February 23, 2014:
When motorway and other road projects are being drafted councils around Ireland often include an artwork or two. Sometimes this is done by a local artist. In this case, the artist is unknown and the artwork is a strange, off-beat form of street art.
The above pictured artwork was installed along what used to be a straight ramp into a direct underpass parallel to where the N81 crosses the M50 ring road in Dublin — linking the suburb of Tallaght to Dublin City. The commissioning of this item of art was linked to the construction of a slip road off the N81 into the M50 northbound, a project which took away space from the two-way underpass walking and cycling route.
A source who is familiar with the dark arts of Irish cycle lane design explains: “Access onto the cycle underpass involves a sharp 90 degree turn, and then three much sharper turns – almost impossible to negotiate without coming to a near-stop and putting a foot on the ground.” Forcing cyclists to make contact with the ground makes it “interactive art”.
A second source said the artist was likely “depicting the violent struggle between cycling and motoring”. The same source said: “The construction of the new northbound slip road was not a clear enough indication of the dominance of motoring. The message had to be driven home that if you follow the path of cycling you will be driven around the bend again and again.”
The straightness of the original route can been seen on the OSI’s 2005 satellite view, here. And below is the council’s plan for enlarging the artwork:
KEY: Black outline = slip road; while outline = current route; and the orange outline with grey infill = planned widened route:
Talking about the plans, a third source said the widening was a “disappointment”, adding: “But at least cyclists are still driven around the bend, at least one best retaining its sharpness, and the cyclists are reminded that improvements to cycle routes in Dublin will be incremental and half-hearted.”
He said: “It’s a good news story, it’s paid employment. Artists were employed to mess up the route a few years ago and now again to make marginal changes. Maybe somebody will decide to remove the artwork and fix the route, but between now and then it’s more work for struggling artists.”
Images: Annette Boles; Google Maps; SDCC
Location: M50 crossing route from Tallaght to Dublin City
Local body/authority: South Dublin County Council, NRA
Street View: Currently shows view of unfinished works
Send suggestions to email@example.com. And make sure to view the original and UK-focused facility of the month page on Warrington Cycle Campaign’s website.
I’m sure the gradient is now much more forgiving as a result of the longer route so its not all bad, unfortunately they haven’t considered how difficult it is to do several 90 degree turns whilst going downhill on a bike. The dutch (given the same space restrictions) would have made the path much wider, the curves less sharp, and would have clear separation of the pedestrian and cycle sides with a small dropped kerb and different surface treatment. The entire route would also be adequately lit, rather than just the indirect lighting from the streetlamps.
Of course, the planning of the surrounding roads would have intricately involved the cycle facilities from the start, so there could be a straight path AND a forgiving gradient all the way into the underpass, but irish planners are not dutch planners, and wont be comparable for a long time.