— New plan welcomed by campaigners and councilors from different parties
— Cars to be diverted off quays, while bicycles and buses to get priority
— Opposition from motoring groups and car park owners expected to be strong.
Walking, cycling and public transport are to be prioritised in a new plan for the Liffey Cycle Route, which will divert cars off the quays between the James Joyce Bridge and the Four Courts.
The new route plan — called Option 7 — comes after previous options, one to divert buses and another to divert bicycles, were criticised by councillors and others. The previous plan to divert cycling off the quays also compromised on footpaths, but the new plan corrects this and retains all footpaths.
“In light of the negative commentary received in relation to Option 5, it was decided to completely review all options for the Liffey Cycle Route from Church Street Bridge to Frank Sherwin Bridge in order to meet the requirements set out both in the original project brief and the clearly stated preference of the transport committee members,” said Brendan O’Brien, head of technical services for the environment and transportation department of Dublin City Council.
O’Brien made the comments in a council report sent to councillors and other transport committee members, ahead of the next meeting of that committee scheduled for Wednesday.
He cited complaints from councillors, the National Council for the Blind and the Dublin Cycling Campaign as reasons for the review.
He said: “Members of the transport committee asked that if this option was to proceed that it should no longer be called the Liffey cycle route as it no longer met the objective of the original proposal which was to provide the high quality segregated cycle route along the Liffey quay. It was also felt that there was now a loss of an iconic route along the river in favour of a side route which would not provide full segregation and which the NCBI also felt may cause problems for visually impaired users of the Luas stop at Croppies Acre.”
The news follows plans in other cities which have favoured walking and cycling over cars along riverfronts — London also removed traffic lanes for a two-way cycle path, and, last week, councillors in Paris agreed to permanently close a 3.3km section of motorway on the right bank of the Seine. The new plan for Dublin is likely to be at least as contentious as the plan in Paris, however the Dublin project was strongly welcomed over the weekend by three city councillors and the Dublin Cycling Campaign.
The chairman of the council’s transport committee, Cllr Ciaran Cuffe (Green) welcomed the latest plan. He said: “I am pleased with the latest proposal and believe that it is a reasonable compromise that meets the needs of all transport users. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, and now is the time to get it built.”
Cllr Andrew Montague (Labour) said: “The new scheme looks good. It offers a fully segregated, two-way cycle route along the river from Heuston Station to the Point Depot. This will encourage more people to cycle bringing health benefits to them and reduced pollution and congestion in the city.”
Cllr Paddy Smyth (FG), a member of the transport committee, said he was “Broadly supportive” of the latest plan. He added: “It is essential the cycle route is on quays. Although, it’s disappointing that extending Cropping Acre to the river is not being incorporated into the project. It’s a missed opportunity.”
Colm Ryder, a spokesman for Dublin Cycling Campaign and chairman of Cyclist.ie, said: “Dublin Cycling Campaign are delighted with the latest draft design, Option 7, for the Liffey Cycle Route, which keeps cycling and public transport along Dublin’s north quays for its full length. This was the popular choice of the majority of original submissions made to previous consultations on the route.”
Keeping the cycle route on the quays was also the key aim of this website’s Save the Liffey Cycle Route campaign, which is now supported by 1,600 members of the public.
The council’s report focuses on the section of the north quays which is contentious due to the lack of width along part of the section which causes a pinch point in the route.
In the area between the James Joyce Bridge at Blackhall Place and Church Street, before the Four Courts, the latest plan includes: retaining current footpaths and the bus lane, and adding a segregated two-way cycle path on the quay-side.
Private motorists traveling through the area will be diverted at Blackhall Place to go up around Smithfield. The option of diverting to the southside will remain available just before Blackhall Place at the Rory O’More Bridge which links Ellis Quay to Watling Street.
As well as a continuous segregated cycle route, the highlights of the proposed scheme are listed as buses and taxis staying on the quays; no boardwalk needed; no intervention at any of the historic Liffey bridges; and no changes required at any part of Croppies Acre. The issue of Croppies Acre had been controversial with many residents, due to a now scrapped plan to move buses onto Benburb Street, and Republican groups for interfering with the Croppies Acre memorial park.
The outline of the new solution will be presented to councillors and other committee members on Wednesday, it is then expected to be presented formally as part of the entire Liffey Cycle Route at the proceeding committee meeting on November 23.
At the November meeting it is hoped that the transport committee will agree that the entire project — from the Point Village to the Phoenix Park — can proceed to public consultation using the standard Part 8 procedure. If approved to proceed to Part 8, the project could be ready for public consultation by the middle of 2017 and, after that, it would then return to councillors at a full city council meeting for the final approval or rejection.
The transport committee also includes 12 councillors and five ‘sectoral’ members from the Dublin City Business Improvement District, Dublin Cycling Campaign, Irish Road Haulage Association, An Taisce / Public Participation Network representative, and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland.