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Dublin Cycle Planner needs a health warning

As we recently reported, the National Transport Authority launched their online cycling route planner for the Dublin area. The planner (online here) should excel at showing cyclists and would-be cyclists easier or quieter routes. At the moment it horribly fails on this — so much so it should not have been launched or at least come with a health warning.

We tried several routes between three places we’ve lived at on the north side of Dublin City and work locations as well as commutes to a college and a university.  On the ‘balanced’ and ‘easier’ route options the planned recommended routes which includes gates and steep steps:

steps

Even without gates and steps the ‘easier’ option would be routing novice cyclists uphill and into an added junction. It’s also worth saying that this isn’t the only example of routing cyclists onto steps that we found.

For another commute the Cycle Planner routed us into a busy narrow pedestrian lane, a section of Dame Court, without saying to walk your bike — which is a warning used elsewhere. That lane leads out onto what is often one of the most overcrowded footpaths in the city centre:

CP - crazy Dame Lane etc STREET

The Millennium Walkway (aka the Italian Quarter) and Millennium Bridge were other examples on the same route suggestion where cyclists are directed onto footpaths without any warning to dismount:

CP - Millennium Walkway and Bridge

The same happens alone the Luas red line on sections where cycling is prohibited:

CP suggests Luas


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The route planner also leaves people making unnecessary detours from main roads with little or no benefits, for example this routing below pulls cyclist off the direct main road…

CP - Dublin heavy one-way marked as light

 …but the main road here is a city street with a cycle or bus lane all the way while the back road includes cyclist unfriendly multi-laned roads with no cycling provision where traffic is often faster moving than the main street:

CP - Dublin heavy one-way marked as light STREET

The “easier” option tries so hard to route cyclist onto quiet roads that it does so regardless of the crazy turns needed to make such routes possible. Including suggesting a right turn across two busy lanes of general traffic and a bus lane… and then over a footpath or into a drain or very narrow cycling provision:

(the white van in both images shows the turn point)

CP - cross to drain or cycling CP - drain or cycling

A few of the suggestions to divert onto back streets are pointless short:

CP - DCC housing locked gates

And just for added affect here: The above example isn’t possible without dismounting or illegally mounting a footpath, because the entrance to the rear of the council flats is gated off:

gate

The above again isn’t an isolated example, we found other examples of pointless short suggested detours, in this case via a small gated park where cycling is banned:

CP - park with locked gates

The planner also routes cyclist the long way around even where current contra-flow cycle tracks allow cyclists to go both ways on otherwise one-way streets. This happens in at least six cases where the system seems unaware of contra-flow tracks. For example, Ryders Row and most of Capel Street shown below include contra-flow for cyclists, but the route planned does not take this into account:

contra-flow planner

Added to several commutes we tested a few random examples too and the issues did not seem to be isolated.

It’s expected that any new mapping and routing systems will have errors which will need to be ironed out but the level of issues with the NTA Cycle Planner is far beyond what you’d expect in a light and quiet beta launch. It’s beyond acceptable for a public PR launch directing people to a route planner with no clear warnings. It looks like a rush job which allows junior minister Alan Kelly to get his name in another press release before the end of the year.

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4 comments

  1. It would appear that not only the map but the NTA are not fit for purpose. In these hard economic times the public deserves value for money. This waste of public funds shows an almost criminal disregard for safety or utility. Until we demand that people lose their jobs ( as in this case they were unwilling or unable to complete the task with even a bare minimum of competence ) when they offer solutions this substandard tool then will continue to pawned off with this wanton waste. If I worked in the NTA I would hang my head in shame today.

    Wishing you all a safe but angry new year where we all demand real change for the better in transport in Ireland

    Reply
  2. I think it’s a useful tool that recognises that cycling is different to driving and sometimes it makes a lot more sense to take a route that involves walking a pedestrian stretch rather than following elaborate one-way detours. In some of the examples you give it’s completely obvious that you should dismount – I don’t need an app to tell me that I can’t cycle on footpaths and it would be annoying if it repeatedly did.

    I also think it’s useful to have the option (and it is just an option) to choose routes to avoid traffic. If I’m cycling with children for example I would rather take a quieter route even if it is less direct.

    I think some of your criticisms are unfair and your expectations may be unrealistic. It is just a tool that can provide additional information as part of your decision-making when considering a route. No mapping tool can be used without common sense and no app can provide it.

    Reply
  3. I am the NTA Programme Manager for the Dublin Cycle Planner. The Cycle Planner features a feedback button which is provided in order that members of the public can let us know of local issues, difficult turns, road works etc.
    We are very pleased to hear from people who wish to help improve the Cycle Planner. We will investigate every suggestion and include in the planner where approriate.

    Wishing you all a safe and happy new year.

    Reply

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