— Some councillors concerned about lower amount of car parking and people accessing cars across cycle lane, as well as potential loss of turning lanes.
LONG READ: Consultants for Dublin City Council are developing a design for the parking-protected Fitzwilliam Cycle Route with public consultation due to take place in August and September with construction in early 2019.
The route — which was promoted by Cllr Paddy Smyth (FG) — will go from Leeson Street to Mount Street Lower, running along Fitzwilliam Place, Fitzwilliam Street, and Merrion Square East. There will also be a link to the Grand Canal cycle route via Lad Lane.
The design will mainly involve changing perpendicular car parking to parallel parking, and switching where people cycle from outside the cars to inside the cars. Raised treatments will be used at minor junctions while the design team is working on Dutch-inspired protected corners for the main junctions on the route.
The cross section will include the existing footpaths, a unidirectional two metre wide cycle lanes on both sides of the streets, buffers for car doors and car parking, and general traffic lanes.
Joe Seymour, director with consultant Aecom, said said that aim was to create a safe and attractive route. He said while it runs parallel to the Grand Canal route, that route is “already very, very busy and additional routes are required in the area”.
Speaking to councillors at the South East Area Committee meeting on July 9, Seymour said that there the area has quite a few workplaces including Linkedin and the ESB.
He said at peak times there’s already nearly more people cycling than people in cars on the streets which make up the route, but the perception can be that cars far outnumber bicycles because cars get stuck in traffic, while bicycles move more freely.
The existing layout of the includes some sections of unprotected cycle lanes and that there is a need to provide bicycle parking on the street.
Features of the street, including historic granite kerbs and coal holes, will stay in place and not to be moved as part of the project, and footpath build-outs will be constructed using materials sympathetic to the nature of the street.
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Although some of the design graphics for the project show the cycle path in red, and the colour is used on the existing carriageway, Seymour said that the colour is not to be used as it is “not appropriate for the location.”
Electric car charging points will be moved to the outside of the protected cycle lane, while an original plan to move the DublinBikes stations away from the footpaths will not proceed.
Seymour said: “In terms of the proposed design, it’s not something that is very common in Dublin, but there is an example in [North] Brunswick Street, where the cycle track goes up inside the parking. A little bit of it has gone in in Cork in the last few years and it’s being used in a lot of other cities around the world.”
He said that the design is not yet finalised and that the designs will have to take BusConnects into account.
“We’re working on a protected junction for the cyclists which will take a little more work but the intention is that the cyclists will have its own area slightly protected from the traffic on the approach and going around the junction as much as possable.
He added: “That’s an evolving element of the design, but we’re working on with the other consultants and Dublin City who are trying to put in protected cycle lanes in other locations around the city. This will be the big change in provision in the city in the coming years where we try to protect the cyclists at the junction as well as in the link between them.”
Seymour said that the design of the junction between Merrion Square East and Holles Street needs to be worked on and is now included in the project. It would also include making the streets more pedestrian-friendly, by slowing down cars, adding build-outs and raised crossing, and fixing elements such as lighting polls positioned in the middle of existing crossings.
He said the impact on car parking is the most significant change in the project, but he said that the existing perpendicular parking is a danger to road users and there is scope to reduce the number of car par parking spaces. He said that there will be a shortfall in car parking along the streets but spare capacity on four side roads will cater for the shortfall.
He said project will be planned using the Road Traffic Acts, a process where council officials, not councillors, have the final say, and that is is to be “one of the exemplar project to be showcased for Velocity”, which Dublin City is hosting in June 2019.
Councillors and residents
Cllr Kieran Binchy (FG) said: “I’d like to complement Cllr Paddy Smyth who was pushing this originally and I think he deserves a lot of credit for the enthusiasm for it and for getting it off the ground.”
“I live, drive and cycle around there on a regularise bases and the reason I welcome it is because a lot of people are using the Grand Canal Cycleway as a way of getting into town and while if this is built as a proper spur to the Grand Canal Cycleway, people will use it from Leeson Street to the Docklands.” He said he can see the junctions as an issue especially given that cars are already backed up on them at peak times.
We reported on the comments from Cllr Mannix Flynn the day after the meeting — see that news report here.
Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) — who recently was one of the main objectors to the South Dublin Quietway — said she had a number of issues with the plan and she could not understand why the cars will be placed to protect the cycle lane.
She referenced the experience with parking outside cycle paths in an unclear location in “Stillorgan or somewhere out there” where there was “near misses” between car users and people cycling.
Cllr Freehill said: “The other area I would have thought that would be quite dangerous is if you’re coming up [ie driving], we’ll say, Fitzwilliam Square, and you want to turn right into Upper Fitzwilliam Street, if you’re going towards Leeson Street. It’s hard enough at the best of times, you have to nearly come out to the middle of the street before you can see the cars coming but what you have now [in reference to the planned design] is that you have a line of cyclists but less vision because you’re going to have the cars parked there [further out].”
“And I think that will be very dangerous and wonder how it will actually function. I wonder how disabled parking will work. You can imagine somebody trying to transfer from a wheelchair in the middle of the road, getting out alongside moving cars or a cyclist.”
She continued: “I haven’t seen how the filter left [lane] would work running from Fitzwilliam Street into Leeson Street, towards Leeson Street Bridge. There are two lanes there — there’s one lane that goes straight ahead onto Adelaide Road and one lane that turns left and that’s a pretty busy junction.”
Christopher Manzira, from the council’s transport department, said they will take on Cllr Freehill’s comments on the junctions. Manzira said that there is a buffer and the aim is to provide of between at least 0.7-0.8 metres of a buffer between a parked car and the cycle lane and this will allow space for people to open car doors and get out without going into the cycle lane.
Manzira said because there are cars and “because we are also not providing coloured surfacing reinforces that message that this is not a cycle highway, it’s a facility for cycling segregated from moving traffic so that people of different abilities can cycle.”
Joe Seymour said that the designs are still and work in progress and the final designs would take into account of sightlines.
Cllr Freehill interjected a number of times again. She said that it would be safer if the cars were parked at the footpath and the cycle lane was outside the cars “it would be safer for everyone”. She added: “Or is it intended that that parked cars are a buffer for the cyclists? I’m just trying to understand the logic in that.”
Local area chairman, Cllr Ruairi McGinley, commented that they were not going to design the route inside the council chamber, and that he was not going to go back over the presentation.
Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) said she welcomed the project and the consultation was hugely important. She said it is a pity the route does not continue past Holles Street.
She suggested also looking at cycle lanes in the middle of the road, but officials said that people would not feel safe in the middle of the road between motorised traffic. She said that a focus also needs to be put on surfacing of existing cycle lanes as she was nearly “jettisoned” off a DublinBike due to poor surfacing as she cycled to the meeting.
Cllr Claire Byrne (Greens) welcomed members of the South Georgian Core Residents Association in the council chamber’s gallery.
“Obviously as a cyclist and a Green Party representative I support any investment in delivery of cycling infrastructure in the city. I cycled yesterday with the Dublin Cycling Campaign down the Liffey to highlight the need to deliver the Liffey Cycle Route among other projects — we need serious investment in the city and we need it fast,” said Cllr Byrne.
However, I have met with the residents and they do have some concerns and it’s my role as local representative to raise some of their concerns and questions that they have.”
Cllr Byrne said that parking would also be an issue and if there could be any plan to protect parking for residents. She said that residents were also concerned that about accessing cars with wheelchairs or buggies.
She said that of the main questions that residents have is why is this route being prioritised over, for example, Leeson Street. Council official Christopher Manzira said that the routes on main roads are expected to be covered under BusConnects, which includes proposals on Leeson Street and Baggot Street.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) — who also voted against the South Dublin Quietway — also welcomed the residents in the gallery and said: “I welcomed this in general and do want to support it providing a few things can be sorted out.”
He said: “We don’t think of it as a residential area but there a lot of people living there, so, we do have to take into account the needs of residents.”
According to the Census 2016, of the ‘small areas’ along the street, 106 residents commute by bicycle while 97 commuted by car, but not all of these use on-street parking and by far most residents walked to work or school. Council officials said that that just 54 residential parking permits are available along the streets of the route, while the council’s consultants said that at night there will still be significant free capacity available.
Within the study area of the streets on the route and four side street, there will be 580 car parking spaces. This will fill a peak demand of 573 cars and demand drops to around 300 cars by 5pm and just 100-150 cars at night.
Cllr Lacey said that as somebody who has been knocked off his bicycle three times by car doors opening that he is a bit weary of a painted line buffer. He also wanted bicycle parking spread along the streets in a number of smaller bays rather than one or two large ones.
- Presentation to South East Area Committee webcast link
- Fitzwilliam Cycle Route: Presentation to South East Area Committee (PDF)