FEEDBACK NEEDED: Cycling routes for all ages and abilities (draft #2)

Back in March we looked for feedback on a push for better design to aim for cycling routes for all ages and abilities — thank you for all the feedback, we have integrated it now. Below is the second draft, we hope to add images soon and finalise the process very early in the new year:

Moving Ireland Forward: Improving Walking, Cycling and Mobility Design; including CYCLING ROUTES FOR ALL AGES AND ABILITIES.

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Irish street and road design — even with most of the newest projects — continues to be poor and compromised for walking, cycling and general mobility for non-car occupants. This is bad news for safety, the use of taxpayers’ money. It also means that the potential for the transport, health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling is suppressed.

Ireland needs to follow the cycling and general street designs and planning processes of the Netherlands, where walking and cycling are attractive, enjoyable and safe for everybody from young children, older adults and everybody in-between; and where the infrastructure also accommodates mobility devices.

At a national and local level we are asking politicians, government, state agencies and other groups to sign up to higher standards which are based on international best practice. The main elements include:

  1. space for cycling and pedestrians segregated from each other and from motoring
  2. closing
  3. priority at junctions and across side roads
  4. continuity and quality
  5. permeability
  6. contra-flow for cycling

The detail of these points are below.

The idea is that councillors, TDs and groups who sign up must look to adopt higher standards into plans, policies, and law at national, regional and local levels. Councillors should also strive to make sure these standards are upheld when councils are changing their areas and TDs should look to ensure transport funding is well spent on high quality projects.

Blaming those who design such routes is simplifying it too much — often politics, a limited budget, a poor or limited brief or limited options in official design manuals gets in the way.

National guidelines — including the Manual for Urban Roads and Streets, the NTA National Cycle Manual, the NRA/TII rural route cycle manual — are generally good in principle. But these and other guidelines are lacking when it comes to many details and need to be partly rewritten to follow best international design standards.

All such manuals need to be made clearly and more elements need to be legally mandatory to follow for those designing any road and street open to the public. It may also be advisable to put the oversight of these and other roads and streets design manuals under a single authority.

The Details

The following points make up the details of Moving Ireland Forward policy. Without been watered down, the details need to be integrated into current design guidelines, law and any relevant policy documents. The following points should generally be seen as complementary to most of the existing guidance, although where there are conflicts, the below points will overrule existing guidance:

1. Space for cycling and pedestrians segregated from each other and from motoring

  • Giving space to walking and cycling often relates to a mix of “politics of space” or unwillingness or inability to change road layouts — in other words often not an issue of a lack of physical space but an unwillingness to give space to cycling.
  • Cycling and walking need their own space and must be segregated from each other at least in urban areas, Irish and international examples show that this is possible.
  • On main roads and streets, paint is usually not enough between cycling and pedestrians and motorists.
  • On main routes, cycling needs to be segregated from motor traffic; cycling and motoring should generally only be only mixed with cycle lane or mixed lanes on low speed and low volume roads and streets. [define!]
  • Bus stop bypasses or floating bus stops should be used at practically all bus stop to avoid bicycle-bus conflicts (bus stops where there’s low volumes of buses is not an exception as these often have longer loading times and are often used for other uses beyond scheduled buses).
  • On high-volume and high-speed roads designs should strive to include a minimum 1 metre buffer segregation between cycle paths and roadways.
  • Cycling-only space at junctions, standard crossings separate from pedestrians and protected for motor traffic.
  • Where parking is provided alongside a cycle path or cycle lane, there must be a buffer which must be wide enough to allow a car door to be opened.

2. Permeability

  • All councils should be obliged to draw up traffic circulation plans to cover built up areas, and these should clearly define the nature of roads and streets as well as account for the movement of pedestrians, cyclists, users of mobility devices, scooters, public transport, deliveries, HGVs. motorbikes, and cars. This process should influence the roll out of traffic calming and lower speed limits, rather than, for example, streets being defined by their speed limit in a speed-limit process.
  • Cycle routes must be designed to accommodate not just standard bicycles but also allow bicycles of all shapes and sizes to be cycled without dismounting — including bicycles with wide handle bars, panniers, baskets, crates or child seats; cargo bicycles and cargo tricycles (which carry children, goods and even wheelchairs); tricycles for people with balance and mobility issues; bicycles with trailers attached; recumbents; and tandems.
  • The design of many Irish housing estates has restricted permeability and to make walking, cycling and public transport attractive, politicians must accept the principle of removing many of these barriers (walls, fences etc) and not to allow future development to be designed in this way.
  • As a principle cycling and walking permeability should be greater than permeability for cars and other motor traffic.
  • Filtered permeability (using bollards, planters etc) should be used to close through traffic on current residential and other streets and roads with the goal of not just making cycling more attractive but to cut rat-running traffic.
  • On greenways and off-road routes, barriers must be last resort and not standard.
  • Where barriers are deemed to be needed, a single row of bollards with 1.5 metre spacing must be tried first.
  • Where barriers of any type (including bollards) are used authorities must note that such obstacles can cause serious injury, so care must be used in (1) making barriers visible in dark and low light conditions and (2) in not locating barriers directly beside junctions or on ramps or inclines or bends.
  • Swing gates, kissing gates, a-frames and other barriers which stop many types of bicycles must not be used and, where in place, councils should plan for their orderly removal.
  • Permeability must also be considered for easy of access for maintenance.

3. Priority at junctions and across side roads

  • Cycling and walking should have priority at side roads in urban, suburban and village areas where the speed limit is at or below 60km/h.
  • Priority made clear by design and by law, if needed.
  • Continuous footpaths and cycle tracks should be used across entranceway (including to driveways, filling stations, businesses etc) and minor roads/streets – not to be confused with speed table/ entry treatments which are similar to but not the same as continuous footpaths.
  • Dutch junction design — with segregated cycle paths on junctions — should be used. If needed, any law changes must be made, but modern best practice in the Netherlands is to avoid conflicting traffic light signals (ie avoid having motorists turn on green across a cycling crossing with a green light).
  • Modern Dutch-design walking and cycling priority roundabouts or grade segregated roundabouts should be the only type of roundabouts used in urban and suburban areas where people have to cross. Cycling and walking must have priority on roundabouts in urban and suburban areas, this should be possible with our current laws but if needed any law changes must be made as soon as possible.
  • A simultaneous green bicycle phase should be an option for designs, if needed any law changes must be made.
  • As covered in point 1 above, cycling and walking should have their own space at junctions and not be mixed on shared paths or areas.

4. Continuity and quality

  • Disconnected sections of paths or lanes cannot be described as a network of cycle routes — routes have to be comprehensive.
  • While routes need to be continuous, it should be kept in mind that this does not necessarily mean continuous using just one design — for example, Dutch cycle route have continuous and fluid routes but with one route may include various elements, such as a mix of cycle paths, service streets, bicycle streets, and contra-flow cycle lanes.
  • Surface quality should at least meet the standard of parallel roadway, not just at construction stage but on an on-going basis.
  • Tarmac/etc surfacing should be continuous and not interrupted up by kerbs or concrete.
  • Road/street crossings must not be staggered in urban areas
  • Inclines and ramps: Inclines should not exceed 5%. When the vertical climb is very short, a higher grade can be used, but when the total vertical slope is more than 4 meters, a maximum of 4% should be used. Where horizontal sections are used, these must be should be at least 25m horizontal. Junctions and other locations where people cycling are expected to stop or yield, a level stopping zone should be provided.
  • High-quality routes are nothing without good maintenance — maintenance, including access for maintenance equipment, must be considered at the design stage of projects and included in on-going operational budgets.

5. Contra-flow routes

  • One-way streets without provision for cycling in both directions is a major barrier to cycling in most Irish cities and towns; it is the largest permeability issue in many areas.
  • Signage needs to be clear on contra-flow routes and a review must be undertake looking at all current examples of contra-flow and how it can be made clearer to motorists that cycling is allowed both ways (ie standard signs at the with-flow entry point to contra-flow streets attached the normal one-way street signs).
  • The principle of removing one-way streets or roads to make cycling more attractive is often a flawed principle, we should instead follow Dutch design where one-way streets are attractive for both walking, cycling and public transport.
  • If the removal of one-way streets or roads is considered the designers must first look at the impact this will have on the provision of dedicated cycle paths, bus lanes and wider footpaths.
  • On busy one-way streets and roads, such as those in our cities and towns currently designed for high traffic flow, councils should look at providing two-way segregation using two-way cycle paths or one-way cycle paths in each direction.
  • On narrower, low speed one-way residential and town/city centre streets and roads provision should be made by way of cycle paths or lanes, and where that is not possible:
  • Cycling contra-flow without lanes should be used, this has been proven to work extensively in the Netherlands, and cities such as London, Berlin and Paris.
  • Cycling contra-flow without lanes will be as a standalone measure and also as part of “bicycles streets” and/or parts of larger routes made up of different elements.

To be added:

More on grade segregation — segregation under, over, and away from very large junctions and best practice of such.

...That's the end of the article. Keep scrolling if you want to the comments, but *NEEDS* readers like you to keep it that way. It only requires a small percentage of readers to give a bit each month or every year to keep's journalism open to all. Thank you.


  1. Hi

    I don’t see any mention of use of the road when there is a cycleway,it is not reasonable to expect a large group of cyclists travelling at normal traffic speed to use a 1.5 or 2 metre shared use path.
    Thank you for a document that shows what could be done with the right political will.

  2. In New York, they set up a great network of separated bike lanes by trying them first as temporary lanes protected by planting. When the shopkeepers and residents liked a new lane, it would become permanent. That’s what we need to do here.

  3. Great work Cian. Two details you might consider – segregation from tram tracks as well as from other road traffic and facilities for cyclists such as parking at key destinations.

  4. this is excellent and detailed commentary on where we neeed to get to with safe ped/cycling infrastructure and how we could get there. I have a comment to make around ‘segregation’ though which seems to be the panacea for many such campaigns. It may not always be achievable (physically – due to very narrow streets, or economically – prohibitive costs) and sometimes may not even be the best solution. Ive just been to Krakow where ped and cycling safety seems to have been achieved fairly effortlessly with crossings at the neck of every junction; where all vehicles give way to vulnerable road users and where there are alot of shared surface spaces with little or no segregation – just mutual respect between road users. Just a thought.

  5. They should do away with the part time bicycle lanes. To avoid confusion for all road users, it is either there all the time or not at all. I have never seen these in Belgium or The Netherlands.

  6. Agreed on the part-time cycle lanes. It just encourages bad behavior by people with cars. They see cars parked in them at some times of the day and it just becomes accepted behavior all the time.

    Of course, none of it will make a blind bit of difference until there’s proper enforcement.

  7. In response to Sam Lowry, the reason for the unacceptable variance in period of operation, rather than a 24-h/7-day or other standard period, is simply due to local residents’ or business’ opposition when the bus lanes, etc were first proposed! Cyclists use of infrastructure to keep the rider SAFE had to be curtailed to satisfy these demands.
    Each cohort seeks maximum ability to park motor vehicles in these locations. The road space is seen as their space and not a shared public space that should not be handed over to private motorised transport.
    Local Councillors are failing act to ensure that cyclists’ safety is the primary goal. Failure to implement 24-h operation of bus lanes/cycle tracks is one reason why we have almost no children cycling to school and so few females commuting.

  8. But as #Freethecyclelanes has shown there is no official appetite to enforce against nation-wide and flagrant illegal parking in bus lanes and cycle tracks. See the latest collection of breaches here:

  9. The timed bus lanes are of course worse than depicted because people routinely push the limits. Cycle through Ranelagh at 6pm and see how many cars are parked in the 15:00-19:00 clearway.

    The only entertainment I get from this is when someone tells me that it is SOOO confusing with all the different times and so on to know when they can and can’t use the bus lanes. Apparently “reduce confusion by making them all 24/7” is never the answer they are looking for.

  10. Keep up the good work. I realize this is a brief version and including all of the many details in an exhaustive explanation may never be complete because many things change over time. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

    What we even call a bicycle is evolving and includes over fifty frame designs all from varying materials and powered in part or fully with electric motors as well as many novel wheelchairs and handicapped assistance vehicles. Plus, we anticipate different shapes and sizes of motor vehicles with various autonomous capacities.

    I can see this as the second draft of many to come, likely annually, as travel and traveller habit evolves. So I say again, keep up the great work as I look forward to ongoing discissions.


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