— Buses and trucks veering into cycle lane is part of new design
— Consultants, councillor, and campaigner voice safety concerns
— Motorised access to schools one of main barriers to blocking turn
A junction at the eastern of the Blackrock bypass walking and cycle route project in Dublin is to be redesigned ìn a way which will direct drivers of large vehicles to encroach into a cycle lane. The works at the junction of Newtownpark Avenue and Stradbrook Road are due to get underway on Monday, without open public consultation.
Dun Laoghaire Cllr Ossian Smyth (Green Party) said: “They are doing this in the full knowledge that this will endanger cyclists by obliging trucks and buses to mount the cycle lane… I am very disappointed that the executive intends to proceed with this change given that the advice is so clear that to do so will increase the risk of serious injury or loss of life of vulnerable road-users.”
Cllr Smith said, “The proposed change is actually more dangerous than the previous alignment as it gives cyclists the impression that they have a lane when in fact they are liable to be rear-ended at any time by a car or bus switching lane.”
As part of the original walking and cycle route project — officially named the Frascati Road/Temple Hill Improvement Scheme — a long right hand turning lane was removed from western approach to the junction to provide space for cycling. The traffic lights were also changed so that traffic coming from all three arms of the t-junction had separate green light phases so that the eastbound right turning traffic could turn without conflicting with other traffic.
The council said that the previous works, completed in August 2015, has resulted in queuing on both outbound and inbound car and bus traffic and has impacted on the nearby Temple Hill and Monkstown Road junction, and added to queuing on the Monkstown Road.
In an email to councillors, John Broderick, a senior executive engineer with the transport section of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, said: “As DLRCC has received representations from both the public and elected representatives in relation to this issue since completion of the scheme and further to commitments given to review the operation of the junction , it was decided to request the Design Consultants for the scheme, AECOM , to review the operation of the junction and provide options to mitigate some of the issues arising from the current phasing.”
He added: “The proposed layout will be closely monitored in terms of both vehicular movement and pedestrian / cyclist movement with a view to optimising its operation while balancing the needs of all modes.”
In a report, consultants told the council that the new design would include a “greater potential for a collision with a cyclist using the lane”.
The report stated that because of the narrow width of planned turning and traffic lanes, that: “It can be seen that the bus proceeding in the outbound direction towards Stradbrook Road must move into the adjacent cycle lane to pass the stationary vehicles. As such, there is greater potential for a collision with a cyclist using the lane when compared to the existing scenario. It is likely that the level of service currently on offer to cyclists at present would decrease as a result.”
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Cllr Smyth said the original project was supposed to be about providing safe space for cycling: “This junction has for years been a dangerous place for children on foot or cycling to school with increasing volumes of fast moving car traffic. The council received 100% funding from the NTA in 2013 with the aim of making the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”
“The redesigned road provided a cycle lane in each direction balanced by the loss of some road space for cars. After construction, and following complaints from drivers that their journeys were taking longer, the council executive has unilaterally decided to squeeze back in an additional lane for cars,” Cllr Smyth said.
He added: “Their own consulting engineers have warned them in writing of the increased risk of cyclist collisions. The real priorities of the transportation department is revealed by this action. They still believe that their job is to move cars rather than people around our city.”
Cllr Smyth suggests two alternatives. He said: “As alternatives to having fast moving cars mounting a cycle path, I suggest that either: the right turning lane be removed altogether and southbound traffic instead would use the junction at Monkstown ring road. This would allow traffic to flow freely but marginally increase trip distance for some destinations. Or that the current system be allowed to continue as it permits an increase in the volume of cycle traffic at the expense of a loss of car volume which is in line with national and local policy.”
According to Google Maps the detour required to ban the right turn for general traffic would take around 5 minutes generally but between 5 and 9 minutes at some peak times.
He added: “Remember that we are trying to maximise the number of people through the junction — not the number of cars.”
Keith Byrne, a local cycling campaigner and current chairman of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “There is no space for the right turning lane, and the cycle lane should be segregated.”
He said: “Visiting the Netherlands last year showed me how poor we design junctions for cycling.” He said that users of cycling routes in Ireland are “dumped out onto the road” where is is most important to have protected space.
Access to schools
On the original removal of the right turning lane, the consultant’s report said that a full ban on right turning cars was recommended.
The report said: “The impact of the loss of the right turning lane is most pronounced in the PM peak when the majority of traffic is in the outbound direction and queuing is experienced as expected during the evening commute. However, queuing and congestion is also experienced in the outbound direction between 08:30 & 09:15.”
It added: “Whilst these impacts were predicted in traffic modelling undertaken before the construction of the scheme, the recommended solution to the queuing, namely the prohibition of the right turn to Newtownpark Avenue, was not considered acceptable by the public who wished retain the pre–scheme levels of accessibility to the schools and other amenities on Newtownpark Avenue.”