Fairview trees could be saved with a two-way cycle path

COMMENT & ANALYSES: Local councillor Nial Ring (independent) said last week on Facebook (and similar things in news article afterwards) that “Dublin City Council is proposing to remove/destroy 62 trees from Fairview to facilitate a new cycle path”, but is this true? It’s a bit more complicated.

It involves a cycle route, but it also involves competing interests and desires. The destruction of the trees is not required for the cycle route and a better, safer, and more attractive cycle route than the one planned can be built without knocking down the trees.

The competing interests are wide-ranging. They include councilors and others who don’t want to see traffic lanes reduced, and those who think traffic lanes should be taken out before trees are cut down.

Other interests include the National Transport Authority and one of its planned bus route upgrades (to so-called BRT standard). And there’s the council officials who want an “esplanade” — translation: a shared walking and cycle path with fancy paving running along a redefined edge of Fairview park.

Then there’s the planned cycle route. Despite planning on holding Velo City in 2019, an international cycling conference, with the tagline “cycling for the ages”, the council are set against proper, Dutch-like segregated cycle paths suitable for all ages and abilities.

Strangely, when other locals are already mounting such a campaign against the trees being cut, Cllr Ring has told dublinlive.ie that “Basically myself, Christy Burke and Damien O’Farrell are going to organise a major campaign.” The trees are just the latest thing Cllr Ring is using to fight against the cycle route, but the cycle route could be a lot better without cutting down the trees.

There’s loads of space inside the tree line for separation of cycling and walking (see images) — and this is much the same for nearly all of the length of the park. Most of the current shared surface of the footpath / one-way cycle path between the trees and the roadway can be greened, with space left for bus stops and cycling and walking crossings.

Dublin needs a high-quality cycle route and this can be provided without cutting down the trees. The current plan from the council is too low grade and does not provide for “cycling for the ages”. 

At public consultation for the project a two-way cycle path was also the main preference of individuals, businesses, councillors and cycling groups. It’s not only practical, it has support. 

Space inside the tree line:

There’s only a small section where anywhere near major clearance is needed and that clearance is mostly of overgrown bushes:

Concept cross-sections:

The images below show an outline concept — note: this will work with or without changing the current roadway (for a BRT route or whatever). And also note that this is a concept, while it will fit, the measurements here aren’t supposed to directly relate to any one section (the widths vary).

[images made with streetsketch.mobycon.nl, switched to English]

And a version with the cycle path split by the tree line:

Real-world examples of concept elements:


Two-way cycle path split by a line of trees — this example is in central Amsterdam where the two-way cycle path runs along one side of a busy road, much the same as Fairview:

The buffer between the cycle path and the roadway allows space for cycling turning movements — woman in red and black to the right of the image below is waiting for a traffic light. The buffer space allows her to do it without getting in the way of the cycle path flow:

Two-way cycle path with buffer enables children of difference ages to cycle, examples from Leiden:


A family / families of tourists cycling on a two-way cycle path near Wassenaar:

Island bus stop (or “bus stop bypass” arrangement) between cycle path and bus lane in central Utrecht on busiest cycle route in the Netherlands and high-frequency bus street:

Island bus stop (or “bus stop bypass” arrangement) between cycle path and bus lane in Leiden:

Two-way cycle paths with green buffers including trees in Utrecht:

Two-way cycle path at signalised junction:

Low-level shrubs / bushes between cycle path and roadway, both images from Amsterdam:

Green buffer between two-way cycle path and road in suburban Amsterdam:

Clear visual priority given to cycle path when it crosses side street:

*concept examples ends*


  1. Is there anything else that Niall Ring is as vocal about as his opposition to anything bicycle?

    I’m against cutting down those trees too, I just suspect that Ring wouldn’t be organising a major campaign if this was to facilitate a nice car park or something.

    I don’t like two way cycle lanes for a lot of locations. Basically anywhere that a cyclist is likely to want to access the other side of the road. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone is in favour of these. The location here, with the cycle lane inside the trees, and presumably fence, woudl make it much more awkward for people who wanted to access the shops or side roads on the west side of the road.

    Perhaps this is the best solution in this particular case but I don’t see why a single direction cycle path on each side of the road is being ruled out. I guarantee that cyclists who choose not to use any new cycle lane because they need to leave it before the next exit point will suffer increased aggression, and be endangered by, vigilante assholes in motor vehicles.

    • @Eric I’m not saying everyone is in favour, I’m saying the majority area.

      With the amount of pedestrian crossings planned for along Fairview, there will be plenty of chances to access side roads compared to the current situation where crossing is next to impossible. I’d suggest a cycle crossing attached to each of those pedestrian crossings.

      If the trees are not touched, there will also still be space for the existing with-flow cycle lane or a slight (non-segregated) upgrade of it along this section (although not on North Strand Road or further in).

      The reason two-way was originally chosen and why most people support it is because it allows for the highest of quality of route overall, in terms of safety, attractiveness and capacity. That’s even accounting for those who might have to wait a little longer to cross.

  2. I fully support keeping the trees (and the pedestrian overpass for that matter), but I think a two-way cycle path on one side of the road is a terrible design in that specific spot. I lived in The Netherlands for 11 years and I haven’t seen two-way cycle paths used in this scenario, they tend to be either used where there is little need to navigate to side-streets (i.e. where they don’t follow the road) or on major streets where there’s two-way cycle paths on both sides of the street.

    The only way a two-way cycle path would make sense would be if people were only using the path to go to the southside. If we’re looking for a liveable city, then we need to allow bikes to naturally navigate from street to street, which a two-way cycle path wouldn’t deliver in this case.

    The bigger issue, as you’ve often rightfully point out, is the obsession with allowing a lot of cars down the route instead of planning an increased supply of alternative, higher capacity transport. I think we should focus there and reassess why we’re compromising what I would consider the minimum needed on a road like this.

    • @Cmcgovern — two-way cycle paths are used in the Netherlands where segregated cycle paths are hard fit on both sides — this is the case on the full route, so, you need two-way on the full route.

      Two-way path are also used in the Netherlands where there’s strong desire line for allowing people to go two-way and there is such on the park side in Fairview given the S2S nearby and the two-way routes at the canal and Liffey.

      None of this rules out keeping the current cycle lanes in Fairview and upgrading these at a later stage or upgrading them as part of this project.

  3. @Cian Ginty,

    I appreciate the fast response. I can’t think of an example of a cycle path in a city street in Utrecht where I lived working like this. Any major route into the centre of the city had single direction separated cycle paths with raised ramps on side streets so that the lane had priority.

    I’m not saying I never saw two-direction lanes, there are plenty of them, but if the road had significant traffic on both sides that needed to be able to exit or approach the road from various side-streets, then there was always a lane on either side of the road.

    I understand that we can upgrade in the future, although given the difficulty with the current route, I’m not confident that upgrade would happen. My bigger fear is that we encounter the same problem as I have at the canal each day where if you want to traverse a short distance going east, you’re better off on the road, because the difficulty in crossing to access the lane isn’t worth it just to get to the next junction. That encourages the conclusion that even with provision, cyclists will ignore infrastructure.

    I’d plead with the cycle groups to reconsider what seems to me a poor design in this case.

    • @cmcgovern — two of the photos in this article of the two-way cycle path on Graadt van Roggenweg in Utrecht. There’s also similar sections of other routes in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities.

      There’s really no accounting for some people’s views on cycling and not using cycle paths etc.

      A segregated two-way cycle path on this route is far more in compliment with Dutch standards than anything practical which could be built on this route without making North Strand one-way for cars or removing bus lanes on what will be a BRT route (both are not practical).

  4. @Cian

    Graadt van Roggenweg has cycle paths on both sides of the road. I’m not sure what your point is. It’s a major arterial route, not a city street like North Strand or Amien’s St.

    • @cmcgovern

      Graadt van Roggenweg has two-way segregated cycle path on one side and on the other side there service streets that links to an unsegregated and narrow cycle lane — the worst provision I’ve seen on any large road in Utrecht and possibly anywhere in the Netherlands. Most people use the two-way route on the opposite side.

      North Strand and Amiens Street are streets, but they are also part of a major arterial route.

      In realpolitik terms, there’s no way to get Dutch-like segregated, with segregation at junctions and bus stops, on North Strand and Amiens Street and down to the quays without going two-way.

  5. @Cian – The BRT route is an interesting one. I went to the consultation sessions and made the point that mixing lanes and bus stops is a deal-breaker. I’d be interested in researching how much time is actually saved by insisting on allowing buses to overtake within the lane.

    Again in Utrecht, there’s a quality bus corridor into the city but they have no such provision. I didn’t see any problem with it.

    Regarding being forced to the non-cycle lane part of the road, it’s an unnecessary inconvenience to design a cycle path to be inaccessible if you’re going the wrong way. I’m not so much worried about what people think day-to-day, rather what they think when funds are being allocated.

  6. I think the critical point is that they are streets. Your Utrecht example is a major route outside the city centre with a tram running down the middle. If we were discussing the Naas road into town, it would be a relevant example (where I’d totally advocate a two way path), but it’s far more like Nachtegaalstraat and Nobelstraat (worth checking out on google street view).

    Realpolitik doesn’t require a bad design, even DCC think it’s a bad design to have a two-way path on one side. We do ourselves no favours as cyclists by advocating for it.

    • There’s also a section of two-way cycle path that goes into Vredenburg, in central Utricht, and there’s also two-way cycle paths on Prins Hendrikkade in Amsterdam (even when there’s a strong desire line to the train station on the other side). Amsterdam also has two-way paths or sections of such on other streets (ie Geldersekade, Jan van Galenstraat etc). These are also just the examples I have seen and cycled on, there are other examples.

      I think I have cycled on the Nobelstraat section, but not Nachtegaalstraat. Can check it out later this month. In the meanwhile, I checked both out on Google as you suggested and the junctions design (ie at Maliebaan and Wittevrouwensingel) seem dated, well below the modern standards set by newer projects in the city. The nature of these two streets are more comparable to Rathmines than North Strand. I can’t see any realistic way out of North Strand remaining a major route for both buses and private traffic (although it will be hopefully re-balanced a bit towards buses and cycling).

      Two-way cycle paths make sense when they help provide good quality segregation and help accommodate strong desire lines. The desire lines I’m thinking of include: Liffey Cycle Route to all of the suburbs north of North Strand, S2S to Docklands and Grand Canal Route via the Royal Canal, S2S to Connolly, Fairview Park to East Wall, etc. For the other movements, there’s space at the main junctions (the quays, the Five Lamps, East Wall / Poplar Row etc) to provide for large turning areas and there there will be enough crossing to provide for more localised access along North Strand.

      DCC’s list of issues don’t stand up to any level of examination, see page 18 of the IrishCycle.com submission on the route. But most of the reasons against two-way given by the council are just excuses — the two main issues are:

      (1) The council don’t want to give cycling Dutch-like protection at junctions. Their reasoning for this is possable delays for motorists or buses or both — that issue would be made far worse providing cycle paths in both directions.

      (2) The council, due to the NTA, want to use an experimental design where normal buses wait in an area mixed with cycling, so BRT buses can zoom by. The design should be rulled out regardless of the cycle path type chosen, but higher quality Dutch-like segregation is far more attainable with two-way as there’s more space for bus stop bypasses if they are kept to just one side of the road.

      What most cycling groups and most groups of people support is a two-way cycle route that pushes the council’s parameters for the route, but it’s within Realpolitik and also within good design, far better than any single direction paths than can be accommodated on the route.

  7. I think the biggest challenge you have is that given they cannot, or will not, design proper junctions, I don’t see how local access is achieved.

    Your comment about desire lines pretty much answers my question from the beginning, namely that a lot of cycling traffic is likely to be traversing the route for the most part in your view.

    Maybe I am being overambtious to suppose we could convince the DCC to build the ideal provision, but I do have a fear that the compromises don’t force them to reconsider their position on priority. I think you’re spot on in another article to say that this is political, not technical.

    The bus stop notion is madness, no route, no matter how delivered, can succeed with that.

  8. I would also tend to be against a 2-way cycle track on one side only along Fairview. I think given the width of the road (that in itself should be re-examined) people travelling away from town would much prefer to cycle along the north side of the street. I know that I’m going to be reluctant to cross over to the south side to use the cycle-track (unless a huge change in junction layout and priorities is implemented).

    However…. having said that, this is Ireland, not NL :( and the sad reality is that we probably do need to opt for the 2-way on the south side of the street for now. As cycling numbers increase, I think we’ll then be able to go for segregated cycle-lanes on the north and south side.

  9. Cian….article appreciated and certainly the opportunities are there to vary the design as required, and to meet many of the objections of locals and campaigners alike. Speaking individually as a member of Dublin Cycling Campaign, we were, and continue to be, very disappointed with the approach of the City Council to this important flagship project, and made a trenchant submission against the present proposals. This route is the first on-road design proposal for Dublin’s Primary Cycle Network, and unfortunatey it is seriously flawed.
    We in the Cycling Campaign, despite the delays that would occur, have urged the City Council to revisit the project in full, and conduct a comprehensive consultation process as part of that redesign. The trees have become a major talking point, but we have not been told if they are proposed to be removed because of age or disease issues, or simply to facilitate the proposed design, which makes little sense, as you point out in your article.
    I think it is also worth mentioning that the proposed cycleway link through Fairview Park beside the Tolka River and under the railway, will link directly to the iconic 2-way Clontarf cycle route.’, but as pointed out by some of the comments above ithere is also a need to link into the Marino area and Malahide & Howth Roads. Good design for all of these links is possible.
    If any of your correspondents wishes to engae with these issues across the county on a variety of routes, join us in Dublin Cycling campaign at http://www.dublincycling.ie , or come along to our monthly public meeting on 2nd Monday of every month – nexct meeting is Monday 14th August.

  10. As with some of the other commenters, my concern is with access to turns off the north side of Fairview (which is much the nastier side in the current arrangements). I wish the council were better at treating cycling as a commuting option, with safe and convenient access needed to all routes, rather than a leisure activity where you can chose your route by where the provision is. Currently it is possible to take the (very slow) option of taking a bike across all the pedestrian crossings into Fairview Park, to avoid the hideously unsafe northbound cycle lane, but as someone who then wants to turn up the Howth Road I’ve always found it remarkably hard to get back again. The Clontarf seafront route still also suffers with access problems – in places you have to lift your bike over a wall to get onto it.


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