In the name of traffic calming — but Galway City can’t be blamed for this cycling unfriendly design

Among loads of plans for traffic calming, and using traffic calming laws, Galway City Council are pushing apparent cycling unfriendly “traffic management” changes to a key entry point to the city centre from its western suburbs.

The first image below shows what a section of Father Griffin Road in Galway City could look like. The road is a key route into and around the city centre from places such as Salthill, which has 9% cycling modal share.

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But it’s not to be, the city has different plans. Graphics thanks to and based on the street being around ~15m wide (it’s wider if grass verges and parking is included).

For context, here’s the current view of the triangle block in Galway that makes up part of Father Griffin Road, Fairhill and Raven Terrace:

Current view

And below is a view of Father Griffin Road from Street View.

Note how drivers currently keep away from the edge of the road, which means at peak times cyclists are less affected by congestion and when traffic is in full-flow there’s room to pass cyclists safety:

FGR sv

Next below is a layout map of what will become of the triangle once Galway City Council’s “traffic management plan” for the block goes ahead:

Raven Terrace traffic

On the positive side we have:

  • A section of footpath which is massively improved on Father Griffin Road
  • Bits of wider footpaths on Fairhill
  • A more accessible and hopefully safer crossing point on Fairhill
  • More defined parking and loading across the block

But the negatives outnumber the positives:

  • Lanes on Father Griffin Road are narrowed causing cyclist/motorist conflicts when these roads are flowing and encouraging cyclists to take to footpaths as the roads will be blocked at peak times
  • The same happens on Fairhill and the crossing point on Fairhill looks like it will form an acute pinch-point for cyclists when motorists attempt to overtake.
  • Raven Terrace one-way direction reversed and direct access to Father Griffin Road blocked off – forcing cyclists to go around the long way on now multi-laned roads.
  • Parking/loading provided over the choice of contra-flow cycle track on Raven Terrace.
  • The unnamed (?) side road to the left of the image is being made one-way and a through route — as wells as being poor for cyclists, it’s increased speed and traffic is bad for pedestrians and bad for residents living on the street.
  • The radius of a number of junction corners seem to be left unnecessarily wide.

So, why do we say in our headline that Galway City Council can’t be blamed for this anti-cycling design? Simple, going by guidelines, they seem to be doing nothing wrong. The guidelines in the Design Manual for Urban Roads & Streets — like its UK counterpart — promotes road / lane narrowing and also pushes one-way street without forcing councils to think about enough cyclists.

It’s no longer good enough to say the manual leaves many options open — because leaving too many options open all the time has been and continues to be a core problem with Irish street design.

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  1. I would caution against advocating wider vehicle carriageways/lanes. The research is clear. Wider roads = faster speeds for cars and trucks = increased facilities. Within wider lanes there is also a tendency for cars to squeeze past cyclists in congested conditions. Narrower lanes force cars to wait and leave the lane to make a full overtaking manoeuvre.

    Having read through the Design Manual for Roads and Streets in some detail I note that on busy roads separate cycle paths/lanes are encouraged. As such these should be provided in addition to the main vehicle carriageway. I would also note that the Manual cautions against the use of one-way streets unless there are benefits for cyclists and pedestrians (i.e. the transfer of space from cars to cyclists and pedestrians).

    • I’m not sure what research you’re talking about, so I can’t comment on the research.

      But I do know that both here in Ireland and even more so in the UK, where a road/lane narrowing policy has been on the go for longer.

      I’ve heard UK and Irish cycling campaigners term it “using cyclists for traffic calming” — and it does not work for cycling unless space is also given to cycling (ie cycle path, lane etc). In the case above the space is given mostly to turning lanes or loading.

      This blog post goes into detail of the reality of road narrowing for cyclists:

  2. The research is referred to in both Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets and the UK Manual for Streets.

    Looking closely at the Galway example I would suggest that it actually conflicts with the Design Manual for Roads and Streets in more ways than it complies (if it complies at all). The Manual is quite clear that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are to be catered for over that of private vehicles. As such the Manual would direct designers to provide space for cycle paths/lanes in preference to turning lanes for cars. As you also highlighted, corner radii also appear in excess of what is recommended. So I think it is grossly unfair to blame the Manual for the design and I think your criticism is misdirected.

    In regard to the blog, I also think that its criticism is misdirected. Separate cycle lanes/paths should clearly by provided in many of the examples given. Again, the problem is not the width of the vehicular carriageway but the lack of cycle facilities.


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