There’s now at least three different official possible options for reconfiguring College Green to make it more pedestrian friendly and that’s a long-over due idea. However, some of the space also needs to be allocated to cycling.
The original but not final Luas Cross City plans suggest some minimal extra space given over to footpath — squeezing Dame Street-bound bicycles and buses closer together in a single lane. Transport planners in the National Transport Authority (NTA) were the first suggest a pedestrian plaza, on the south side of the street, with traffic cut down to one lanes in both directions (before and after images shown above).
Today the wider public is learning that the Dublin City architects are suggesting a mirrored image of the NTA idea, with the plaza on the north side of the street, along the historic Bank of Ireland building. The Irish Times reports this morning that a trial of this arrangement may take place (as an aside: unlike what the article suggests, trams running in pedestrian areas is a non-issue. It’s done all over Europe).
#SpaceForCycling is mainly a UK movement looking for dedicated, Dutch-like space cycling, although some campaigners here mention it now and again. There’s strong reasoning for a call for space for cycling on College Green. Here’s a few of them:
1. The amount of bicycles in use in the area is growing:
The target is at least 20-25% cycling modal share city-wide. It’s now at around 10% in the Dublin City Council area. Even if the target gets half way from 10% to 25% city-wide, it will mean far larger increases in central areas. According to Dublin City Council figures, the cycling levels are already growing strongly in the area and at a far faster rate than the city in general:
- In 2013 cycling accounted for nearly 20% of roadway traffic at the nearby Dame Street / George’s Street junction (18.4% up from 15.9% in 2011)
- On the junction of O’Connell St Lr / Bachelor’s Walk / Eden Quay the percentage of bicycle traffic jumped a near 100% increase from 6.8% in 2011 to 13.5% in 2013
The number of DublinBikes bicycles — which are focused in the city centre — has been doubled and more expansion is likely sooner or later. The system is still relatively small but let long-term subscriber have shot up to 50,000 people and there’s no signs that that is leveling off yet.
2. Unless they are taking buses off College Green, we’ll have more of this:
Hardly the vision for cycling in Dublin that we want?
The changes may mean that there’ll be no cars, but there will be tram tracks to navigate, and reducing the roadway down to just one bus lane in each direction would put buses/taxis and bicycles into a crazy level of conflict. The experience of cycling on a single-lane street while holding up a bus full of passengers isn’t something that many current bicycle users are happy with. It’s not going to appeal to the growing numbers of less-harden “cyclists” (who often don’t see themselves as cyclists).
Maybe a larger issue is that too many taxi drivers will brush past a person on a bicycle even where there’s no room to safely do so.
3. Tracks and bicycles mix poorly
There’s a few reasons Luas tram tracks due to be constructed on College Green should push the move for space for cycling, the main two: once the tracks are placed there’s little chance of them being removed and because tracks and bicycle wheels don’t mix well.
Space for cycling can help with the latter issue — designing cycle routes around tracks needs to be carefully done.
If there’s going to be two-way cycle paths on Westmorland St and College St, than this needs to continue at least onto College Green and into at least some of Dame St. This may cause horror in the minds of some traffic planners, architects and cyclists, but the mess of two-way paths not continuing will be far more frightening on a daily bases for all street users.
4. There’s nowhere else to go:
Permeability for cycling in the city center core areais quite frankly disgraceful.
It’s only to get worse. Luas Cross City will reduce future options and make some current options less attractive than they already are .
As the map shows College Green (in green) splits two large areas (in red) each area more than 0.5km long and un-permeability to north-south cycling movements as well many movements on and off the quays. The one-way streets at the edges of the areas make permeability worse again (yellow for northbound only and blue for southbound only).
Overall it’s not an easy issue to solve. But trying to solve it after Luas tracks are installed will be far, far harder. Let’s have a decent stab at it now.