COMMENT: Dublin City Council are planning to reduce the number of southbound traffic lanes in Fairview from two lanes to one for a length of just under 300 metres — but it’s not as simple as blaming this on the cycle route.
It clearly is being blamed on the planned Clontarf to City Centre Cycle Route, but the reason for the pinch point is that local councillors opposed the removal of the footbridge.
The footbridge is not compliant with accessibility law and was originally planned to be removed as part of the cycle route project. Extra pedestrian crossings — accessibly to all — were planned to be installed instead of the footbridge.
Some local councillors were concerned with the safety of pedestrian crossings of the 6 lane road (two general lanes in each direction and a bus lane in each direction). This should be part of a wider debate (more on that later).
Others were concerned what impact extra crossing would have on delaying traffic — the unintended result was the removal of a section of traffic lane instead. Likely a far worse for traffic delay in terms of reliability.
There’s an argument to have about reducing the number of lanes of traffic in Fairview to increase quality of life for residents of the area and there’s examples of everything from highway removal to lane reduction (for example: From ring road to city boulevard).
Fighting in support of the lane remove would make sense if it was for better bus or cycling capacity, safety or priority — which helps gives people an alternative to car use.
But that’s not what’s happening in Fairview where the reason for the lane removal is because of an footbridge which was due for removal, was originally planned to be removed as part of the cycle route, and which impedes the mobility of groups of people who can’t use the bridge.
There’s not enough to be gained for people holding onto support for retaining the footbridge — well-designed pedestrian crossings will be safer than people who can’t or won’t use the footbridge dashing across the road (which is a common sight near the footbridge), and pedestrian crossings should also be more accessible for a wider range of people.
The cycle route needs to be made a lot better than planned (for example, by using a two-way cycle path). The cycle route, however, isn’t really the issue here.
It’s also not strictly an issue of the politics of space. It’s more like the politics of making a flawed decision not to remove the pedestrian bridge and nobody bothering to revisit that when it has caused major unintended consequences.
As mentioned earlier, there’s probably a case for a wider debate on what Fairview is.
While the roadway at Fairview serves as a bridging point between three urban regional roads north and south of it, it’s also a local shopping area, it has schools on it and it has residential areas to one side and a large park and community services on the other side.
Hopefully, the alternative transport options provided by the cycle Route and the planned BRT can help with the debate. The focus right now, however, should be getting the cycle route right so that it usable for all ages and abilities.
The fight over the pinch-point caused by the bridge seems like a distraction from that, maybe a welcome distraction by those who refuse to see the dangerous and needless flaws in the current design for the cycle route?