What to do with a problem like cycling at Leeson Street bridge?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Cycling has boomed so much along the Grand Canal Cycle Route in Dublin that Census experts at the CSO linked the cycle route with a notable increase in cycling in areas beside it. But compromises when the route was built is adding to heavy congestion at peak times, lowering the potential of the route and its potential for expansion.

One of the — if not the — worst problem area is the west side of the Leeson Street bridge junction. These two images don’t fully show how busy it can be with people cycling and walking from both directions:

This video gives a better view of the volume of people and the issues:

The main problem area starts when all of those people have to go into or out of this gap between a build’s driveway and the wall:

Then as you round the blind corner with sight lines blocked by the bush, there’s an ever narrower space — note the different heights of the surfaces:

This is the same place from the other direction, with the pinch point made worse by the poll and surface difference:

Here it is in satellite view:

And Google Map’s 3D images:

Rotating Google Maps around and we see there’s no real need to have a shared area outside of the pinch point along the canal itself (and that cycling on Leeson Street needs to be addressed, and hopefully will be with BusConnects):

Here’s the elements color coded for clarity:

This is a small area but it messes with the capacity for both walking and cycling at peak times and results not just lower quality of service but also discomfort and safety issues.

I’ve had people tell me the focus should be to expand the Grand Canal Route towards the west, but such an expansion will mean more people cycling at least to Leeson Street and making this pinch point worse. That means this issue should be looked at before or as part of the expansion.

Upgrading of cycle routes with BusConnects, building the planned Fitzwilliam cycle route or just the general increase in cycling will also put presure on the pinch point.

So, what can be done here? There’s a few options or mix of options: NOTE: This is blue sky thinking here on any options I can think of — I’m not the council and I’m not proposing any one option or any mix of options:

  1. Leave the lock gate on the left in the open position and level off the surface (up or down) around the lock gate.
  2. Look at different designs for the lock gate and see if this is possable within any protections and/or Waterways Ireland’s historic attitude towards cycling.
  3. Remove a small section of wall (shown in black beside the purple area above) — this wall is not part of the bridge, which is possibly protected.
  4. Cut back the hedge besides the canal to increase visibility.
  5. CPO the part of the front yard / parking place (yellow).
  6. CPO the all of the front yard / parking place (yellow) to allow for a large waiting area.
  7. CPO part of the rear yards, the parts of the sheds and extensions which were built into the rear yards, and the front yard — this option is likely to cost too much to be justifiable but depending on the condition of the extensions (many similar ones are of poor quality), the owners might be open to the cost of upgrading a smaller space etc or just take compensation.
  8. CPO part of the rear yards, the parts of the sheds (but not the extensions which were built into the rear yards), and the front yard — this way the route could curve around buildings and the lock gate if it can’t be changed.
  9. Build a two-way cycle path on Adelaide Road (between Harcourt Terrace and Leeson Street) to fully re-route cycling or have it as a capacity enhancement.
  10. Build a shorter re-routing via 29-31 Adelaide Road (see below for details).

I promised blue sky thinking — underpasses or overpasses are not suitable for this location given the canal, the historic bridges and the building etc but at least a few of the above are possable.

Are we likely to see any action to make one of Dublin’s better cycle routes better, safer and to be usable by more people?

Via 29-31 Adelaide Road:

If Amsterdam can have a busy cycle route go inside the Rijksmuseum museum building, why can’t Dublin have a cycle route via the head office of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment?

The advantage of this would include:

  • a shorter and simpler re-routing option
  • fewer potential conflicts and delays than other re-routing options
  • greater space and separation of walking and cycling at junction at Leeson Street
  • more space for pedestrians along the canal
  • more space for a connection at Leeson Street to the planned Fitzwilliam cycle route
  • no CPOs required

The departmental HQ is, according to Dail record, owned by Office of Public Works (OPW), so there is no ownership issue, and it already has vehicular access from the front to the rear, so there’s no major construction needed.

It might require a reduction of car parking spaces or it might not, but it would show the department’s commitment to sustainable transport… Maybe it’s something Minister Denis Naughten will support? While the minister is known to cycle, at least for leisure, his department has yet to show any serious signs of adopting cycling for transport as a climate and environmental measure — this might be a change for Minister Naughten to change that?

4 Comments

  1. Regarding changes to the lock, it might be possible to make the arms shorter. Take a look at the lock beside the Mount St Lower/Northumberland Road bridge. The lock gate right beside the bridge has really short arms – it looks like it uses some kind of winch system to supply leverage.

  2. The bit at the lock gate doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the corner. Forcing all the pedestrians and cyclists through the narrow gap with no separation at all and very restricted visibility is certainly in my top three bad points of this route. At least at the lock gate there is some notion of who should be where, even though there isn’t enough space, and you can see what is happening so you know what to do.

    It’s a nice illustration of transport priorities that this is all due to what seems to be a private parking space. If this had been a motorway instead of a cycle route that whole house would have been gone long ago and the only outrage would be that it had taken so long to do.

    Speaking of motorways, does anyone know how much traffic the M9 gets? When I’ve used it it has been almost empty. I’d be fascinated to know if the north quays has most cyclists on it than the M9 has motorists. I found a page saying that the southern part has less than 10k vehicles per day and we know that the north quays transports more than 1k cyclists during rush hour alone. I wonder how much money was spent on a route that is completely unavailable to pedestrians and cyclists and why the same sort of efffort isn’t worth spending for pedestrians and cyclists on the north quays or anywhere in Dublin (or the country) really

  3. Interesting point about the M9 and if the figures are that low are we paying compo to a private company as is the case with other PP partnership motorways ?

  4. Great article! I like the idea of re-routing the cycle lane through the DCCEA offices.

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