— Council say Option 7 is still best route for walking, cycling and buses.
— More expensive and ‘compromise’ Option 8 follows opposition.
Dublin City Council officials have maintained that Option 7 of the Liffey Cycle Route is the best route but are opting to recommend the more expensive Option 8 which includes cycling-only boardwalk-like structures and mixes cycling and walking at a number of points.
The council said that noise and environmental modelling work to date has not shown any significant issues with Option 7, but, despite this, the council has rowed back on that option and is recommending councillors and other traffic committee members to approve Option 8.
The problem area for the route is the pinch points in the width of the quays around Smithfield, between Blackhall Place and the Four Courts. Solving this problem allows for the full 4.5km Liffey Cycle Route between the Phoenix Park and the Point Village.
Features of the route along the pinch-point section include:
- The two-way cycle route crossing footpaths 7 times in less than 600 metres.
- Shared footpath junctions at the James Joyce and Rory O’More bridge.
- A traffic-light type bus gate at Queen St which will sometimes slow buses.
- “Costly” boardwalk-like structures for cycling only.
- An 85 metre shared pedestrian / cycling section just 2.85 metres wide.
The council thinks that cycling-only boardwalk-like structures will also mean that the project will likely have to go to An Bord Pleanala with an environmental impact statement.
The 85 metre shared pedestrian and cycling section is indicated as shared in the written report, while in cross-section drawings it is marked as a two metre wide two-way cycle path and a 0.85 metre footpath. Regardless of if it is a fully shared surface or not, the narrow space is between the high quay wall and a traffic lane with no buffers, meaning its effective usable width is narrower than 2.85 metres.
The 85 metre shared section will run beside a new longer turning lane to Blackhall Place, and centre-running bus lane, and a straight-ahead lane for general traffic. East of Blackhall Place, a bus lane and a general traffic lane will be provided, although this will narrow to a single lane controlled by traffic lights at Mellows Bridge.
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A report written by the council in advance of the Dublin City transport committee meeting next week can be read in full below.
In the report, Brendan O’Brien, head of traffic division at Dublin City Council, said: “Option 7 offers the best solution for the Liffey Cycle Route, meets the original objectives of the project, namely the provision of a segregated cycle route connecting Heuston Station to the Tom Clarke Bridge and prioritises Pedestrians, Cyclists and Public Transport.”
But he says that the council is “also aware that there is considerable opposition from councillors, residents, schools and businesses to the possible impacts on the local residents of the proposed rerouting [of traffic]”. Potential ill-effects of Option 7 were strongly highlighted by car park owners, city-centre businesses, and one councillor who thinks another planned cycle route will be bad for motorist’s mental health.
Drawings and cross-sections
The following are sections of (low-image-quality) drawings attached to the report: KEY: Light grey = bus lane; dark grey = general traffic lanes; mid-grey = footpaths; yellow = two-way cycle paths; red = tactile paving at crossings:
The pinch point section drawings start west of Blackhall Place at Liffey Street West:
The first cross section is from west of the Rory O’More Bridge:
The second cross-section is between the Rory O’More Bridge and the James Joyce Bridge:
At the James Joyce Bridge, shown below, there’s another two shared footpath junctions for cycling and pedestrians. The the first cycling-only boardwalk starts east of the James Joyce Bridge:
A close-up of the James Joyce Bridge section:
It’s unclear at this point how the two-way cycle path boardwalk can interact with the structure of the James Joyce Bridge and its curved glass footpath (shown in the bottom right of the above drawing). Below image from Google Street View:
A Mellows Bridge, the cycle route will have to return inside the quay wall crossing the footpath twice and require a traffic light design to created a timed bus gate, which will delay cars but also buses and taxis:
A higher-quality image of this was provided in the report: The traffic island to the left of the image will allow traffic to be stopped to give priority to the bus lane traffic, but buses will sometimes be stopped when car traffic gets past the pinch-point:
These two cross-sections — which are close to each other — show the end of the first boardwalk west of Mellows Bridge:
The second cycle path boardwalk streches from Mellows Bridge to Father Mathew Bridge at Church Street / the Four Courts, where the cycle route re-joins the existing roadway area inside the quay wall:
Cross-section E-E is the location shown in the above drawing, on the half way section between Mellows Bridge and Church Street:
What the council report states in full:
Liffey Cycle Route: Option Update
Head of Technical Services
Environment and Transportation Department
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Liffey Cycle Route: Option Update Alternative Proposal Background At the SPC in February 2017, DCC presented Option 7 for the Liffey Cycle Route (LCR) which proposed a solution to the pinch point along Ellis Quay and at Mellowes bridge, by converting the general traffic lane to a two way segregated cycle track, as there is not enough space to accommodate a bus lane general traffic lane and a two way cycling lane.
This would have involved rerouting of general traffic to the north and south of the quays in order to allow for the LCR to remain on the quays.
Option 7 offers the best solution for the LCR , meets the original objectives of the project, namely the provision of a segregated cycle route connecting Heuston Station to the Tom Clarke Bridge and prioritises Pedestrians, Cyclists and Public Transport.
However DCC is also aware that there is considerable opposition from councillors, residents, schools and businesses to the possible impacts on the local residents of the proposed rerouting and a strong view that DCC should re-evaluate the pinch point at Mellowes bridge to determine if there was any other feasible solutions before proceeding any further with Option 7.
While the noise and environmental modelling work undertaken to date have not shown any significant issues with Option 7, DCC felt it was prudent in light of the local concerns to review options on the Quays prior to finalising the design.
Therefore it was decided to undertake a detailed review of the pinch point and to determine if there were any possible alternatives to moving general traffic away from the North Quays.
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Taking into account we cannot alter Mellowes bridge we then prepared a design which took elements of Option 7, namely the reduction of the quays to one lane, but now only at Mellowes Bridge on the upstream and downstream immediate approaches and combined it with a boardwalk for cyclists on Ellis Quay and Arran Quay. This would provide a 4 metre two way cycle track cantilevered from the Quay walls but crucially coming back on road at Mellowes Bridge so that the bridge structure could remain untouched.
Therefore there would be a bus lane and a general traffic lane on the approach to Mellowes bridge, approximately 30 metres before the bridge the two lanes would merge to one for a distance of approximately 65 metres before reverting to a bus lane and a general traffic lane.
The approach to the one lane section would be controlled by traffic signals with priority being given to public transport while still allowing general traffic to move through this one lane section provided there was space ahead to move into.
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A boardwalk has previously been considered in this area. The original proposal had called for the boardwalk to be tied into either side of Mellowes Bridge with the parapet of the bridge being modified to allow for the cycle route to pass through this area. However that proposal was rejected following a Heritage Impact Assessment that concluded that “Mellowes Bridge as an architectural entity is simply too important to carry out any significant alteration to its existing historic fabric”.
This proposal differs in a number of ways.
- The boardwalk would be used by cyclists with pedestrians continuing to use the existing riverside footpaths.
- The boardwalk wouldn’t be tied into Mellowes Bridge but would be brought through the quay wall immediately upstream and downstream of the bridge.
- The two-way cycle route would continue through the pinch point at Mellowes Bridge using the lane currently being used by general traffic. Access to the remaining lane would be controlled by new traffic signals upstream of Mellowes Bridge which would alternatively allow either buses or general traffic through the shuttle. This would allow for priority to be given to buses during peak times while still allowing general traffic to use this route.
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Compromise for all modes
The proposal would entail compromises for all modes. At certain time motorists and to a lesser extent buses/taxis will have to queue at the shuttle. Signals will be required to control the interaction between cyclists and pedestrians at entrances and exits to the boardwalks. In addition a shared space between pedestrians and cyclists is proposed upstream of James Joyce Bridge (as pedestrian volumes are low and a boardwalk is not considered warranted).
There are a number of risks associated with this proposal, the main one being the overall state of the quay wall in this location. Considerable site investigation works would be required before the viability of a boardwalk could be confirmed. That said, the proposal has been circulated internally within DCC and while a number of challenges have been identified, there is nothing at this stage to suggest that proposal could not be realized. From a planning perspective, the inclusion of a boardwalk in this option means the proposal is likely to require an EIA.
The proposal would be considerably more expensive that Option 7. However the National Transport Authority are aware of this proposal and they have indicated that they would be willing to fund it if it proves to be a viable option.
Despite the inherent compromises, risks and additional costs associated with this proposal it does have the principle benefit of allowing the Liffey Cycle Route to remain on the quays and also still allows general traffic to remain on the quays.
As stated initially, DCC remains of the view that Option 7 offers the best solution towards meeting the objectives of the Liffey Cycle Route, however as previously stated we are aware of the concerns raised regarding this option. Accordingly we have looked further at a number of options and have designed a compromise solution which would allow general traffic to stay on Ellis Quay and Arran Quay, while providing a two way cycle track on the Liffey side.
This design does have some compromises including the single lane at Mellowes Bridge and sharing of space at a number of areas between cyclists and pedestrians. In addition it requires costly and complex works to provide the boardwalks along the two quay walls.
Notwithstanding these concerns we would recommend to the SPC that we proceed with this option and look to finalise the scheme.
Please note that it is our opinion that due to extensive nature of the works required for the Boardwalks that an EIA will be needed for the scheme, with submission of an EIS to An Bord Pleanala in due course.
Head of Technical Services (Traffic)
Environment and Transportation Department