LONG READ: After Dublin City Council confirmed that it wants to detour the Liffey Cycle Route onto backstreets we used a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to get solid details of their plans. The images below — captured from drawings released under FOI — show the draft details of the cycle route detour and we’ve added commentary for context and evaluation:
The section of cycle route detoured off the quays is from Parkgate Street to Church Street (at the Four Courts). This also affects the route on Parkgate Street between the Phoenix Park and the start of the quays, as it will change the cycle path location from on the south side of the street and move it to the north side.
Starting at the Phoenix Park main gate, the council has stressed how their new design will link in with the Phoenix Park, but this is another example of how the council are saying one thing but doing another — the council’s draft drawings show that the cycle path does not link in well with the cycle routes in the park:
The design does not even provide a clear means for cyclists exiting the park to join the cycle path — unless the council consider two sharp 90 degree turns, while cycling downhill and while mixing with cars rushing to or past traffic lights convenient or safe?
Remember, on this path there will also be cyclists coming the other direction and waiting at the junction. For more details of this junction and the park gate, read here where we previously covered it.
Buffering segregated cycle paths is required when there’s parking, laybys or loading. It’s also good practice to include a buffer anywhere where there’s enough space. And, when we say buffer, we mean a green strip, a larger kerb, a concrete or stone island etc, not just paint. But there’s no attempt to do it around the park gate, even where there is the space.
The below pictured layby might look innocent enough, until you realise that it’s outside the Criminal Courts of Justice (an area known for its chronic parking) and there’s no buffer between the layby and the cycle path:
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In previous plans (ie any plan to keep the cycle route on the quays), the cycle path stays on the south side of this street. But with the backstreet detour, the cycle path emerges on the north side of the street — this not only requires going around lay-bys but also removes parking outside shops, restaurants and hotels. And, outside peak hours, there is no buffer for safe unloading from the bus lane to the shops and other businesses.
Here’s the footpath on Parkgate Street, this is not busy compared to how clogged up it can get with people walking to the courts or the Phoenix Park, and hanging around outside shops and pubs:
So, it seems a bit strange that the council plans to shave sections off this footpath — the less busy south side of the street, which has wider and less clutter footpaths is a far better place to locate the cycle route beside. In this image we’ve highlighted the broken blue lines which indicates the current footpath placement:
On the north side of Parkgate Street the cycle path crosses over a number of business entrances and — yes — those are yield symbols on the cycle path! A cycle route yielding to private entrances — we’re told we’re in a new world order where support for cycling rules, but where is the evidence for this?
The image below shows the cycle path crossing over the Luas red line tracks (at far from the recombined right angle suggested by Luas to cyclists). The cycle route then takes over the space currently used for coach parking and a layby/taxis use for the Ashling Hotel — it’s worth noting that the hotel previously objected to versions of this project which would have maintained the coach parking / layby area.
(Note: The small park here is “Croppies Park”, not to be confused with the larger Croppy Acre, which is featured further down this page).
Just east of the Ashling Hotel, is a T-junction on the planned cycle route, with the cycle path shown going towards the bottom of the image acting as a link to Heuston station. The next few images will look at the Heuston link before we return to a copy of this image and continue east on the route:
The route to Heuston takes a number of twists and turns and includes extra traffic lights to/from Heuston than if the cycle route was kept on the quays:
The segregated path on the bridge (shown above) actually marks an improvement from the previous design, but we can’t say the same for the other side of the bridge — there’s loads of space here to include a protected cycle path junction into Heuston and a segregated crossing to the other side of the road for those cycling towards Heuston South Quarter, the Irish Museum of Modern Art or further along the former N4… why are these not provided for?
Overall the new backstreet route (shown in this quick sketch below as a yellow line) is much poorer for linking in with Heuston station (the purple X), than a quay side route (shown in blue). The green line represents the link (as shown in the few images above) to the back street route, while the red line represents a much simpler and shorter possable link from a quay side route into the station. The aqua line represents the trams tracks which many people will cycle on illegally to get from the backstreet route to the station — this will be problematic if high volumes of cyclists use it.
Now, back to the main east-west section of the route… Where the route goes behind the Dublin Civil Defence HQ and the Croppy Acre, the cycle path is built on what is now a footpath! This section is a tram-only section of road/tramway:
It’s only at the Museum Luas stop that the cycle path deviates into the Croppies Acre and around the tram stop:
To the east of the park where traffic is allowed on Benburb Street, access will be maintained to residential car parks by allowing motorists to drive on the Luas tracks in one direction (shown here shaded over in blue).
From here eastwards to Church Street, there are 11 different types of junctions which motorists will be able to crossing (shown with red markers below), it includes two private entrances, but most of these junctions already have or will need traffic lights to make it safe for cyclists traveling in two directions.
The quay side, on the other hand, only has four junctions — which makes the quays perfect in junction terms for a two-way cycle path to run along: this image shows the backstreet junctions in red and he quayside ones in blue:
It’s not clear how exactly these junctions will work (ie if the council are planning new traffic lights or not).
This junction looks unremarkable, but what’s not shown is as important as anything else. The side street here with the red box has no cycling access onto it when it leads to parking facilities for hundreds of people right beside the route and to a bridge which crosses the River Liffey to Watling St (an area of high-density housing) and onto James’s Street / Thomas Street with more housing and lots of employment and places to shop at or visit.
We previously suggested making this bridge two-way for cycling, but now there won’t be a link in any direction between the cycle route and the bridge. This new version of the Liffey Cycle Route seems to have all but abandoned the inner city’s southside.
At the larger junctions, the provisions for motorists to exit the shared tram/car route means that the cycle path and tramway won’t be sequenced to cross the main road at Blackhall Place at the same time — this will add to the waiting time for all users. On some similar quayside junctions motor traffic can only go straight on, so, there’s no turning conflict.
Here’s a cross section element showing the typical widths in the section of the shared tram lane, the cycle path and footpaths:
On this section the cycle path again takes up the spaces of a footpath. In this case, it’s a newly built footpath, built by the apartment block developer. And it was built with good reason — there was demand for walking on both sides of the Luas tracks since the tram line was built and, despite the no walking signs, many people walking around the barriers and along the narrow strip of pavement — will a cycle path change this?
Here’s a cross section showing just how much of a pinch point is made by routing the cycle route by the apartment block… while the image shows a single cyclist, this is still a two-way cycle path. The width calculator on the National Cycle Manual does not account for trams, but using guess work, it seems to suggest that the very minimum width here should be 2.6 metres (including buffer space).
The only space available is just 2 metres, with a wall/windows on one side and passing trams on the other. Saying it might get a bit tight here when trams are passing might be an understatement.
For reference, cargo trikes are typically 0.9 metres wide (without any allowance for movement).
The photo below is a Dublin City Council image of the footpath in question. Note: the large pole currently supports tram wires but this will be removed when the overhead power wires are attached to the apartment block:
As the route goes past Smithfield Square, there’s no provision for contra-flow northbound onto the square:
The roadway is reshaped below using a section of land from the OPW-owned brownfield site shown, but, again, there’s no buffer between the new traffic lane and the cycle path. The kind of buffer which could be useful in stopping illegal parking or loading — and it would not take much space.
Below is where the route reaches Church Street (the Four Courts complex is on the right side of the image). As in previous in-detail looks at route options, note how the roadway on Church Street is widened using the OPW site but the cycle lanes on Church Street are still only dash-lined cycle lanes which motorists can enter at will. Why not provide the tiny little bit of extra space which could allow for making the cycle lane into a segregated and protected cycle path?
The junction where the cycle route links from the quays to Church Street is a nightmare for any cycling travel patterns not along the main cycle path… how, for example, do you get from the existing cycle lane (to the left of the image) to the quayside cycle path (to the right)? Or how to you get from any part of the cycle path to the bridge? Or from the bridge to the cycle path?
And that was the last image and the end of the backstreet detour. However, the drawings released under FOI also show other issues in other sections of the route, such as cycling provision removed across Capel Street bridge (compared to previously drawings the council made public) and narrower cycle paths close to O’Connell Street.
PLEASE consider signing the petitions to keep the Liffey Cycle Route on the quays.
The FOI files can be viewed on Google Drive here.