Lives will be lost before the Liffey Cycle Route is built, was the prediction from a number of city councillors yesterday morning as a Dublin City Council official told the council’s transport committee that its work on the route is now suspended pending a review by the National Transport Authority.
But councillors were split on what option was the best for the 6km Liffey Cycle Route, planned to be one of the first major segregated cycle routes the central area of Dublin City. It is planned to run all the way along the quays from the Phonix Park to the Point Village and link to existing and planned segregated on-street routes and greenways at both ends and in-between.
Because of a lack of concencus among councillors, a review of the project options will start “shortly” the National Transport Authority (NTA) told Dublin City Council last month as the authority ordered the suspension of council work on the project.
In a letter to the council, Hugh Creegan, the NTA’s director of transport investment, said “Unfortunately, and despite considerable efforts, the scheme has not progressed to the stage where a final scheme option has been selected and the project is in a position to move forward to implementation.
“Given the length of time that has elapsed since the commencement of this project, the need to further evaluate some of the recently identified options, together with the emerging potential cost of the overall scheme, we consider that the NTA should now undertake a comprehensive review of the scheme and the various options for it delivery.”
He added: “Accordingly, it is our intention to commence this review shortly and to engage extensively with the city council as part of that process. In addition, we request that further that further work on the scheme is suspended for a period, pending the outcome of the review.”
The NTA has bankrolled the route design and development work since 2012, and it is the main funding body for construction of cycle routes in the Dublin area.
The latest city council update on the cost and timeline for the project, issued after the NTA letter, includes a price tag of €16 million and “earliest likely start Q1 2019” for construction.
A choice for the route called Option 7 had nearly reached the stage it would be voted on before local opposition against the route pushed the development of Option 8, a sub-standard option for cycling which would mix walking and cycling and cost an extra €3 million. The two options were supposed to be reviewed by the council but the NTA has now taken control of the process and widened the review.
As this website reported yesterday, there was heated discussion in the chamber after Cllr Paul Hand (independent) referred to the opposition to the route as including NIMBYs, motor heads and a “political dinosaur”, referring directly to Joe Costello, a former Labour government minister.
A local group called “Save Our Street” is claiming that “motorway” levels of traffic would be diverted via Smithfield and Stoneybatter. It said that there will be “6,000 additional cars, vans and lorries going” but yesterday evening Cllr Hand called this “outright lies”.
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Joe Costello — who is one of the leaders of the local opposition — said yesterday that he is “100% behind the Liffey Cycle Route”, but he does not support Option 7. He said: “What I don’t support is more traffic in my community.”
He said that the campaign against Option 7 was not scaremongering, that locals were not consulted with and that Dublin City Council has refused to attend public meetings locally.
Costello said that “nobody” in the Smithfield area supports Option 7 but when questioned on this he referred the number of impressions on a post on the Facebook page Stoneybatter Pride of Place. IrishCycle.com was pointed to this page previously by locals and others who ‘like’ that page and also support Option 7.
Dublin City Council traffic counts show that there is only on average 377 cars per hour at rush hour on Ellis Quay at Smithfield, but the local opposition is using an inflated figure of 600 vehicles. Supporters of Option 7 also say that the inner orbital route will not accommodate all of the traffic on the quays and this, along with other traffic measures, will mean a reduction in car use.
In an article for Dublininquirer.com, David O’Connor, a lecturer in transport planning and chair of the MSc in spatial planning at DIT Environment and Planning, said: “There is serious evidence that traffic-management measures, such as those proposed by the city council, not only reduce traffic levels, but dramatically improve the health and quality of environment in neighbourhoods around them.”
He wrote: “Put simply, if a new restriction is put in place, few sensible people will drive all the way to it. Most will change their journey plan before they depart. The above might seem fanciful, but it is happening worldwide and there is lots of international evidence to suggest it is good for local areas. There is plenty of evidence from Ireland too.”
Councillors had conflicting views on if Option 7 or 8 was most popular locally and more widely, and which is the better option.
Cllr Janice Boylan (SF) rejected the claim of NIMBYism, said there was real fear and claimed there was no scaremongering.
In a statement issued yesterday evening, Green Party transport spokesperson and chairman of city transport committee, Ciaran Cuffe, described the decision by the NTA as “inappropriate”.
Cllr Cuffe said: “At this stage we need more public participation in the planning process, rather than the withdrawal of funding. During the debate about the car-free plaza for College Green we had a highly successful public consultation evening in the Round Room of the Mansion House. We need this level of engagement within the communities that will be affected by the Liffey Cycleway.”
He added: “More people travel down the quays by bike than by car during rush hour. We need to provide them with a segregated and safe space to travel. Cyclist deaths are up this year – we need more investment, as soon as possible. We’re five years into this process – it is unacceptable to go back to square one. Minister Ross must fund this project, and instruct the NTA to increase rather than cut off funding.”