Council ignores NCBI plea on mixing cycling and walking at Kilmainham Gaol

Dublin City Council is continuing to ignore a plea from NCBI, the national sight loss charity, not to mix walking and cycling outside one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions.

Despite the opposition from the NCBI, and city councillors often raising the issues of footpath cycling, the council are pushing head with the removal of dedicated cycling space and the expansion of shared walking and cycling sections of footpath between Kilmainham Gaol and Hilton Hotel on the Inchicore Road. Kilmainham Gaol is listed as one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions with around 326,000 paying visitors a year.

The city council has provided with the most up-to-date drawing of the Kilmainham Civic Space scheme, which confirms that shared footpath space will be extended as part of the project. The drawing in full can be viewed in this PDF (Kilmainham Layout, 2mb).

The NCBI links the conflicts and uncertainty caused by such shared use areas with people who have sight issues having often debilitating independents problems — leaving their home less often, or not leaving their homes at all without a sighted guide.

Shared footpath space is also generally disliked by many people who walk and cycle. On visits to the nearby Rialto area — where shared footpaths were introduced at a roundabout in the centre of the urban village — locals and commuters told of their dislike of the confusion and conflict caused by a design with directs moving bicycles onto footpaths.

That Rialto scheme has been cited by obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea as a prime example of how providing facilities to combat the problem of physical inactivity is not taken seriously.

Shared footpaths and toucan crossing are currently used in Kilmainham, but confined to one junction and two toucan crossings. The shared space will now be extended to all of the footpath outside Hilton Hotel.

As we reported last year in October, at a meeting of the city council transport committee, Fiona Kielty, a representative of the NCBI, referred to a project “coming up in Kilmainham” and objected to the use of shared footpaths.

Kielty said “The suggestion was that cyclists and pedestrians would share an area of footpath. I’ve already brought it up with the people involved with the project itself but I just wanted to make sure that Dublin City Council is not in favour of cyclists and pedestrians mixing, for the simple reason that the most vulnerable pedestrians just can’t cope with that and it would mean that they could not use an area if they knew that cyclists would be all over the pavement.”

Brendan O’Brien, head of technical services at Dublin City Council, said that the council did not want to rule out using shared footpaths and it did not want to be “too prescriptive”.

O’Brien said: “We are aware of the issues, we’re also trying on the other hand to not be too prescriptive for every single occasion… We are aware of the issues and we do intend to continue to liaise with the NCBI for any of these types of schemes.”

He added: “We do have a number of shared space areas, we don’t have a huge amount of them and where we do have them we do have them we try to have a very careful design, and we do consult with the NCBI on these schemes.”

Dublin City Council has had a low amount of shared footpaths compared to Fingal or South Dublin council councils, but the city council is set to rapidly increase the amount of the design used. Shared footpaths spaces is already included in the Canals Cycle route between the North Docklands and Rathmines, and it is planned across a section of the S2S Dublin Bay route under construction, and on the planned the Liffey Cycle Route, the Dodder Greenway, the Royal Canal Greenway and on other projects.

MORE: 5 reasons why Dublin City should not be on a best cycling cities list

shared footpath

IMAGES: Dublin City Council


  1. @Jake, it’s more the principle here. Things are a lot better when space is clearly defined preferably with grade separation of some sort. Continuing use of shared space makes no sense especially where there’s plenty of space. People will not be encouraged to cycle and walk more if the facilities are not up to scratch. It’s money well spent to get more short trips by active travel with the long term health benefits and not to mention making our urban spaces more liveable, quieter and safer.

  2. Overall I am with Jake on this one….and I think Cian is banging on a bit too strongly on this issue. This is overall a really nice design and a strong statement about the ‘sense of place’ of this area. When one looks at existing instances of ‘Shared Space’ (with pedestrians) here in Dublin, such as on Grand Canal Square, at Leeson St Bridge etc, while there may be some elements of confusion, they generally work well. And the UK design guidance in relation to ‘Shared Space’ states, for instance, that in shared spaces ‘Cyclists were found to be more likely to avoid or give way to pedestrians than vice versa’. Its an acceptance of mutual ineraction!

  3. What exactly is an overreaction?

    The story is reporting on the NCBI’s position and the council not following their request.

    Are you saying the NCBI are lying about the affect shared use has on people who have sight issues?

  4. @ Colm — Cycling should not be happening on footpaths is something I keep hearing for people who use any mode of transport, including those who cycle, walk, bus and drive to work or most other places.

    The NCBI have clear issues with it which they outline in greater detail on their website and reports which can be found on their website.

    Many older people and people who are less able to move fast also have clear issues. I’ve heard this from so many sources directly and indirectly. I know it’s also a pain when walking and even more so walking with children.

    I’m unclear why we’d be still following the UK in any design principals for cycling which have already been shown not to work in the UK.

    There’s clear alternatives to mixing cycling on footpaths and at crossings… Why are we not following those? Why does mix cycling and walking in a space where there is more than enough space to provide for cycling?

  5. Why? Do you have experience of people who have sight issues, including blindness? Have you listened to their experiences?

  6. How wide is the space? 6-8m? More like a small square than a footpath. Is it being suggested that there is not enough space and cyclists will just mow people down? That cyclists are not capable of slowing down and manoeuvring around people? A bit of common sense please.

  7. @Colm – Personally, I don’t like shared space. There’s no particular advantage to it. It’s usually designed in as a lazy solution to the problem of segregating cyclists from other modes of transport by engineers – problems that usually can be resolved with a bit of effort.

    I don’t like how Grand Canal Square works myself, and I usually feel like an interloper if I cross it on a bike. It’s not unlike cycling in traffic, in that you always have to keep a look out for people who aren’t aware of you and move into your path without looking. There’s usually kids running about too, jumping out from behind the planters… I’d much rather it if there was some clearly defined route for cyclists to use across that square.

    Sure, shared space will work in when the volume of cyclists is low, but if a proper culture of mass cycling develops in Dublin, then this will increasingly become an issue. And as Cian points out, why would you look the UK for best practice, knowing that their cycle infrastructure is often worse than our own?

    The broader question is of why you’d be satisfied with second-rate infrastructure like this? The most frustrating aspect of this project is that it could so easily be first-rate. We’ve seen examples of how Irish engineers can sometimes produce wonderful pieces of cycling infrastructure, and they need to be pressured into doing it with every project they produce. Every urban road upgrade should improve conditions for cyclists. Here, they’re maintained at about the same level of mediocrity that they currently are at, and this is a wasted opportunity that won’t come around for another 20 years or more.

  8. I agree with Cian and Peter.

    Donal O’Shea hits the nail on the head – these shared space designs show that active modes aren’t taken seriously.

    Designs like this give a bad user experience for pedestrians and cyclists. They will do very little to entice people out of their cars and are unusable for visually impaired people. They’ll also play right into the misguided pedestrian versus cyclist rhetoric.

    It’s a totally unnecessary compromise at the expense of vulnerable users.

  9. Having taken a closer look at this design, there are good elements, along with other serious flaws.

    On the positive side: the 30 kph limit, improved paving, raised pedestrian crossing at the Gaol entrance, and the courthouse pedestrian plaza leading to the realigned SCR crossing. These will no doubt improve the appearance of the area.

    But creating a lone, unprotected contraflow cycle lane with parking on the inside on a main road seems very foolish, particularly given that in this area there will be
    – Left hand drive coach unloading:
    – Reduced parking supply and insufficient enforcement:

    Picture this: a continental coach driver looking for a place to let elderly passengers disembark safely, pulls up in the best spot he can find – the contraflow lane. An inexperienced cyclist coming the other way would likely mount the footpath illegally, giving the visitors a fright. Worse still, the cyclist thinks they’re in the right because that’s the message this infrastructure gives – cycling on the footpath is the way to go.

    What use are attractive paving and trees when the underlying design puts people in conflict on a daily basis? What kind of “sense of place” is that?

    Other quirks include the right hand turning lane for the Hilton carpark entrance and the much sharper bend created by that SCR crossing (should be fun for those coaches).

    As Cian has pointed out in the other article, there is plenty of space for a protected two-way route along with the trees, general and coach parking and a pedestrian plaza.

  10. I completely agree with S Boles. I live on this road and it is horrible to use. The contra flow lane just stops at one point (I think you’re supposed to hop on to the path then, it’s still unclear), in one section you have to negotiate parked cars’ boots sticking out in to the cycle lane whilst trying to avoid oncoming traffic, including coaches, tour buses, taxis and commuters. And it’s way worse when you turn left in to the road on your way home every evening. There is no clarity, no sense of being in the right place and I can see daily conflicts. It makes me wonder if DCC have a complete disregard for cyclists’ safety and did anyone actually talk to a cyclist who regularly uses this street when designing the expansion?


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