COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Phibsborough in Dublin is now effectively the testing ground for two-way cycling on otherwise one-way streets (aka contra-flow cycling) on narrow streets without any cycle lanes.
Contra-flow measures allow people cycling to legally go two-ways on otherwise one-way streets. There’s a few ways of implementing contra-flow cycling — over at irishcycle.com/contra-flow there’s an overview including local examples.
Contra-flow isn’t very common in Ireland, but the most common type is where there is a cycle lane or cycle path going contra-flow on one-way streets. It’s the reverse of the situation across the Netherlands, and in cities like Brussels, Paris, London, etc, where contra-flow without lanes on narrow, low-speed streets seems to be more common. Here’s some international examples…
Amsterdam, The Netherlands; motorists going one-way and cyclists going in both directions mix and it works:
Wassenaar, The Netherlands: again no separate lane for contra-flow:
Berlin, Germany:again, no lanes, not even at the entry/exit point to the street:
Paris, France; with a cycle lane at the start but this is short-lived and there’s mostly no lane along the full length of the street:
Leiden, The Netherlands; here’s an example of the with-flow entry side, with an except bicycles sign, which lets motorists know cyclists are legally allowed to go both ways:
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Usher Street, Dublin City: This is actually an example of just a contra-flow entry point with physical segregation (the rest of the street is marked as two-way for all and it’s also not a very narrow street):
Back in Dublin, there’s also a long-standing example in Phibsborough on the Royal Canal Bank (a street is named after a long-filled in branch of the Royal Canal which used to run down to Broadstone). This is once of such long-standing arangments, the other two are on quite streets on south side.
This writer had the privilege of using this example regularly when commuting from DCU into the city centre and later when living in Glasnevin and commuting into the city.
As someone who has used it and lot and talked to other who have used it, there’s no issue with it: maybe one driver in 100 might look annoyed maybe because they don’t realise cyclists are allowed both ways but that can be fixed with improved signage, but even the one driver out of a 100 doesn’t result in any notable issues as it is:
In 2013 when we used the above image while surveying councillors on cycling issues, the vast bulk of responding councillors supported wider use of such contra-flow:
We’re not sure when the Royal Canal Bank example was put in place (answers on a post car please!), but it is likely in place for at least 10 year at this stage.
Unlike many contra-flow examples, this contra-flow route (shown in green below) is not a short cut in distance terms. It’s more of a bypass of the heavy traffic on the main streets in Phibsborough (shown in red below):
But as we reported last year, there’s a new kid on the block or, more precisely, on in the block on the other side of the Phibsborough Road — on Leinster Street North, which is also in Phibsborough.
The design of the Leinster Street North example included the council removing the painted no entry road markings and the addition of a bicycle logos and directional arrows facing the existing one-way directional arrows:
It’s unusual to see but it gets the point across:
The Leinster Street North example (in green below) is shorter than the alternative (in red below), but it also minimises the amount of time on busier roads (Connaught Street and Phibsborough Road):
We recently made a site visit to Leinster Street North. The darkness wasn’t the best for photo-taking but it tested it in poor lighting conditions:
It was busy enough in the short time we were there but it worked even in the dark:
There could probably be more signs or markings at the Phibsborough Road end of the street to highlight that bicycles are allowed to be cycled both ways:
The council are using a long-standing legal framework which allows this set up (effectively the street is not a totally one-way street but at one end it’s no entry except bicycles. In Irish law it also seems to only work with the old-style no entry signs, not the continental-style ones which were rolled out in the last few years.
Overall the council seems happy with its examples in places, the bulk of councillors are in favour of it, and local and international examples are proven to work. There’s no safety issues which can’t be overcome, and this type of contra-flow is a basic pro-cycling measure in most cycling-friendly towns and cities which have narrow one-way streets.
So, why has the Department of Transport for years resisted greater roll out of this contra-flow? Why has it not just added it to its manual for road signs? Or, if any law tweeks are needed, why have they not pushed ahead with such reforms?