FEEDBACK NEEDED: Cycling routes for all ages and abilities (draft)

Design of Irish cycle routes — even many of the newest ones — continues to be poor and compromised. So, we want to do something about it, and we are going to ask politicians at national and local level to sign up to higher standards based on feedback from our readers.

Here are the draft points, which were developed using feedback from readers:

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  1. #spaceforcycling segregated from motoring on main routes and pedestrians in urban areas
  2. priority at junctions and across side roads
  3. continuity and quality
  4. permeability
  5. contra-flow

The detail of these points are below.

Blaming those who design such routes is simplifying it too much — often politics, a limited budget, a poor or limited brief or limited options in official design manuals gets in the way.

Ireland needs to follow the cycling and general street designs and planning processes of the Netherlands, where cycling is attractive, enjoyable and safe for everybody from young children, older adults and everybody in-between; and where the cycling infrastructure also accommodates mobility devices.

The idea is that councillors, TDs and groups who sign up must look to adopt higher standards into plans, policies, and law at national, regional and local levels. Councillors should also strive to make sure these standards are upheld when councils are constructing routes and TDs should look to ensure national transport funding is well spent on high quality projects.

National guidelines — including the NTA National Cycle Manual, the NRA/TII rural route cycle manual, and the Manual for Urban Roads and Streets — are generally good in principal. But these and other guidelines are lacking when it comes to many details and need to be partly rewritten to follow Dutch design standards. All such manuals need to be made clearly and legally mandatory to follow for those designing any road and street open to the public.

It may also be advisable to put the oversight of these and other roads and streets design manuals under a single authority, preferably the Department of Transport.

here’s the detail:

(1) #spaceforcycling segregated from motoring on main routes and pedestrians in urban areas

  • paint is generally not enough between cars or pedestrians (NOTE: Remove word generally or reword)
  • on main routes, cycling needs to be segregated from motor traffic; cycling and motoring should generally only be only mixed on low speed and low volume roads and streets
  • cycling and walking need their own space and must be segregated at least in urban areas, international examples show that this is possible
  • bus stop bypasses should be used at practically all bus stop to avoid bicycle-bus conflicts (bus stops where there’s low volumes of buses is not an exception as these often have longer loading times and are often used for other uses beyond scheduled buses)
  • on high-volume and high-speed roads designs should strive to include a minimum 1 metre segregation between cycle paths and roadway
  • cycling-only space at junctions, standard crossings separate from pedestrians and protected for motor traffic
  • where parking is provided alongside a cycle path or cycle lane, there must be a buffer which allows a car door to be opened
  • continuous footpaths and cycle tracks should be used across entranceway and minor roads/streets – not to be confused with speed table/ entry treatments which are similar to continuous footpath

(2) priority at junctions and across side roads

  • priority made clear by design and by law, if needed
  • Dutch junction design should be used, if needed any law changes must be made
  • modern Dutch-design cycling priority roundabouts or grade segregated roundabouts should be the only type of roundabouts used in urban and suburban areas. Cycling must have priority on roundabouts in urban and suburban areas, this should be possible with our current laws but if needed any law changes must be made
  • simultaneous green bicycle phase should be an option for designs, if needed any law changes must be made

(3) continuity and quality

  • a network of cycle routes is not disconnected sections of paths or lanes
  • surface quality should at least meet the standard of parallel roadway, not just at construction stage but on an on-going basis
  • tarmac/etc surfacing should be continuous and not interrupted up by kerbs or concrete
  • road/street crossings must not be staggered in urban areas
  • inclines and ramps: Inclines should not exceed 5%. When the vertical climb is very short, a higher grade can be used, but when the total vertical slope is more than 4 meters, a maximum of 4% should be used. Where horizontal sections are used, these must be should be at least 25m horizontal.
  • high-quality routes are nothing without good maintenance — maintenance must be considered at the design stage of projects and included in on-going operational budgets

(4) permeability

  • all councils should be obliged to draw up traffic circulation plans to cover built up areas, and these should clearly define the nature of roads and streets. This process should influence the roll out of traffic calming and lower speed limits, rather than, for example, streets being defined by their speed limit in a speed-limit process.
  • cycle routes must be designed to accommodate not just standard bicycles but also allow bicycles of all shapes and sizes to be cycled without dismounting — including bicycles with wide handle bars, panniers, baskets, crates or child seats; cargo bicycles and cargo tricycles (which carry children, goods and even wheelchairs); tricycles for people with balance and mobility issues; bicycles with trailers attached; recumbents; and tandems
  • the design of many Irish housing estates has restricted permeability and to make cycling and walking attractive, politicians must accept the principal of removing many of these barriers (walls, fences etc) and not to allow future development to be designed in this way
  • as a principle cycling and walking permeability should be greater than permeability for cars and other motor traffic
  • filtered permeability (using bollards, planters etc) should be used to close through traffic on current residential and other streets and roads with the goal of not just making cycling more attractive but to cut rat-running traffic
  • on greenways and off-road routes, barriers must be last resort and not standard
  • where barriers are deemed to be needed, a single row of bollards with 1.5 metre spacing must be tried first
  • where barriers of any type (including bollards) are used authorities must note that such obstacles can cause serious injury, so care must be used in (1) making barriers visible in dark and low light conditions and (2) in not locating barriers directly beside junctions or on ramps or inclines or bends
  • swing gates, kissing gates, a-frames and other barriers which stop many types of bicycles must not be used
  • permeability must also be considered for easy of access for maintenance

(5) contra-flow routes

  • one-way streets without provision for cycling in both directions is a major barrier to cycling in most Irish cities and towns; it is the largest permeability issue in many areas
  • signage needs to be clear on contra-flow routes and a review must be undertake looking at all current examples of contra-flow and how it can be made clearer to motorists that cycling is allowed both ways (ie standard signs at the with-flow entry point to contra-flow streets attached the normal one-way street signs)
  • the principle of removing one-way streets or roads to make cycling more attractive is often a flawed principle, we should instead follow Dutch design where one-way streets are attractive for both walking, cycling and public transport
  • if the removal of one-way streets or roads is considered the designers must first look at the impact this will have on the provision of dedicated cycle paths, bus lanes and wider footpaths
  • on busy one-way streets and roads, such as those in our cities and towns currently designed for high traffic flow, councils should look at providing two-way segregation using two-way cycle paths or one-way cycle paths in each direction
  • on narrower, low speed one-way residential and town/city centre streets and roads provision should be made by way of cycle paths or lanes, and where that is not possible:
  • cycling contra-flow without lanes should be used, this has been proven to work extensively in the Netherlands, and cities such as London, Berlin and Paris.
  • cycling contra-flow without lanes will be as a standalone measure and also as part of “bicycles streets”

We’re not yet asking TDs and councillors to sign up, at this stage we want feedback from readers and anybody interested in this.


  1. Pretty comprehensive as it stands! I can’t think of anything there I disagree with to any notable extent.

    Good to see permeability getting prominence. Permeability for walking and cycling (and non-permeability for motorists) is already present in older estates in Dublin (built in 70s and 80s) and kids walking and cycling to school very much more noticeable there than in newer estates.

  2. All the above points are good and if we got even half of them it would be a huge improvement. Other things to consider:

    On-street car parking is a big issue in many areas. Even aside from the epidemic of people parking their cars in cycle lanes, any new cycle routes need proper protection from the door zone. There are many examples of cycle lanes that I won’t use because of the door-zone issue. I’ve been doored in the past and injured, and I don’t want it to happen again. On-street car-parking is essentially a massive subsidy by the state for people who have cars. This should be recognized for what it is.

    Bike-parking facilities: Many shops, banks, businesses etc don’t have cycle-parking facilities and so even I’m put off going some places because I know my bike won’t be safe if I go there. An example; my local small supermarket has a huge car-park and not a single bike stand. It’s maddening. The shop is about 700m from my house but I walk there instead of cycling because of the lack of bike-parking. I would much rather cycle.

    Traffic lights: I know it drives people in cars mad, but many traffic lights just don’t make sense when you’re on a bike and thus many people on bikes just go through them. I think there should be a change in the law to allow bikes to go left on red (to act as a yield sign).

    Safety promotion by state bodies: This is slightly tangential but still salient to cycling-promotion. Hi-Vis & helmets do not protect people from getting whacked by cars!!! If it did then cars wouldn’t crash into walls, houses, fences, lamp-posts, traffic-bollards, other parked cars etc etc etc etc. The nonsense of promoting hi-vis for pedestrians and cyclists is essentially ignoring the problem (people not driving properly) and shifting the onus onto the victims. Until this mind-set is rooted out from our state bodies which are supposed to be promoting safety then cycling in general is going to be facing an uphill battle.

  3. Hit the hammer on the head with these proposals.

    However One thing is missing, the most important pillar that makes the Dutch cycling system work is the law. You simply do not want to crash into a cyclist…… unlike in Dublin.
    There is no equivalent for the phrase “strict liability” in Dutch. It is usually described by the general public (“as a driver you are liable when you crash into a cyclist”), or referred to by the article number and the name of the law: Article 185 of the Road Law (by legal professionals). The objective of this article in the law is to protect vulnerable road users from financial damage caused by drivers of motorised vehicles. Because due to the differences between motorised and non-motorised road users, it is very likely that the latter will suffer more and more severe damage and/or injuries when both are involved in a traffic accident. The law also considers the fact that drivers are obliged to be insured for such damage and non-motorised road users are not.

    Vincent (Dutch expat and Urban Jungle eBike Commuter )

  4. Maintenance. There’s no point building shiny new cycle paths if there’s no ongoing budget to sweep and maintain them to a standard that is fit for cycling.

    Priority. Riders should have at least the same priority as cars going invite same direction not be relegated to third spot.

    Pedestrian crossing: pedestrians should not have no warning priority to cross cycle paths. This is usually just a liability cop out.

  5. Sounds like a good plan. I would be very happy if the powers that be adopted this excellent policy. One point i would remove the word “generally not” from the line”paint is generally not enough between cars or pedestrians” to “never”. Are you going to approach the politicians by, email, post or in person ?

  6. Cian c.s., excellent initiative and comments so far as well!

    My first comment: The statements / needs defined in this draft are more than just cycling issues. To make cycling in Irish cities and towns one need more than just cycling infrastructure strategy and cycling manuals. The key issue is to refrain from car dominance, give public space back to cyclists and pedestrians, walking, sitting, stroking, etc.

    In order to do so an integrated policy approach is necessary. Many of the phrases in this draft relate to reorganize motorized traffic circulation in larger areas by limiting the motorized traffic routes, including physically measures to limit car speed in houses areas, near schools, shopping areas, play grounds, etc. Around the year 2000 Dublin City Council has studied on so-called Environmental Traffic Cells, based on traffic calming and making traffic more democratic for all road users. Traffic calming is one of the most successful and economic-feasible (cost-effective) cycling measures a city council can take. Retrofitting kilometers of segregated cycling paths is complicated and costly.

    Please do not get me wrong. Cyclists need all (!) infrastructure cycling measures which in are in the toolbox (and in the National Cycle Manual), however the first thing is to reflect and decide on the function of any road / street.

    One of the key factors of safe and direct cycling in The Netherlands back in the ’70/’80 (where the long urban space restoring process started) was the obligation of the Dutch Ministry for all regional and local governments is to have a serious integrated traffic circulation plan for the whole built-up area, as a CONDITION to gain any Dutch guilder (Hfl) as subvention money from the Minister. This has brought wide awareness of the needs for cycling networks and pedestrians areas / routes / squares. So the first effective urban cycling plans were traffic circulation plans.

    With a well-balanced strategy document for traffic circulation one can better derive cycling network plans for the whole urban area or for parts / new areas / rehabilitation areas and use them as serious INPUT for development plans and guarantee permeability from the very start. The greening of the public space should be supportive for cycling and walking routes.
    The so-called Integrated Framework Plan, developed by DTO (now NTA) for New Towns as Blanchardstown and Balbriggan developed around 2000 tended to become a strong planning instrument to take strategic decisions and make effective linking between top-down (documents) and bottom-up (designs), vice versa. I am curious what their legal meaning is nowadays. Cycling network planning was certainly meant to be part of that instrument.

    NB 1: Cycle parking needs different strategic decisions, because it has many private and public elements to be dealt with; different demands, manual, norms, law and financial arrangements.

    NB 2: In the next days I’ll try to dig from my files a for Ireland applicable local traffic planning and implementation strategie(s) which also contain the SEQUENCE of the measures to be taken by Local Councils, financially supported by a National Government.

    NB 3: Key elements of the cycling strategy is KNOWLEDGE – ARGUMENTS – INSTRUMENTS. Monitoring program should focus on the three linked perspectives.

    Thanks for the attention and room for writing; best regards André PETTINGA.

  7. @impetto62
    End of second paragraph – stroking? I don’t think people will take kindly to encouraging people to have a stroke in public. I think that’s something best left to private spaces :)

  8. Maintenance is a great point. Even routes merely marked by paint need to be maintained. There’s one example I can think of (in NI) where there’s a painted route in the hard shoulder, but the hard shoulder is where all the road detritus gathers and the hedge grows out over the cycle lane and doesn’t get cut until it threatens to encroach the car lanes.

    Continuity: cycle routes shouldn’t just be a tick-box addon to an existing road project, they should take into account where people are coming from and where they are going to. I know that’s sort of covered above, but I think the planning for what cyclists will actually do should be included much earlier in road scheme planning. In some ways such planning is easier since the type of rate limiting plans you need for cars (like one-way streets) aren’t needed. But cyclists have much more flexibility than cars so they don’t have to follow the prescribed routes and you want to get things right early so that there’s no mass disobedience when the project is finished.

    To get things away from the slightly dry and road-nerd realm of surfaces, maintenance standards and design documents, I think we need a more emotive ‘headline’. In the NI cycling strategy I noticed that at their initial consultation before producing the strategy that there were no targets, so instead of vague percentages of journeys made, I proposed a target of _zero cyclist deaths_. That means the acceptable level of risk of travel is much reduced and so junctions must be designed to prevent dangerous cyclist/motorist interaction instead of tinkering round the edges with things like ASL green boxes. With no cyclists dying on the roads, more parents will encourage their children to cycle, more parents will cycle to school with their children and more journeys will be made by bike because it is seen to be safe as well as convenient.

  9. There seems to be some type of issue with comments getting garbled (letters missing from words) — sorry about this, it has not happened before and I don’t know the cause.

    Thank you to all for taking the time to comment — I’ll reply to people’s points and make updates to the draft as soon as I can.

  10. Yes, an entire comment of mine disappeared. I haven’t retyped it, partially because I can’t fully remember what I said…… lol Something to do with access, but goddamn, I can’t remember what….. sheesh.

  11. John F, the problem with targets such as “zero cyclist deaths” is that it can be most easily met by suppressing or actively discouraging cycling.

    I’m not joking. If you give an agency a target like that, it’s a green light to tell people how dangerous cycling is, how wearing outlandish, unflattering and cumbersome protective clothing is “essential”. Whether the advice makes people more cautious, abandon cycling or just never entertain the notion of starting to cycle won’t make any difference to the success of meeting the target of zero cyclist deaths.

  12. Well done Cian for taking the initiative and developing it.
    A few thoughts:

    Contraflow is essential but must include adequate signage both to alert cyclists and to warn motorists. A number of older existing contraflow routes are seriously deficient in this regard.

    Continuity should also include as a design principal measures that avoid stop/start cycling. Momentum is far more critical on a bike than in a car given the lack of mechanical assistance. The Idaho Stop law should be adopted here to ensure fewer stops.

    Provision also needs to be made for long distance commuters who also use their commute for fitness/training. Existing bus/bike lanes are often more effective than off road paths for this group as there are fewer stops and a faster average speed can be maintained. While they may not fit in to the idealised Amsterhagen view of cycle-commuting, they form a significant percentage of existing commuters.

    Keep up the good work.

  13. I think that you are trying to achieve too much in expecting councillors to get into the minutiae of infra design. Even pro-cycling engineers have different opinions on what should be provided. Cycling advocates, engineers, administrators don’t provide cycling infrastructure. Things only change when politicians get engaged.

    Where infrastructure is provided, the first priority should be the allocation of road space, followed by minor junctions, signalised junctions and then ‘other’ junctions. We should be able to argue for re-allocation of road space and minor junctions. Many schemes do make best use of space already but many others do not. The problem is lane width but I think that this can be changed. There are also a number of examples around Dublin of the right way to deal with minor junctions. At the same time there are many examples of new jobs where footpaths and cycle tracks stop abruptly at private entrances rather than being carried through.

    If we get the reallocation of road space and priority of minor junctions sorted, we can look at protected signalised junctions and ‘other’ junctions. We need to engage with politicians local and national. There are people who are pro cycling and other who are anti-cycling in all parties. The political parties or groupings support cycling but it is soft support so we need to try and firm this up with cross-party support.

    I think that the starting point is government targets. We need to either use that target locally or establish new (lesser) lower targets. We also need agree a consistent indicator for modal split – one that is relatively cheap and easy to calculate at a micro level as well as nationally.

    I liked the idea of the tour of Belfast which NI Greenways described in his blog. It was a tour of the lowlights not the highlights. We need to bring non-cycling councillors out and show them the shortcomings. One problem is the lack of good design – by which I mean design which encourages or invites mass cycling. A big bang would be good but I see change as being more gradual rather than revolutionary. The outcome of the Smarter Travel Areas is disappointing – an increase of approx 0.2% in cycling per year. At this rate it will be decades before we make any real progress.One of the thing about the STAs was that they were supposed to be innovative but I haven’t heard of any innovation coming out of them. In fact the reverse – they shied away from reallocation of road space. Cycle forums are critical as they are where cycle advocates interface with politicians. These are my initial thoughts on the article.

  14. No to segregation, No to cycle lanes!! The road is there for ALL road users. Cyclists use FULL lane. Get OUT of the gutter! It IS the safest way to cycle.

  15. @Joe
    And btw, just for some reality. At the moment we have it, more or less, as you suggest. We have a couple of properly segregated cycle lanes, but for the most part cyclists have to mix it in with traffic. And so let’s look at the numbers – what’s the modal share that cycling has in this country? Answer – really low. Now look at the Netherlands where they have proper segregated and joined-up cycle routes. What’s the modal share of cycling there? 30-40%.

    So we can keep doing as you suggest; mixing bikes in with vehicles (with resultant low percentage of people cycling) or do what the Dutch do with proper segregated cycle lanes (with resultant high percentage of people cycling).

    No Joe, the safest way to cycle is to protect cyclists from vehicles. Yes, keeping out of the gutter when on a shared road is better than staying in the gutter, but overall the safest way to cycle is to segregate cyclists from vehicles (and also reduce and enforce speed limits, create narrower roads, reduce lanes of traffic, etc etc etc).

  16. Is there empirical evidence to show that the higher modal share in Holland is due to segregation/ infrastructure or could it possibly be the other way around? Joe may have a point although maybe not with current levels of enforcement. Words like “safer” get bandied around a lot but I’ve seen very little, if any, evidence to back these assertions up. It might be true. But then again…,

  17. @Ronan
    I used to be of the same opinion as Joe until I went and lived in the Netherlands and saw the number of kids, disabled people and old people who use the segregated cycle tracks. They tend NOT to use the shared roads. It’s obvious why – the segregated tracks are so much safer. Even when cars are going really slow, you’re still aware of them and they’re still a cause for concern. When they’re not there (segregated lanes) the sense of freedom has to be experienced.

    And what exactly are you asking when you say “could it possibly be the other way around?” I’m not sure what you mean.

    • Im simply asking the Chicken/Egg question. In other words are there more cyclists in the Netherlands because there’s better infrastructure or is there better infrastructure because there were more cyclists? A lot of the comments here assume the former but I’d be interested in any research that can show a cause/effect between the two. It’s an important point. What would be worse than agitating for better infrastructure on the assumption it will lead to higher participation only to find it actually doesn’t! Before money is spent we need to be sure it’s going to have the desired effect. Otherwise it might be better spent on other measures, like more traffic cops for example.

  18. If you build roads, more cars use them. Lots of research to show that. You think cycle infrastructure is different?

    Bike infrastructure in NL in the 1970s was just as rubbish as it was here. Modal share of cycling was reasonably high back then (just as it was in many places, including Dublin, before cars took over). They built the infrastructure in NL and modal bike share increased. Here they didn’t build it and modal bike share crashed (cars took over).

    Yes, of course you can discuss all day whether building cycle infrastructure here will increase modal bike share here because MAYBE Irish people are somehow different to Dutch people. Maybe Irish people are genetically predetermined to favor cars. The thing is, we won’t really know until we do build it.

    Also just to point out that cycle infrastructure is far cheaper to build than infrastructure for cars. In addition there is a bigger payback per unit invested for cycling than cars. Cheaper, quicker to build, a better economic return and all the health benefits as well. It’s a no-brainer.

  19. I’m all in favour of better infrastructure if it actually improves things but there has to be a quantifiable definition of “improves” and a defined measure of success. There are always choices to be made so nothing should be a “no-brainer” without evidence to back it up. There HAS been quite a lot of infrastructure built here over the last few years and cycle usage HAS gone up but is there a cause/effect relationship between the two things. AFAIK, no-one can say either way because a) to my knowledge no meaningful research has been done and b) things are more complicated than that.

  20. Agreed. Evidence trumps all.

    But as you say it can be difficult to tweeze out the factors that cause an effect. But until we know for certain (and certain knowledge is a philosophical dead-end) we need to change our current situation.

    At the moment we know for sure that people are afraid to cycle, or let their kids cycle to school. Why? Not because cycling is in itself inherently dangerous, but because of cars. Cars are dangerous.

    If there were no cars, do you think more people would cycle. I don’t know for certain, but I’d be willing to bet an awful lot of money that they would. We can’t get rid of cars entirely, but the next best thing is segregated cycle infrastructure.

  21. Good stuff Cian, keep up the good work. Dublin seems to me like the ideal city to develop ever greater access for bikes. When I lived and worked there ten years ago, I cycled everywhere. Now I live down west in Castlebar, Co Mayo, but I have a young two year old daughter and it’s very rare for me to cycle outside of a dedicated cycle now with her on the back of my bike. Hurting myself is something manageable and forgiveable but hurting a vulnerable child is quite another.

    Hence, the need to really segregate cars and bikes, and to – whenever possible – give priority to bikes, especially in the city centre. This is what will transform Dublin into a vibrant living city where young people want to live and work. There are two simple examples that I’ve been following, which show why things need to change, the dodder route and s2s:

    1. The 30+ km Dodder route which will take cyclists all the way from the sea in Dublin’s city centre to the mountains. How amazing is that. But already I see the development being held up by arguments and our authorities incessant need to listen to every side of the argument. It simply needs to be pushed forward and built properly. This will reinvigorate the river and so much of the city.

    Today, I cycled around Westport, a town that’s been transformed by cycle lanes over the past few years. There are cycle lanes everywhere in a town that’s extremely hilly. Yet the segregated cycle lanes mean there are kids and adults everywhere on bikes and walking these trails. This is what makes a town great and makes people want to live there. The cycle/walking lanes are clearly colour coded and the biker and the walker live together in harmony. This is what Dublin needs.

    2. The s2s route in Dublin, despite being spoken about for well over a decade, still isn’t complete. (I know it’s supposed to be finished this summer, but we’ll see.) These incredibly long construction times for proper cycle infrastructure simply isn’t good enough. These, along with so many other pieces of cycle infrastructure, are critical to get families, children, and just about everyone out on bikes.

    We need to do less prevaricating and more building. NIMBYism will exist and motorists will complain. They should have their say, but ultimately to create a healthier citizenry and city, truly segregated bike ways must be built all over the city as soon as possible, and not ten years from now. If the councils build the correct infrastructure, this will create the all important critical mass. Then watch people use it. It’s happening in Mayo, a truly sparsely populated and hilly county. Surely Dublin which is even more suited to cycling, can make it happen.

    • Thanks for your comment Neill.

      While this site focuses on Dublin a lot (as most commuting cycling and project news comes from the city), the standards and principles outlined above are for all of Ireland. Including Mayo!

  22. @Neill
    Unfortunately the S2S is no-where near being completed. A 2km stretch on the north side is being constructed at the moment, and that’s the section that you probably heard was being completed this year. There remains much more of the entire route which has yet to be completed unfortunately. :(

  23. Cian,

    Generally good stuff.

    I’d keep it to high levels principles for politicians, technical guidance for the designers.

    Maybe missing something on (off road) greenways through parks, along canals etc where there also needs to be clear segregation between cyclists and pedestrians, where possible. I think it should be acknowledged that pedestrians should be given a priority on these off-road routes where no separation possible e.g. on a canal tow-path where there is not enough room.


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