Royal Canal Greenway design puts users at “increased risk”

– Report says design likely to increase pedestrian and cyclist conflicts 

The current view of the M50 crossing (Image: Royal Canal Feasibility Report )
The current M50 crossing — pictured above — will be narrowed. (Image: Royal Canal Feasibility Report )

Transport minister Leo Varadkar says engineers assure him designs of a section of the Dublin to Galway cycle route are safe, despite a consultant’s report highlighting increased risk between cyclists and walkers.

“The designs are the responsibility of the engineers who assure me that the proposed routes adhere to safety standards,” said Minister Varadkar.

But safety problems with how the Royal Canal Greenway route crosses the M50 – linking Varadkar’s West Dublin constituency with Dublin City – were identified in a report by planning consultants Atkins.

A drawing of the plans showing guardrail, a walker, and lamp-ost t but no cyclists.
A drawing of the plans for the crossing showing a new guardrail, a walker, and lamp post but no cyclists — on or off their bikes.

Fingal County Council and the National Transport Authority (NTA) are standing by their chosen design which puts cyclists and walkers — traveling in both direction — into a narrowed canal towpath attached to an aqueduct above the motorway.

The route is described as a “premium” and “strategic” cycling and walking route, but despite the report saying that the project is likely to generate an increase in pedestrian and cyclist traffic, the “do minimum” options were chosen.

While the population of nearby areas has boomed, recent motorway upgrading has left the towpath untouched.

Atkins’s report said: “There is risk that cyclists may ignore requirement to walk across the aqueduct thus increasing risk of collision with pedestrians and hence safety.”

The situation is mirrored at eastern section of the route at Ashtown train station – where cyclists on the route are also directed onto a pedestrian bridge. The report said: “Requires cyclists to dismount and walk across pedestrian bridge – cyclists unlikely to comply, therefore increased risk of conflicts with pedestrians and/or vehicles.”

A spokeswoman for Fingal County Council said that while public consultation was ongoing “it would not be appropriate for us to comment on these draft proposals.” But she said the design was “assembled taking account of the reality of available funding to carry out these works.”

The view from the bridge at Ashtown train station.
A view east from the bridge at Ashtown train station – showing the Dublin City Council section of the canal which is also to be redeveloped.

The NTA said the report points to the “construction of new bridges at the M50 and Ashtown crossings as the “optimal solutions for these locations.”

“The report highlights that these options would attract a significant cost premium. The report recommends that the options presently proposed be adopted, if the cost of providing the bridge options is considered to be too expensive,” said a spokeswoman for the NTA.

“The National Transport Authority considers the cost of providing bridges at these locations to be prohibitive in the current economic climate; hence the Authority and Fingal County Council have adopted the solutions presently proposed. The report also states that the option presently proposed for the M50 crossing represents a good compromise until funding becomes available.”

She said the route will be subject to independent safety audits.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign said they were not against the route going ahead but questioned the choice of design, calling it a “disappointment”.

“They choose the least acceptable option from their own feasibly report,” said Colm Ryder, a spokesman for the Dublin Cycling Campaign. “Overall we are in favour of the route going ahead, we understand that there are financial constrains, but in the context of a premium cycle route it’s a disappointment.

Fingal said public consultation submissions must be made before 5pm this Thursday, March 14. Details of the plans can be found on the council’s website, here.

View Royal Canal Greenway – Castleknock to Ashtown in a larger map

MORE: Royal Canal Feasibility Report for Fingal (large PDF)


  1. They were able to find the money to widen the Mway easy enough. Of course this should have been done when the Bridge was put in when it was being built instead of now. Same old story trying to attach Cycling infrastructure after it is built rather than designing Bicycle Infrastructure at the Planning stage before they built the Motorway. I consider that Bridge dangerous even walking across with Pedestrians

    . Any time they put in shared use Bicycle paths there is always conflict with Cyclists and Pedestrians,with Pedestrians walking on the Cycling part especially with Children and Dogs on long leads.

  2. This route from North Strand to the twelfth lock along the towpath has got to be my favourite. Love the whole atmosphere of the canal and the people who use it. Frankly i’m torn between supporting the development and leaving it as it is, watrs and all

  3. I agree witrh John above. They didn’t skimp on motorway standards or route choices so why are we left with hind-tit?

  4. Well here’s one simple solution the consultants didn’t think about – how about cyclists and walkers look out for each other. One simple and reasonable inexpensive solution is to surely install a boardwalk to direct and segregate cyclists and pedestrians?

    • The other options at the M50 not selected by the council include, in order of cheapest to most expensive: (1) putting a boardwalk-like buildout over the canal [which Waterways Ireland apparently would not like – so it was ruled out], (2) a boardwalk-like structure attached to the current walkway and over the motorway, or (3) building a bridge for cyclists only. The last two were ruled out on cost.

  5. Even if cyclists do get off and walk – surely not the point of a premium cycling route – they will still need space.

    Canal towpath cycling routes are perfect for families with small children who may cycle their little bikes some of the time and then climb back into the kiddie trailer drawn by Mammy’s bike or Daddy’s bike when they have had enough. From the illustration here, it is very difficult to see how two cyclists with trailers coming from opposite directions could be expected to get past one another – even assuming that there are no other path users (dog walkers etc.) present at the time. The 2 meter width shown is not all usable width, since there is no buffer between the bikes and the barriers; users will want to leave about 30 cm clearance to these barriers to make sure they don’t hit them.

    Obviously it would cost more to do the job properly, but probably not very much more in the context of the overall national transport budget and the strategic importance of the route for leisure cyclists and commuters..

  6. There is a Royal Canal open meeting taking place on Wed 20th March 2013 at 7.30pm at John Paul Park Sports Complex, Ratoath Road, Dublin 7 where you can raise concerns such as the above. Represented by members of Inland Waterways, Waterways Ireland, Dublin City Council, Royal Canal Amenities Group along with others, it is a chance to raise concerns about any aspect of the canal to the relevant bodies, including cycleways.

  7. If a safety barrier is erected – as planned- this short crossing should not give rise to problems unless stupidity dominates. When the route becomes popular the chances are that the number of conflicts will be few and their effects can be minimised by cyclists and walkers being considerate of reach other. Money is never “found” it is taken from elsewhere.

  8. Have we all become so self centred and territorial that we need engineers to put up signs telling us how to behave with each other? I will champion consideration and good manners over signage any day! Cyclists slow down and take care, walkers step aside a little. Everyone gets to go on their way, albeit maybe after a few seconds delayed. Simples!

  9. I crossed over here for the first time last weekend. I was cycling with my dog beside me. There was a cyclist coming from the opposite end and there were 3 pedestrians using it at the same time. There were no issues. However, having said that, if this did become a very busy route, say for example similar to one of the routes in and around Dublin, then problems would arise. It’s too narrow to take much traffic and people would become delayed and frustrated.

  10. Oh, and just to add, neither me nor the other cyclist dismounted. We both had to slow down and stop when passing the pedestrians and each other. It was the weekend and I didn’t have a deadline to get somewhere so I wasn’t worried, but I can imagine that this would become a point of frustration at peak times.

    Also just to make a point about the gruddamn barriers along the canal on the Dublin side of Ashtown. Bloody kissing gates everywhere. Completely unacceptable for a main commuting cycle route. Also unacceptable for wheelchair users or mobility scooters. You just wouldn’t see this in the Netherlands. It would be unimaginable there. I was on a cargo bike so I needed the help of friendly locals to get over some of these gates. Families with cargo trikes would have fared even less well than my bike.

    Designers of these cycle routes need to go to the Netherlands and see best practice in operation. I know there are fears about unsociable behavior, but there are other ways of tackling that than putting barriers across the path. There’s plenty of unsociable behavior on main roads too. People even get killed on main roads. But you don’t see them closed down to the main users of those routes just because designers can’t come up with alternative solutions.


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