Dublin City Council has started running a public service advertising campaign with the message “Footpaths are for pedestrians… please respect the rules of the road” (pictured, right).
As a parent of a baby in Dublin City, and as somebody who is as often a pedestrian as a (law abiding) cyclist, I think this message is commendable.
There are far too many cyclists using footpaths. Some recklessly, and some less so, but all breaking the law and all a great annoyance to many people walking. There’s no excuse for it no matter how bad the road is — get off and walk if you need to.
But there’s a problem. Councils do not in this area respect the rules of the road, or more importable the law.
Dublin City Council — along with their colleagues at Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and other county councils — have for some time institutionalised footpath cycling, when and where it suits them. They seem to have no legal powers to do this (I’ve asked them) and the signs they use have no legal backing (Dublin City Council confirmed this).
The city council are not the worst at creating footpath cycling lanes, but many examples can be found across the city council’s area.
For example, footpath cycling is institutionalised in different shapes and sizes on the Finglas Road, Chapelizod Road, Drumcondra Road, East Wall Road, the Swords Road, the Hold in the Wall Road, on part of the N11, in Fairview, a small section on the Navan Road before the city boundary, and small bits in Glasnevin, on the Malahide Road and on St John’s Road West.
If you have cycled in Dublin City much at all, then there’s a good chanced that the city council have directed you onto a footpath at some stage.
These are just to mention many of the areas within Dublin City Council’s boundaries. Councils putting cyclists on what effectively are footpaths has happened more extensively in other areas.
In most older cases it is usually little more than some lines painted onto a footpath and, if cyclists are lucky, a ramp on and off the road where these designs start and end (sometimes the ramps are missing). In newer designs, footpaths are more often than not smaller than where there is no adjoining cycle lanes. With most old and new both the footpath and apparent cycle path are at the same level. Space is often shared even more at key places such as crossings, bus stops and at roundabouts.
Even if segregation of some sort for cyclists is desirable or “needed” then pedestrians should not have to suffer. Segregation should mean segregation from both motorists and pedestrians.
Doing segregation the way it has been done here and claim its for the safety of cyclists is highly questionably given that cyclists are usually dumped into unimproved junctions. Junctions, after all, are where most accidents happen.
Any claim it’s down to an issue of space is also deeply questionable.
Where the flawed designs are used in Drumcondra there’s bus lanes, extra wide traffic lanes, and green margins which a meter or so could be taken from if needed. The story is the same elsewhere. Chapelizod Road has what are possibly the largest traffic lanes in the city. At one point where cyclists are put on a footpath on the N11, there are eight lanes of traffic and green margins.
Meanwhile where cyclists need changes to roads, hostile one-way street and junctions road layouts (which encourage footpath cycling) are left unchanged.
It’s wrong to cycle on the footpath, however it’s even worst for local government to direct cyclists on the footpath to mix with pedestrians. It’s not just a case of the council being hypocritical, but they are also creating hostile environmental for pedestrians (and cyclists).
As a pedestrian, the only question left is when will they run an advertising campaign telling motorists it’s illegal to block pedestrian crossings, break red lights, or park on the footpath? These are all just as much of a daily battle in Dublin as cyclists wrongly on footpaths.