S2S cycle route at Bull Island is case study in getting details wrong

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: A new section of the Sutton to Sandycove is generally liked by cyclists and it is an improvement over the previous situation where there was a 2km missing section of the costal cycle route, but attention to detail is not a strong point of the design and this has caused conflicts, with newspaper headlines such as “Speeding cyclists in Clontarf may be forced to slow down“.

Some of what is in the road safety audit (full report here, dated August 2017) mentioned in that article is very subjective — for example, the audit claims: “the provision of the centreline may serve the function of a speed reducing feature whereby the perceived width of the cycle route would be reduced.”

This goes against research from London which indicates motorists slow down when centrelines are removed. Furthermore, there are centrelines provided at the approaches to shared areas — and these are shown in the photographs in the audit report.

The audit does not back up or qualify claims of “speeding cyclists” or volume of cyclists and this is especially strange given that audit team notes that they “visited on Monday 21st August 2017 between 19:30 and 21:30” — a two hour window of time outside rush hour.

If no speed monitoring was done, who’s perception of speed are wet relying on? “Speeding” is also a legal term… were many cyclists over the 50km/h speed limit of the road? That’s unlikely. What bases were the team looking at for thinking cyclists were going too fast? That’s not to say a minority don’t go too fast, but there should be measurements and a bar set as to what is too fast. As CyclingForAll.ie notes:

“The Netherlands has design speeds of 30km/h which is “recommended for normal situations” in urban areas, 40km/h outside urban areas, and, elsewhere in Dutch guidance, 20km/h is mentioned for “basic routes”, although this is under the range given of normal average cycling speeds (15-23km/h). Cycling-friendly UK guidance issued in 2016 (Interim Advice Note 195/16 Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network), also has  30km/h as the norm, outlines 40km/h for on down gradients of 3% or greater, and it states 20km/h is an absolute minimum design speed “only to be used over distances up to 100 metres if combined with the use of ‘SLOW’ markings…”

Problem with the cycle route in Clontarf might be more down to the design speed of the route and needless shared areas which cause rather than cure conflict. This is not just a leisure route, it’s a primary commuter route and a route to the Howth Head, it should have been designed realistically.

It is an echo of how the Grand Canal Cycleway was said by officials to be mainly aimed for relaxed leisure cycling, when it quickly turned out to be very popular with commuters.

Large shared ateas– which the audit team notes as problematic — added with a high number of shared areas, especially in the southern 1km of the route, makes the problem worse.

The audit is also very focused on singular issues — such as suggesting a new pedestrian crossing at ‘The Oaks’. This makes little sense given the proximity to a signalised crossing (under 90m), that it’s only a few houses and that at least one other larger housing development is just as far from crossings. But the bigger picture if that if another crossing point was provided at The Oaks this would cause another pedestrian and cycling conflict point as the space is limited and it would mean another shared section.

This bigger picture thinking is missing from the audit — possibly a fault of the process rather than the individual report?

The report rightly highlights the issue of crossing points of the road and bus stop — as the image shows below.

The distance between bus stops on the coastal side and to pedestrian crossing is unacceptably high. In the worst case, for people who can’t just run across a busy road that’s a good distance, it looks to be the guts of 200 metres to the nearest crossing, but the auditors miss out on something worse…

At the Dollymount Avenue/Clontarf Rd junction, the crossings are non-signalised — if the bus user coming from a coastal-side bus stop wants to use a signalised crossing, they have to travel far longer distances — 370 metres and is mainly down to poor placement of bus stops in terms of how passengers use them.

Another thing the audit lacks is images to relate to the issues they describe — thanks to stills from a video from Citizen Wolf (embed below), we can look at how the route lacks clarity as of this weekend.

We start at the north side of the Causeway Road (the northern road into Bull Island). Here the issues with clarity and user legibility becomes clear straight away. Before crossing the junction, the path is split between walking on one side and cycling two-ways on the other side of the centre line:

On the other side of the junction it is supposed to be cycling only and people walking and running are supposed to take to the footpath beside the road — and the rocks are still there?

The crossing of Causeway Road (two lanes in one direction and one wide lane in the other) is not signalised and priority is given to motorists driving to the beach rather than a primary cycle route into the city centre:

On the other side we see the cycle paths is on both sides of the centre line — this isn’t however clear to people walking along the route up to this point and signs are missing here as well as at other points in the route.

The section between junctions is good for 300 metres:

Then there’s a strange, very long shared section where the sides of footpaths and cycle paths switches over:

Then there’s 556 metres of something like this — which is hard to complain of

The second share area is at Mount Prospect Ave — where it is unclear how much more can be done with in the constrains of the project. However, the council could look at a small section of boardwalk or other expansion on the coastal side to allow for the cycle and foot paths to continue segregated and allow for a buffer / waiting area between the cycle path and the road:

At this point we’re half way (nearly 1km) into the new section of road and from here to the wooden bridge there’s a good deal of conflict points — bus stops or shared areas at junctions.

It’s only 150 metres to the next shared space at a bus stop:

Maybe the planned Bus Connects will answer the question of if the number 130 bus needs this amount of stop? The bus stop locations were hardly moved from their previous locations.

With bus stops in one direction only shown (the direction with the coastal stops) — one thing is clear, the stop locations don’t make sense in terms of where the crossing are now. People who are unable to run across the road would not suffer if the bus stop shown above was removed, and very few passengers would have to go just a little bit further. This is a pro-bus principal which will be used in Bus Connects to reduce the stopping time and thus travel times of buses.

Another 166 metes and another bit of shared space at the junction with Dollymount Ave — with just a little extra space, this could be made segregated:

If just three (extra) car parking spaces were removed at this junction, there would be no need for the shared surface and the lack of clarty and conflict that brings:

What are you looking at if you’re cycling around bumps in the cycle path pictured here before the old tram stop which is now a bus stop? Bus passengers?

Then the combined clutter of the real-time poll bus display poll, the bin and columns of the re-constructed tram shelter obstructed the view between passengers and people cycling — there’s a person sitting behind the bin.

The island is also smaller than it could be if the tram shelter had been location beside the bus stop and the cycle path gone behind the shelter — it means people getting on or off buses need to interact with the cycle path straight away.

The long text painted on the ground at the shelter warns of cyclists with arrows in both directions at the centre of the text of the shelter side and at both end of the text:

This example from Amsterdam is far clearer — the arrows showing cyclists are coming in both directions are closer together and the bicycle symbol is universal — you don’t need to be able to read, or you don’t need to be able to read English to know what it means:

At Dollymount Park we have the exemplar of how to design these crossing junctions correctly (once you find or ‘make’ the space).

(If there’s any issues with priority, zebras without beacons could be used. If needed, regulations can be changed as happened in the UK to allow zebra markings across cycle tracks without beacons.)

Next there’s another bus stop — not bad at all compared to the shared space stops, but one crossing point over the cycle path might have worked better than two?

And then — just 75 metres from the bus stop — we have another shared section for an signalised crossing:

The share nature of the above is questionable as it is, but there was also ample space to be cut of the unusually wide footpath of the other side of the road to be used to make the crossing point safer:

And the we get to the end of the missing link upgrade at the Wooden Bridge to Bull Island.

Is this an issue of a lack of local bicycle parking?

This is a poor junction design — not only because it is shared but because the cycle light is often red when the traffic is moving and most of the time very little traffic turns into Bull Island.

In 2013, before construction started, this website suggested the following:

But with all the space available, we can’t help wonder if better designs could have been tried if the access to the Wooden Bridge was curved south a small bit?

Possibly a small roundabout with priority for walking and cycling on the costal side?

PREVIOUSLY: Planned section of Sutton to Sandycove cycleway has more needless mixing of cyclists and pedestrians

A big thanks to Citizen Wolf for the use of stills from his video:

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