Rathmines would thrive with bus gates limiting thru car access

IMAGE: A line of people cycle down the Rathmines Road after crossing the Portobello Bridge, while only a few cars cross the bridge in the same sequence.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Transport authorities are looking to abandon key sections of the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network before it gets off the ground, as this website reported in June, but there’s another way.

The plan for the route along the Rathemines Road in the infrastructure part of the BusConnects project (see the consultation document) is the key example of the bus plan having little regard for the cycle network plan when both were authored by the National Transport Authority.

The background for Rathmines is that, as far as Dublin goes, Rathmines is as close as it get to the centre of bicycleland. Portobello Bridge at the northern end of the Rathmines Road has by far the largest volume of bicycles entering the city centre. In the AM peak last year, there was 1,637 bicycles and 1,325 cars/van, even with the traffic counts happening in November.

The Census shows that more commuters who live off the Rathmines Road, Rathgar Road, Harold’s Cross Road, Ranelagh Road, and Sandyford Road routes use their bicycles than get the bus.

As well as outnumbering cars in the AM peak, 12-hour traffic counts for Portobello Bridge shows cycling here has a better chance than any other route at outnumbering cars across the day way more than any other route into the city — this will be accelerated by BusConnects, which will reduce the space for cars across the city centre.

The numbers of bicycles is already increasing but the people on them are left mixing with cars and buses.

Rather than upgrading the cycle route as outlined in the GDA Cycle Network Plan, the National Transport Authority wants to remove cycling priority by removing cycle lane, and possibly also narrowing footpaths — in effect, the street would become a busway and road for through traffic in both directions or one:

The Rathmines Road route is planned to support the (11) Tallaght to Terenure and (12) Rathfarnham to City Centre bus corridors:

One of our most popular articles last year was “What to do with a problem like cycling in Rathmines?”, which was published before BusConnects. It this details a solution using continuous cycle paths and peak-time bus gates. It suggested:

“The bus gate could operate peak times and in peak directions only — this would give higher priority to buses than is currently given by broken bus lanes in one direction only and often abused.”

Here’s some examples which can fit along the Rathmines Road:

BusConnects changes things. So, adding to the above, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) published an interesting article last week — “Filtered permeability on cycle highway C95 in Copenhagen“.

The ECF gives us an example of what we know as a “bus gate”. One which is in place in Nørrebrogade in Copenhagen which is much like the location of Rathmines in Dublin. The ECF article outlines the example in more detail (although this kind of bus priority is not usually referred to as filtered permeability).

Basically, the only motorised through traffic allowed is bus lane traffic in two lanes and the space left over allows for segregated cycle paths in both directions:

The above photo of the street in Copenhagen (taken from the ECF’s article) is much like the cross-section we suggested last year for Rathmines:

Here’s the locations of Nørrebrogade — with the two bus gates highlighted — north of Copenhagen’s city centre, just beyond the city’s large artificial lakes:

IMAGE: Of Nørrebrogade with two bus gate locations. Image by European Cyclists’ Federation and Open Street Maps.

In Rathmines — just south of Dublin’s Grand Canal — the locations of the bus gates would need to be placed in a way to allow cars and vans etc to access the car parks like the ones in the Swan Shopping Centre, the Cricket Ground, the school, the church, and the private residents.

Unlike the wider bridge in Copenhagen, Portobello Bridge at the Grand Canal is not wide enough to maintain car and bus access while providing segregated space for cycling — this means it is a must that the canal bridge is a bus gate, for safety alone.

Here’s some suggestions for bus gate locations in Rathmines:

There might be better locations, but, as said above, the canal bridge one is a must. Why must? To provide for cycling safety and priority while also providing for a high frequency of buses as planned under BusConnects.

YES — all of this would be a big change. But a big change is needed in a growing city which claims it wants to be sustainable, have better public transport and be cycling friendly.

Some people will claim the bus gates would be anti-business but there’s little evidence of this in Dublin or internationally. The opposite is true — the claims are made and proven wrong.

Providing segregated cycle routes would be of huge benefit to the area and our suggestions above would be better than the suggestions by the National Transport Authority — their suggestions would be mainly about providing through traffic for buses and it seems also cars. By removing the cycle lanes, buses would be closer to pedestrians and one of their solutions is to notably narrow the footpaths.

On the other hand, if bus gates and cycle paths are provided, it’s not just good for cycling but also pedestrians and street life in Rathmines. It’s also good for buses — bus lanes without cycle paths will mean buses will mix with cycling and that’s not good for cycling or the bus service.

Bus priority, with continuous cycle paths and local motoring access will provide the same kind of mix in Copenhagen and that’s common in Dutch cities too. It would make the area more livable, healthier, environmentally friendly, and allow local businesses to thrive more than currently and far more than BusConnects without cycle paths.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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