— 21 public engagements, 97% public consultation support on 1km route.
— But a number of councillors say more consultation needed.
— “Some cyclists behave like Nazis”, said one councillor.
— “Some cyclists treat the road like Mondello”, said another.
LONG READ: Dublin City Council officials have said they are planning for “cycling for all ages and abilities” in response to councillors who continued on Monday to raise concerns about the safety of accessing cars on Dublin’s first notable parking-protected cycle route.
Dublin City Council and its consultants have now conducted 21 different public and stakeholder engagements on the Fitzwilliam cycle route, which is just 1km long.
Of the people and groups who responded to the public consultation, 97% of submissions were supportive — the bulk of respondents were commuters, but the majority of all of the groupings were positive, including 9 out of 14 submissions from residents, 12 of 13 from businesses and 15 out of 19 from other groups and associations.
The parking-protected cycle lanes or paths have been implemented to a small level in Dublin, a larger level in Cork, and large scale in cities like New York, Copenhagen, and most Dutch cities.
However, at meeting of Dublin City South Eastern area councilors on Monday last, a number of councillors continued to question the principal of protected cycle lanes from moving motorised traffic. Despite the level of submissions supporting the design, and, having previously failed to stall the project, a number of councillors continued to call for further consultation.
The scheme — which doesn’t need councillor approval — is planned to start on the construction stage later this year. There is a delay due to Irish Water planning a water main renewal which will be tied into the project.
Christopher Manzira, a senior engineer with Dublin City Council, said that New York City conducted research after similar schemes were built in New York and found safety improved for all road users. “Our view is what we are proposing is a significant improvement. We are not providing shared space.”
“There was a reference made to the Copenhagen approach, the reason cycling has been so successful there — apart from the fact that it’s quicker to anywhere on a bike than in a car — is that they have provided segregated cycle tracks. And if everybody watched the RTE documentary two weeks ago you maybe would have got that message,” said Manzira.
He said: “Our view is that the cycle tracks that we are providing, the cost is quite substantial, and we have got to make sure that it caters for cycling for all ages and abilities. That’s our principal.”
He said if the cycle lane was put between parked cars and moving ones it would not be safe for families cycling. He added: “If you take the view that the biggest consequences of a collision is somebody getting knocked over by a car or truck, and if we can move the cyclist away from that, protect them from the moving car.” He said it would also help shield cyclists and pedestrians better from emissions from moving cars.
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“Imposing something on the community”
At the meeting, Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) claimed that the design of the cycle lanes — which is standard in many cities — poses danger to pedestrians. He said the concerns are from “community who live within the area, park [their cars] in the area, and who frequent the area.”
“99% of those who support this don’t actually live in the area. And, quite rightly are part of all sorts of different groups and agendas,” said Flynn.” He said that the project was “imposing something on the community… I think you have to take the lead from the people who live, work and are resident in the area.”
He criticised Cllr Paddy Smyth for proposing the upgrade of the route and then not being present at the local area meeting yesterday and not standing in the next local election. He said that the project was being “perpetrated by one individual”.
Cllr Flynn claimed that the councillors were “pro-cycling” but the project had too many flaws to proceed and “needs to go back to the drawing board” and consultation”.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) said: “Our job is to do what is best for the people in Dublin but to do it without causing problems for people who live in a particular area. Sometimes there’s a conflict there and how we resolve it is working through the problems…. “I don’t think we should be always beholden to just one sector in to do what is best, but we should listen to the sector.”
“A lot of people have a lot of good comments to make and I think in general it’s a good project,” said Cllr Lacey. “How do we deal with the reality of with people wanting to park there. We as a city have a policy objective of wanting people to live in the city. People do live in the city and people currently park there. We have to try and address their particular problems.”
He said his concern is people crossing over the cycle lane to cars, he said he supports work continuing on the project and support it in principal,” and he said “we need to deal with the rights of people who currently live there without demeaning or belittling their rights.”
Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) said: “I am very supportive of this cycle route, I think it is needed. However, it is our responsibility to echo or raise the concerns of the residents, which I think have already been outlined by previous councillors.”
Cllr Byrne said she was supportive of the project going ahead, supports parking-protective cycle lane, and also supportive of the residents to reduce the speed limit on the road to 30km/h.
An email from the residents association shows that they want 30km/h introduced as they claim it would mean that segregated cycle lanes would not be needed. They want cycle lanes placed between parked cars and moving motor traffic.
Illegal parking “custom”
A number of councillors complained directly or indirectly about locals using resident parking permits who got warnings for the finable offence of parking in non-permit parking areas. Councillors were sent an photograph by residents of one notice on a windscreen which includes the text “you are parked illegally” and a hand written note which stated “should be parked in the permit area”. Also visible on the windscreen is a permit which clearly states “permit areas only”.
South Georgian Core Residents Association told councillors that they were “surprised and taken aback” that permits only allowed them to park in permit parking zones and that they wanted the “current custom and practice” be continue.
Cllr Byrne said that the residents were “all given notice that their current parking practices were no longer acceptable, and I think as Cllr Lacey said, that kind of activity just adds fuel to the fire.”
The council has said they will remove the limit on zones within streets in question as the project will reduce the number of parking spaces, although officials have also pointed to surveys outlining how demand will be met by the lower number of spaces.
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Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) said that that Fitzwilliam Street is not just a place where people are passing through and that people live there. She said: “It’s a very important part of the city and it’s an area we want conserved. There’s a conservation order on all of those houses. They won’t continue to exist if people can’t live there.”
She said: “The kind of thing that worries me is how safe it will be for people. How safe will it be for the walking wounded? How safe will it be for people in wheelchairs?”
She said not enough disabilities groups were consulted with and questioned if the council were ready to progress the project. She added: “Safety has to be our first concern.”
Cllr Chris Andrews (Sinn Féin) said: “I do believe that cycling infrastructure need to be improved. It’s really, really poor and dangerous in many places around the city. This is welcome and any improvement in cycling infrastructure is welcome. I do believe that communities and cycling infrastructure can work together and is good for both.”
He asked if the issues the Blind Legal Alliance — who object to the project — had have been address and if that can be looked at further.
Cllr Ruairi McGinley (Independent) said: “They [the South Georgian Core Residents Association] are not objecting to the cycleway or infrastructure to improve cycling, what they are asking is that the cycle lane should be placed outside of cars.” He said that they they have genuine concerns about residents with children or those who are less mobile to get from the footpath, across the cycle lane to parked cars.
He said he got communications from “people in the disability sector” over the weekend and he feels there has not been enough consultation.
Mondello race track
Cllr Lacey said: “I shouldn’t have to pre-fix things with ‘I am a cyclist’, but feel the need to with some of the comments that are being made. At the end of the day my only concern is that some cyclists — just like motorists — behave crazily and some cyclists treat the road like Mondello race track… how do you deal with the situation of cyclists zooming down, cladded with Lycra, thinking they are in a race with somebody so close to pedestrians? That’s my big concern. Can we have something like speed limits for cyclists?”
“I don’t want to stop this as I think it’s a good project, but I cannot vote for one thing that endangers another thing and that’s my problem with this at this point in time — we’re bringing in a good but it’s at the cost of a bad and that’s not the way to make progress. Speeding cyclists are my fear in relation to this,” Cllr Lacey said.
Manzira said that the raised crossing are already planned on the scheme and that these will slow cyclists down. These raised platforms will not continue across the the general traffic lanes where higher speed motor traffic will be.
Cllr Chris Andrews said: “Cllr Lacey said that some cyclist behave like loonatics, and, indeed, some cyclists behave like Nazis. The reality is we have to get the cycling infrastructure in place and this is a really important piece of infrastructure.”
Cllr Flynn complained that councillors were being bypassed as they will not be deciding on if the route will go ahead.
Cllr Freehill asked if the project was funded by the council. When she was told it would be funded by Irish Water for the water main renewal element and the National Transport Authority for the transport element, she said: “So much for local government and democracy in this country, we are getting closer and closer to Hungary every day.”
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Do councillors want parking-protected cycle routes?
After the committee meeting, IrishCycle.com asked all the councillors who expressed concern the following questions:
- What more do you want done with the Fitzwilliam Cycle Route re access to cars across the cycle lane?
- Do you accept or dispute that parking-protected cycle routes are a standard way of building safe cycle networks?
- Do you accept or dispute that the consultation showed that a majority of residents who responded, supported the scheme?
Cllr Dermot Lacey said: “In general I think this is a good scheme and while raising concerns and points raised with me have been supportive. 1) I want the Disability Groups to be satisfied. 2) I’m not sure to be honest. The speed of some cyclists along the inside track with dangers to themselves and others is what worries me. 3) The numbers would seem to indicate that residents are against it…however that cannot be some determinator for such a scheme. I do think however their parķing discs should include enough spaces for them. After all we also want a thriving living city.”
Cllr Ruairi McGinley said: “I believe majority of residents have concerns about the scheme. Basis for this conclusion is representations I have received directly. I do not know that ‘parking protected’ schemes are standard. There are hazards associated with parking protection. In relation to car access across cycle lanes I expect Dublin City Council to consult further with Disability organizations. I acknowledge that a level of consultation has taken place. Residents are not opposed to cycle way on street but rather the format this will take. Ultimately a design needs to be adopted. I suggest a 6 month review post implementation for all stakeholders.”
Cllr Chris Andrews, who we also asked what he meant by his Nazi comment, said: “If you listened to all the comments I made I spoke positively on the plans…. I indicated that the infrastructure is needed and communities can live together with this sort of cycle infrastructure contrary to what other councillors said. I said that all this was needed as the surface across the the city is desperate. My comments were much more positive than others who were trying to have it every way and councillors who are supposed to be bike ‘friendly’. It’s interesting that you would focus on that comment rather than all the positive things I said about the plans.”
He added: “I do think the idea of protecting cyclists is a good idea generally. I do accept that the majority of people making submissions supported it. I also note that residents living in the area are very concerned about it. That’s understandable as any change is hard for people to take sometimes. I would like to see the concerns of the blind alliance addressed if possible but that may not be possible.”
Cllr Claire Byrne said: “There has been significant consultation around this route design. I have been supportive of the cycle route upgrade from the start. But I do think we could provide even more reassurance to the residents that they will be safe, provide them with the documentation they have requested and ensure they have access to parking as agreed.”
“We have very poor cycling infrastructure in Dublin, and therefore we need to look at international solutions when designing new cycling routes. International best practice favours parking protected cycle routes as the safer solution and I don’t dispute that.”
She added: “We don’t have the exact breakdown of submissions from residents vs non residents so its hard to tell. I know from talking to the residents that many of them have genuine concerns, which as councillors we have a duty to raise. We have to remember that people do live here. But there is no doubt that there is an overwhelming majority support for this route.
Cllr Mary Freehill and Cllr Mannix Flynn did not respond to the request for further comment.