— Scheme includes wide traffic lanes and car parking but no cycling provisions.
— Plans keep one-way roads system at Bridge Street and Linenhall St.
— No links to the town’s fragmented cycle network.
Dundalk councillors have approved a public realm plan on some of the town’s key streets without any provision for cycling, besides a small number of bicycle stands.
The Part 8 planning for the Clanbrassil Street and the St Nicholas Quarter scheme was approved by Louth Country Council last week.
The project’s screening report claims that the “proposal involves narrowing of the traffic lanes and tightening corner radii at junctions to better facilitate on-road cycling”, but campaigners in Ireland and the UK point out that such schemes where there is no traffic reduction measures makes cycling less attractive, lowers permeability for cycling and often increases the risk.
While the design reports claims that “Measures to promote safer cycling within the town centre have been carefully balanced with the needs and profile of the wider pedestrian community profile,” but this does not mention the large amount of space kept for both car parking and general traffic lanes.
The design report added: “Cycling will be accommodated through the provision of a number of secure cycle stands throughout the scheme. Dedicated cycling lanes are not proposed as cycling will also share the lower speed town centre environment facilitated by the redesign of the central carriageway.”
The lack of space for cycling is despite the Dundalk development plan objective to “encourage a modal shift away from dependency on the private motor car to public transport, walking and cycling.”
Only the engineering report mentions a claim of “insufficient street space to provide fully segregated cycle facilities considering the pedestrian, parking / loading and traffic requirements” — in plain English the designers were told to give priority to parking and motor traffic movements.
At the northern end of the scheme a one-way system is kept around Bridge Street and Linenhall St — this effects not just north-south cycling movements but also east-west movements, including routes to schools.
The lead project designers for the council are BDP (formally Building Design Partnership). The company has offices in the Netherlands, but the Dundalk project doesn’t even follow Irish cycling policy — for example, wide one-way streets are left planned without any contra-flow provision for cycling.
Among the firm’s recently approved work in Ireland was a new school building and grounds for St Mary’s Secondary School in Ballina, Co Mayo. The plans for the school’s cycleways were left disconnected and not joined directly to existing cycle tracks, leaving the council’s traffic department to question how people on bicycles would cross the road.
Ollan Herr of Dundalk Cycling Alliance told the Dundalk Democrat: “We all know that so many short car journeys in Dundalk can be done instead on a bike, if only it was safe to do so; if only we had more European style traffic separated cycleways.”
In a statement Herr said the lack of segregated cycling facilities is “frustrating” in the face of warnings about carbon emissions and the “growing problems of ill-health as a result of our lethargic lifestyle.”
Herr separately welcomed a commitment from the council’s chief executive to have her engineers begin plans for a cycle way to continue from McEntee Avenue – past St Malachy’s / Friary National schools and into the Long Walk.
He said: “We think this was very generous of her to make this commitment. We are also very enthusiastic about her commitment to connect the railway station to the town centre.”