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Dublin City installs bicycle traffic lights without headstart safety function

A recently installed mini-traffic light mounted on a normal traffic light poll at Harolds Cross Road and Rathgar Ave (Image: Bam Soles‎)

Mini-bicycle traffic lights — used in other countries to give cyclists a headstart over other traffic — have recently been installed at junctions in Dublin City, without the headstart function turned on.

Elsewhere in Europe, including in Copenhagen and Berlin, bicycle traffic lights at normal junctions are used to give cyclists a headstart. The headstart — which is usually around 5 seconds — acts as a safety feature allowing cyclists to make progress across junctions in advance of motorists being allowed to proceed.

Dublin City Council, however, has confirmed that the recently installed mini-traffic lights are to be used at junctions only as bicycle-level repeaters of the larger general traffic lights.

“The cycle traffic lights are an awareness measure,” said Paul Heffernan, a spokesman for Dublin City Council. “They are synchronised with the existing vehicular traffic signals and compliment vehicular and pedestrian signals. They remind cyclists that they can not run a red light. Dublin City Council is confident that cyclists will respond positively to them.”

The council said “several” of the lights have been installed at locations around the city, but did not give a list of locations.

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Copenhagen, pictured above, and other EU countries use the mini-traffic lights to give cyclists as headstart understands the locations include on the north quays at the Ha’penny Bridge, the junction of Harolds Cross Road and Rathgar Ave, and a junction on Dame Street.

The same type of mini-traffic lights were first used in Ireland along the Canals cycle route, between Portobello and the north Docklands, and a segregated bicycle crossing on City Quay — both locations have fully separate signal phases for bicycles and motor traffic. Before their use the law had to be changed to allow for the smaller sized lights.

The headstart function should be possible with the traffic lights recently installed by the council, but changing the traffic light phasing at junctions would require eating into the green time for motorists or making the traffic light cycles longer for everybody. is reader-funded journalism. That means it's funded by readers like you.

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Cian Ginty


  1. Came across a set the other day somewhere, can’t remember where, and was confused by this too. Was expecting the headstart when I saw the separate light. Most city centre busy junctions should have these as a matter of course as well as increasing pedestrian phase and frequency. Time would be deducted from motor traffic phase, of course.

    If this anomaly is not rectified, accident could occur.

  2. Huge missed opportunity at the very busy kennelworth junction in Harold cross. Why not give cyclists a flashing amber when the pedestrians are allowed go?

  3. Some Roads they give a priority headstart green for Buses ,so it could easily be done for Cyclists. On That Portobello Rathmines to Sheriff St Cycle route the Lights stay red to long for Cyclists giving a too long a green priority for Motorists especially at Leeson Street.

  4. As very few cyclist obey the signals on the Canal cycle path I don’t expect these lights to have any better level of compliance


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