Cycle routes planned for N81 shows standards still too low

N81 B1a
More shared use where there’s room for segregation

South Dublin County Council told the Sunday Times in 2010 that traffic lights blocking a cycle track at a pedestrian crossing was “standard design”. Things might have moved on, but it seems that if designs are better now, it’s not by much.

Following from recent projects in other areas, two routes proposed by South Dublin County Council add further proof that Ireland or at least Irish councils are not ready for high-quality segregation. These two projects are the ‘N81 (Fortunestown to N82) cycle track scheme‘ and the ‘Tallaght to Templeogue Cycle Track Scheme‘ — the first of which we deal with below.

There still seems to be legacy issues with individual councils, but likely more central to the issue is weak design standards. It’s not likely that standards will improve any time soon unless stricter and binding design standards are put in place which rules out the cycle lanes and tracks most cyclists. The National Cycle Manual fails cycling by allowing the mistakes of the past to be repeated. A central mistake is the idea that mixing cyclists with pedestrians is acceptable.

The N81 (Fortunestown to N82) cycle track scheme is just 1.9km. But even clocking in at under 2km, there’s so much wrong with it.

The route is mainly segregated — the best reasoning to separate motor traffic and bicycles is a large difference in speed and a high volume of cars and trucks. The east end (towards Tallaght) of the project dumps people cycling onto on-road cycle lanes at a large junction with a 60km/h limit and an 80km/h at the other side of the junction — and as we know actual speeds are likely often above the limits. But even at the lower speed limit mentioned the Cycle Manual demands segregation and the junction layout goes against the that manual and the Manual for Urban Roads and Streets. But, as far as the council can be concerned, none of this matters as it is beyond the limit of the project. A boundary chosen by them.

It might be argued that the junction is reasonably new, but that’s hardly an excuse for not fixing what is wrong. The junction will need fixing or at least the N81 cycle route should end up bypassing it.

Back to confines of the project: It is mainly focused on two-way cycling on the north side of the road. On the north side along the 1.9km distance there’s relatively few junctions — the N82 Citywest Road at one end and the Fourtunestown Road at the other end, two housing estates and one or two driveways. This route isn’t passing many junctions or a ton of driveways.

But dispute this, the longest uninterrupted section of cycle path is an underwhelming 320 meters. Shared use breaks the cycle path up at bus stops, in a park, at minor footpath access points, and at crossings (where strangely there’s no raised areas motorists have to deal with). However the longest uninterrupted shared use section is about 590 meters long– that’s well over 1/4 of the route.

N81 B Cross2Widths are worse again: In Kiltalown Park the council have opted for the above mentioned 590 meters long shared use paths and set it at 4 meters wide (click on the image to the right) — it might sound wide but that’s less than what’s required for a footpath and two-way cycle path side by side; and it’s a park, so expect dog walking, children running around and people running. Besides cycling taking a back seat, as usual, it’s unclear why shared use was chosen in a mostly wide open park setting.

Where shared use is not used, the cross sections on the project drawings show that the two-way cycle path widths for sections typically ranges from 3 meters to just 2.5 meters (ie just 1.25 meters in each directions). We should be beyond this — our standards should be better. The width of shared use running on sections of the south side of the road is not indicated but looks to be far below what standards would allow for a footpath and cycle path side-by-side.

The images below (below the ‘key’ image) start with the east end of the project. It might not be clear from the drawing but it’s a classic example of shared use (in blue) in an area where there’s loads of space for the highest standard of Dutch-like segregation — the road at this point is surrounded by publicly-owned grassland. Limited space is often used as an excuse for shared use but this is usually not correct.

At this point and along the route there’s no clear links for cycling made to any of the adjoining housing estates on both side of the road. There’s not even shared use between the routes and houses — cyclists are only treated as pedestrians when it suits councils.


N81 B1

The general system of priority should be that if somebody is walking, cycling or driving along a main road, they should expect to get the right of way — but cycling gets sidelined as usual and a minor pathway from an estate gets priority in this drawing and at other points.

Worse still at this junction, if you are traveling west on the two-way cycle path and you want to turn left here (towards a school and house estates), you have to dismount or cross the road twice to legally get onto the side road. A segregated cycle path access point into the junction would not require more space and hardly any extra time in the traffic light sequence. Shared use is the easy option. It’s a cop out.

N81 B2

Below shows the junction with the Fourtunestown Road: In the Netherlands where segregation is used, even just on a main road, segregation is generally also used at junctions leading into the main road. This is safer as most collisions are at junctions and it allows people cycling to join and exit the cycle path without waiting for traffic lights (even on two-way paths at least in some directions of travel). Not only does this not happen here, no provision is made for cycling on the east side of the Fourtunestown Road, not even an advance stop line.

N81 B3

Below is possibly the strangest junction layout we have ever seen. The blue is mainly where the two-way cycle path turns into a shared use path in Kiltalown Park and the red is cycle lanes and paths…. we’re stumped as to why and how anybody would design anything like this… there’s no words for it beside that it’s strange and does not conform to anything we have ever seen before.

N81 B5

This project is full of cop outs and the two below pictured estate entrances are clearly among them. For these to work, the two-way cycle path from the west end of Kiltalown Park is flipped — you cycle on the right hand side of the path! The raised table is designed for use by those cycling westbound, while those cycling eastbound are put back on the road.   

The reality is that motorists and those cycling eastbound will have to watch out for misbehaving westbound cyclists. This is segregation at its worst and with that users end up having to deal with those reflect the council’s lack of respect and being put back on the road exactly where most collisions happen. b.


N81 B6

N81 B7

And below, this project would not be complete without mixing two-way cycling with bus passengers standing at the stop or getting on or off buses — if lane is being taken from a private owner which seems to be the case, why not take a little extra and include an island bus stop?

N81 B8

And, finally, the Citywest Road junction is a mess largely thanks the council flipping the direction of travel on the two-way path (cyclists cycle on the right of the path). If the two-way path included normal directions of travel then cyclists coming off Citywest Road could join the two-way path without waiting for traffic lights and cyclists continuing west along the N81 could do so by joining the advance stop box and waiting for one set of lights to change. In this plan any body continuing along the main road legally has to wait for two sets of traffic lights.

N81 B9


NOTE: Images used under the planning and general review exceptions in the Copyright and Related Act 2000 — all images remain copyrighted by the council or their consultants.


  1. I firmly believe that Cycling is not recognised as a legitimate form of transport on Irish roads, certainly not by local authorities. I suppose over time, if enough people continue to voice opposition to poor performance by local authorities something may be done.
    However I think this is a deeply imbedded cultural flaw that is firmly rooted in management of said local authorities and nothing will significantly change until that cultural sickness is addressed.
    I am cycling on Irish roads for over 40 years and there have been improvements (even a broken clock gets it right twice a day). In those 40 years however improvements for other Road users have been out of all proportion to cyclists. Until Cycling is recognised as a legitimate form of transport, cycling will always be the Cinderella form of transport.
    I hope people bear this in mind when the Local and European election circus pulls into a town “near you”. It will probably be the only chance cyclists voices will be heard. Don’t vote for the anti cycling lobby.


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