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:
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:
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:
The same happens alone the Luas red line on sections where cycling is prohibited:
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…
…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:
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)
A few of the suggestions to divert onto back streets are pointless short:
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:
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:
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:
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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