— “Severe” behind-closed-doors lobbying on verge of winning out
Dublin City Council has said it wants to send people cycling on the Liffey Cycle Route on a backstreet detour — removing the cycle route from the quays for a quarter of the River Liffey quays. It confirms the IrishCycle.com news report last month that a major and iconic section of the Liffey Cycle Route was abandoned after “severe” lobbying.
The detour is between Parkgate Street and Church Street — where there are narrow sections of the quays.
The problems for the public’s perfered route, known as option 3, also included an apartment block currently under construction on a preferred section of bus detour beside the Luas tracks in Smithfield, however no attempt seems to have been made in the direction of looking at alternative routes which did not involved removing the two-way cycle path from the quays.
It is unclear how the detour section of the cycle route will get around the pinch point issue beside the apartment without sharing with trams on the Luas tracks or sharing with pedestrians on the footpath.
Dublin City Council is now pushing for a new ‘option 5’. In a report Brendan O’Brien, the council’s traffic head of technical services, said: “This fifth option essentially involves directing the Liffey Cycle Route to the north of Croppies Acre, along Benburb Street, via Smithfield, Phoenix Street North, Samson Lane and rejoining the North Quays via Church Street.”
The report (published in full below) is to be presented to the city council traffic committee this Wednesday at 3pm — if approved the cycling detour will become the preferred route for the project.
He adds: “This option provides good connectivity to Phoenix Park and by passing to the north of Croppies Acre, cyclists travelling east-west, will be able to avoid the complex junction where large volumes of traffic join the North Quays at Frank Sherwin Bridge. Cyclists wishing to access Heuston Station will be catered for with the provision of a toucan crossing to the west of Frank Sherwin Bridge. This option also provides good connectivity for the leisure cyclists providing easy access to Phoenix Park, Croppies Acre, Collins Barracks and Smithfield. For students in the Grangegorman Campus, Option 5 provides the opportunity to provide better links than any of the earlier options considered.”
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However, there is no mention in the report of how a river-side two-way cycle route was supposed to serve both the north and south quays and areas south of the river these. Or, for example, how people cycling to/from areas west of Heuston will link in with the route.
The report states that one-way cycle paths on both quays would be too problematic to provide a high level of service, mainly because of conflicts with bus stops. This was why the two-way route on the riverside of quays, away from the bus stops, was originally seen as a preferred option.
A boardwalk option was also ruled out because it would conflict with protecting the built heritage of the “oldest surviving bridge” in the city.
ALSO READ: Iconic Liffey Cycle Route section abandoned after “severe” lobbying
READ IN FULL: The report to the transport committee is as follows:
****REPORT TEXT STARTS****
Report to the Chairperson and Members of the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee
Liffey Cycle Route : Emerging Preferred Option
A report on the Liffey Cycle Route was presented to the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee in June 2015 outlining the various rounds of consultation that had been conducted to date. The report summarised the responses received and in particular the responses to the four options proposed as part of the Non- Statutory Public Consultation conducted in March/April 2015.
For the purposes of the public consultation the Liffey Cycle Route was divided into three sections: A, B and C. Section A extends from Heuston Station to Church Street, Section B is from Church Street to Custom House Quay and Section C takes in Custom House Quay as far east as the 3 Arena.
For Section A there were four possible options that went to public consultation namely:
Option 1: A two-way cycle track on the North Quays with limited boardwalk
Option 2: A two-way cycle track on the North Quays with buses re-routed to Benburb Street
Option 3: As per option 2 with Croppies Acre relocated to the Rivers Edge
Option 4: A one-way cycle track on the building side of both the North and South Quays
June’s report detailed how there was a clear preference among the public for Option 3 in Section A. It outlined how it was intended to proceed to examine the issues and constraints raised during the public consultation process which related to this option, to examine whether these issues and constraints could be overcome and, if so, to draw up suitable mitigation measures.
June’s report furthermore detailed how the public consultation expressed a clear preference (74%) for a two way cycle track on the North Quays from Church Street to Custom House Quay for Section B. For Section C, Custom House Quay to the 3 Arena, no feedback was requested as part of the public consultation as it is simply proposed to upgrade the existing facilities.
This report concerns itself with the issues around Section A, from Heuston Station to Church Street.
Issues and Constraints associated with Option 3
The principal constraint associated with Option 3 was that planning permission had previously been granted to a key parcel of land south of Smithfield and construction work had recently begun on a building that blocked the intended diversionary route for buses. In addition, subsequent to the public consultation process, Dublin City Council was made aware of considerable opposition to the proposed changes from both local residents and businesses.
Aecom Ltd conducted an analysis of various arrangements whereby buses could potentially be shuttled around the new building at the bottom of Smithfield but concluded that it wouldn’t be possible to do so without seriously impacting on the quality of the bus and LUAS services along this corridor. The North Quays are a critical part of the bus network and any diversionary route that resulted in delays to buses would not be acceptable.
In light of this constraint and the local opposition to the proposed changes it was concluded that Option 3 was no longer a viable option and Aecom was instructed to investigate the other remaining options in detail.
Review of the remaining Options 1, 2 and 4.
During the last quarter of 2015, Aecom conducted a review of the remaining 3 options that had been presented to public consultation.
Option 1 involved a two-way cycle track on the North Quays with limited boardwalk. The boardwalk was proposed as a means of getting the cycle track past a pinch point located on the North Quays either side of Mellows Bridge.
Mellows Bridge is almost 250 years old and is the oldest surviving bridge in the city. In early September 2015, Dublin City Council’s Heritage Section raised concerns regarding the effect of Option 1 on the bridge which brought its viability as an option into doubt. The National Transport Authority commissioned Howley Hayes Architects to produce a Heritage Impact Assessment Report on Mellows Bridge. The report was issued in January 2016 and concluded that the proposed boardwalk would have a “very serious impact on the built heritage both on Mellows Bridge and on Arran and Ellis Quays” and that it would not “be possible to make a viable case for option 1 within any of the recognised national or international heritage guidelines to the development or alteration of significant historic buildings or places.”
The conclusions of the Heritage Impact Assessment Report lead the design team to conclude that Option 1 was also no longer a viable option.
Option 2 and Option 3 involved the same routing of buses through the Smithfield area and therefore the design team were obliged to conclude that Option 2 was also no longer viable for the same reasons Option 3 was ruled out earlier.
This final remaining option involved a one-way cycle track on the building side of both the North and South Quays.
While this option remained viable the design team had concerns with the quality of service offered by this option and whether it met the brief of providing a safe route for cyclists of all ages and abilities. The pinch point at Mellows Bridge and the fact that access would have to be provided to bus stops along the quays meant that a continuous segregated cycle lane could not be provided.
By the beginning of December 2015 it was becoming apparent that Option 4 might be the only viable option of the original four (this was confirmed in January 2016 with the issuing of the Heritage Impact Assessment Report). It was considered prudent at this stage to conduct a complete review to determine if there were any other options that had possibly been discounted prematurely at an earlier stage or been overlooked.
Emerging preferred option
Between December 2015 and March 2016 Aecom conducted a thorough review of the remaining options for Section A of the Liffey Cycle Route.
Considerable efforts were made to improve Option 4 by rationalizing/reducing the number of bus stops on the quays and introducing “Copenhagen Style” bus stops where space permitted. (This essentially involves routing cyclists on the inside of bus stops thereby reducing the conflict between buses and cyclists). However the improvements that could be achieved were limited and concerns still remained with Option 4.
However as part of the review a new option has emerged. This fifth option essentially involves directing the Liffey Cycle Route to the north of Croppies Acre, along Benburb Street, via Smithfield, Phoenix Street North, Samson Lane and rejoining the North Quays via Church Street.
This option provides good connectivity to Phoenix Park and by passing to the north of Croppies Acre, cyclists travelling east-west, will be able to avoid the complex junction where large volumes of traffic join the North Quays at Frank Sherwin Bridge. Cyclists wishing to access Heuston Station will be catered for with the provision of a toucan crossing to the west of Frank Sherwin Bridge. This option also provides good connectivity for the leisure cyclists providing easy access to Phoenix Park, Croppies Acre, Collins Barracks and Smithfield. For students in the Grangegorman Campus, Option 5 provides the opportunity to provide better links than any of the earlier options considered.
It is intended that Option 5 could be entirely segregated with the small volumes of local traffic using these streets accommodated by shared running with the Luas Line. It is considered that this option best meets the original brief for the Liffey Cycle Route which is to provide a safe east-west route suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
The Liffey Cycle Route is divided into three sections:
This report recommends the adoption of Option 5 as the preferred route for the Section A of the Liffey Cycle Route between Heuston and Church Street.
In combination with the two way cycle route on the North Quays between Church Street and Custom House Quay (Section B) and the upgrading of the existing cycle route between Custom House Quay and the 3 Arena (Section C) this would complete the emerging preferred option for the Liffey Cycle Route.
Assuming this report meets with the approval of the Strategic Policy Committee, it is proposed to proceed to preliminary design of the Liffey Cycle Route.
Head of Technical Services (Traffic)
Environment and Transportation Department
****REPORT TEXT ENDS****