One of the most often heard complaints about cyclists is cycling on footpaths. So, it would seem a bit like madness for the councils who design our roads and streets to continue to design space which mixes cyclists and pedestrians.
But that’s exactly what they do.
In cycling design terms “shared use” is a surface on which cyclists and pedestrians are mixed.
The use of this design choice seems to be one of the main factors so many Irish cyclists are against segregated cycle paths. Groups representing the blind also oppose its use. Generally, when out people are out walking many don’t like mixing with people on bicycles given the difference in size, movement and often speed — this is especially so when with small children who are walking or in prams.
But councils persist in using it. The National Transport Authority persist in accepting it as useful regular tool rather than one which is used only in exceptional circumstances.
Worst of all the Department of Transport recently made shared use space legal — rewarding councils for using shared use for decades without any legal backing.
Or maybe worst of all it use isn’t restricted to quite lane ways or greenways, but instead it is used in busy urban areas on apparently premium cycle routes. This isn’t just a legacy issue. Dublin City Council used shared use on a large amount junctions on their canal route which opened last year and they plan the same for a section of the Sutton to Sandycove route at Bull Island (details here— public consultation closes on Monday February 18, 2013).
Will the planned quays route be next? If it is, the council are shooting it self in the foot. Using shared use in the design would turn many would-be supporters off or fully against the project.
In some cases, shared use may be more justified than in other cases, but if the Dutch and Danes can generally live without shared use, we can too.
Excuses have to be seen for what they are.
Our current segregated cycle path designs include a heavy amount of shared use. This shared use is more linked to UK designs – rather than following leading cycling countries, the Netherlands and Denmark, which keep cyclists and pedestrians firmly separated in almost all cases. Dublin City Council is in fairness the Dublin council with the least amount of shared use – but mainly because most of its substandard cycle lanes are on-road.
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One excuse is a lack of space. But even with projects where’s there’s a ton of space the apparently easy option of shared use if chosen. A prime example is the Leopardstown Link Road reconfiguration scheme planned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. But that’s only one of many such examples.
Even with the city council’s Canals Route and Sutton to Sandycove route, shared use can’t be justified by the lack of space alone (even if some of it can).
South Dublin County Council and Fingal County Council both make heavy use of shared use and both are lagging miles behind for cycling. Both not only have dismal amounts of people cycling and the lower percentage modal share for cycling, but also the slowest rates of growth.
The shared use implemented by these two councils more often than not “pedestrianises” cyclists – forcing those on bicycles into pedestrian crossings which they are legally unable to use without dismounting at every crossroad.
In recent years councils from around the county have been following Dublin’s footsteps in implementing shared use – often clocking up kilometres of cycle lanes by doing noting much more than painting lines on existing footpaths and, if you’re lucky, ramps on and off the footpath.
Given the anger out there against cyclists using footpaths, you’d think campaigning against shared use would be easy.
The UK has groups such as the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain publicly pushing against shared use at every chance they get. Back on our side of the Irish Sea, rather than pushing for high quality segregation – as used in the Netherlands, and Denmark – Irish cycle campaigners to-date seem to be too busy arguing against segregated.
Their goal has been massively unsuccessful. Instead, boom time Ireland and continued funding for cycling even in the downturn, has resulted in streets and roads scarred by unattractive to barely unusable cycle tracks.
Will anything change?
Here’s a real premium route, a Dutch cycle highway: