Work on constructing sub-standard cycle lanes in Ennis — including sections of cycle lanes only 1.28, 1.38 and 1.5 metres wide — was due to start yesterday (Saturday). The minimum national standard is 1.75 metres.
The project is part of the Ennis Active Travel Town Route 1 by Clare County Council. It covers the Quin Road from the west side of the railway bridge to the Bruach Na hAbhainn housing estate. At the railway bridge it is linked to the town centre via an already constructed shared use walking and cycling bridge over the railway line, making the route a total of around 1km.
Route 1 will also include other cycling-unfriendly elements such as directing people cycling to yield when crossing some private entrances; a narrow section of shared use walking/cycling footpath; directing cyclists into zebra crossing where they legally must dismount to cross; and drains in the middle of narrow cycle lanes.
It is unclear if speeds on the road meet the requirements for “integrated” cycle lanes rather than using segregation — typically regional roads on the outskirts of towns around Ireland have chronic problems with motorists speeding.
While extra width is added to the roadway to add cycle lanes to the road, strips of grass or foliage are retained or even added in some locations with narrow cycle lanes under 1.5 metres. National guidance recommends a width of at least 1.75 metres for cycle lanes and solid-lined cycle lanes, but all of the cycle lanes will be broken-lined ones, legally allowing motorists to drive and park in them.
Clareherald.com reports that the project also includes two zebra crossings and was due to start yesterday.
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Using cycle lanes is the wrong approach for this type of road
It’s hard to blame Clare County Council for the quality of this route — a lack of high-quality guidance, enforcement of guidance and funding are more likely to be responsible. High-quality segregated cycle route are time and time again shown to be the preference of the public across the world, but our national guidance is confusing in this regard and often contradicts best practice in places like the Netherlands.
For example, the National Cycle Manual shockley recommends that “segregated facilities are generally NOT recommended” at junctions — that’s the opposite of Dutch practice which continues segregation up to junctions and even includes segregation at main junctions on parts of routes mostly made up of non-segregated cycle lanes.
There’s a bias in Ireland and other countries against the benefits of two-way cycle routes along main route, but this stretch of route would be ideal for a high-quality, Dutch-like, two-way cycle path.
A two-way cycle path on the south side of the Quin Road with a (small) buffer between the cycle path users and the roadway could provide a safe route for users of all ages and abilities and would link better with the existing cycling access across the railway.
There are six junctions along this route, but these are mostly private entrances to businesses and two or three of them could be removed (with access already provided by existing duplicated entrances). A two-way route would not be perfect, as it would have to include a shared walking and cycling section at the bridge over the River Fergus, but it would still be better than the current plan to dump people cycling into general traffic at the bridge.
With a reduction of entrances and the use Dutch-style raised crossings at the side roads/entrances, a two-way cycle route on this road would be a small start to safer and attractive cycling in Ennis. What’s planned won’t scratch the surface of cycling’s potential.
Project drawings on clarecoco.ie: