paths which require commuters and all other users to cross roads at least twice. Worth having a quick watch of them if you have not already. These are packed at rush hours.

    Re from Annesley to Amiens St and capacity — I suppose the question is, what do we put first, capacity or getting a safe cycle route? The current plan is not safe and making single direction cycle paths safe will have a larger capacity impact than putting in a two-way cycle path on one side.

    Re what do the Dutch use instead of toucan crossings? Separated crossings areas — see the right hand side of this image where a woman on a bicycle is waiting on red asphalt while the pedestrians are waiting on concrete slabs: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cianginty/29569216505/in/photostream/

    If the route was a “green-field” project I don’t think anybody would be suggesting two-way on one side and nothing on the other between the Annesley Bridge to Amiens St — if it was greenfield, I’d be suggesting single directional cycle path on both sides. A two-way path is a space saving measure as two-way allows for overtaking and buffers in less spaces than paths on both sides of the road.

    Re the width of the cycle path needed to allow for overtaking — The National Cycle Manual has a width calculator but it is hard to decipher some layouts using it, and this is one of them. But it seems to indicate 2.5m for a segregated cycle path allowing overtaking — international minimum I’ve quoted recently (see you inbox) is 2.3m, while I know other cite 2m “effective width” (ie usable space, not including margins / gutters) as a minimum.

    Compare that to two-way where the preferred width for a busy urban cycle path is 4m effective with, but 3.5m is tolerable where needed and can allow for overtaking a bit. Two-way on one side also means that you only need many elements on one side, such as floating bus stops or buffer space between parking or moving lanes.

    Pages 7 to 17 of my submission on the route shows possible two-way cycle path cross sections which would allow for 3.5m to 4m can fit in all along the route and still allow for parking etc on the other side: http://irishcycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/IrishCycle.com-Submissionon-Clontarf-to-City-Centre-Cycle-Route.pdf (also contains examples of Dutch images from page 19 onwards)

  24. Excellent discussion here on the pros and cons of the various alternatives Well done Naoise for your initial article and comments and Cian for facilitating it and also contributing.

    I won’t express an opinion on the alteratives as I haven’t yet made up my mind on all the issues.I do however strongly welcome Naoise’s statement that “it is essential that we cater well for high-speed commuter cyclists heading in and out of the city”. Not all high-speed cyclists are commuters and, obviously, not all commuters are high-speed but Dublin has a significant number of cyclists who commute at relatively high speeds often over quite long distances. These are generally competent and confident experienced cyclists who are not put off by having to mix with buses but would welcome greater protection and less risk. As a one-time member of this cohort (but now retired), I suspect having to wait a few minutes to cross over to a two-way cyclepath and later back again would be a less popular choice than continuing on a cycle-lane alongside a bus-lane. Any solution should cater for this group as well as for other cyclists.

  25. A couple of people have brought up “high speed routes” into the city centre for cyclists. What speed is being envisaged here? If the city centre remains at mostly 30km/h, then I’m not sure what special provision is being considered, or is the main concern the ability to traverse long distances without lights/etc, interfering?

  26. I don’t like the term “high speed”. I think it allows those who are already predisposed to be against any facilitities for cyclists, and cyclists in general to retreat in to their safe place where cyclists are all those “lycra louts” screaming through pedestrians and those poor defenceless cars.

    For instance when it was suggested that a shared path through a park with children and less mobile adults was not a good solution when commuting cyclists were going to be trying to use it I have seen commenters first feign ignorance of how this could possibly cause problems then try to paint anyone who wanted to go above 15kph as a speed demon who shouldn’t be allowed at all, let alone facilitiated. Ironically I’m sure a lot of the people who think 25kph is far too fast to be cycling also think that 30kph is impossibly slow for a car to be going.

    In the context of Fairview Park and commuting by bike in general I think “high-speed” means an average of 20kph or higher. This is faster than the average cyclist but not an inherently dangerous speed to be going by any means. However it is too fast for a shared path which means that shared paths are needlessly slowing people down. Decreasing their efficiency and getting them just a little bit closer to the point where they may as well take the car.

    People in general seem to think “high speed” is a great thing when it comes to describing routes for cars but when it comes to cyclists it seems to conjure up all sort of negative reactions. I’d prefer if people stopped using it to be honest. Routes which wind through the trees with kids flying kites running across the path hither and tither should be described as leisure routes. Ones which are designed to move people as efficiently as possible don’t need to be called “high speed routes”, just “routes” should be fine.

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