A detailed look at the Liffey Cycle Route Option 9 eastbound (part 1)

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Last week we looked at the overall approach of the Liffey Cycle Route and how the greening the quays is a better idea. In this article we explore some of the issues around the recent plans released by the National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council — everything from minor to fundamental flaws.

This project is coming up on 8 years of pre-planning and, after a very delayed 18 month review process, these drawings are surprisingly poor.

This is an overview of the layout at the Phoenix Park, Parkgate Street, the front of Heuston railway station and the western start of the quays:

This is a cross section of the link in with the Conyghan Road where it meets Parkgate Street:

This is the main entrance to The Phoenix Park. There’s a list of problems here:

  • There is no pedestrian crossing across the entrance to the park.
  • Note all the non-segregated cycle tracks in dark red.
  • People cycling into the park are expected to mount the footpath to use a shared walking and cycling crossing to enter the park.
  • People existing the park here on bicycle cannot turn left towards Island Bridge.
  • There are no visible protected sections of kerbs / islands to protect the cycle path at key points such as bends.
  • Where corners exiting and entering the park should be fully segregated, they are left exposed.

The National Transport Authority are again opting for light segregation, Copenhagen-style, which will be parked on in an Irish context:

Between the two junctions is the Criminal Courts of Justice. There should be (a) provision for a lay-by or (b) heavy segregation:

This is the junction where Parkgate Street meets the North Circular Road.

For some reason (likely a simple error), the cycle track at the bottom of the junction appeared in the segregated colour when it is not segregated as the ramps images on both indicates the dropping of segregation.

Note the segregated island in the top left corner — this is to hold traffic lights to separate people cycling straight on and motorists turning left. Where there’s space that kind of width of segregation should be standard.

There is however no provision in this design for people cycling westbound and turning into the North Circular Route.

This is Parkgate Street around where there are shops and pubs and large office blocks on the oppsite side. Parkgate Street here is like a mini-urban village, including pubs, shops, cafes, restaurants and even a post office.

There’s regularly illegal parking here and it has been going on for years — including when I lived here years ago and it seems ever since:

It’s good to see bus stop bypasses / island bus stops on Parkgate Street — these are a key part of providing segregation for cycling and have a good safety record in both just the Netherlands but in Dublin and London too.

Buffer space needs to be provided between the the cycle track and the bus lane as there is mostly ample space to provide such here and segregation should be continued to the junction with a raised junction — there’s an example of this from Utrecht in a Street View image below.

This example is from Amsterdamsestraatweg in Utrecht — the raised footpath and cycle lane design works on side streets with and without traffic lights and needs to be used in Dublin to slow left turning motorists and putting them at a better angle to see people cycling to reduce the risk of left hooks:

This is an overview of the area around the Frank Sherwin Bridge — we’ll look at the south side of this in a future article looking at the outbound route.

Note the new boardwalks are marked in blue hatching:

On the bridge the segregation between a traffic lane and the cycle track is marked out with bollards — this is one of many indicators that there’s major issues with the thinking behind this project: bollards are not a feature you should see on a new cycle route at a location like this (or at junctions elsewhere in the project).

Note that there is no pedestrian crossing here from one quay side to another — this is one of many lack of pedestrian crossings which again shows a fundamental issue with too much focus on traffic flow.

It could be an error or my error, but the drawing above seems to be based on an underestimated measurement of the bridge. This is Street View:

According to usually reliable satellite measurements, the width of the bridge is 20 metres. Even allowing for unnecessarily wide traffic lanes, all of the following can fit in 20 metres:

The junction at the entrance to Heuston station is quite a mess because the designers have been asked to fit in so much. And, yet, cycling in provided for poorly.

  • Unprotected turn for cycling from Heuston station.
  • Unprotected from the bottom of the image going straight on over the bridge or turning into the station.
  • No provision for cycling from the northside to the westbound cycle route
  • People cycling from Parkgate Street into the station are kicked into shared space and a shared crossing.

…Back to the north quays… despite the extra space gained by the planned Boardwalks, there’s more shared areas and shared crossings.

Here’s another junction where the cycle track is lowered further to the car level when the cycle track should be kept raised and buffer space inserted between the cycle track and bus lane — there’s space to take from the quay-side traffic lane.

CyclingForAll.ie has a strong focus on horizontal buffers because the National Transport Authority seems to have distinct dislike of them.

Contrast that to the Dutch who see horizontal buffers as key to providing safety and also the feeling of safety — both of which combined are important if we want cycling suitable for all ages and abilities.

On the whole route there is also the issue of cycle track width — the aimed for width is 2 metres when the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan and Dutch standards both call for more than 2 metres on primary routes like this.

People might say I’m trying to solve a problem Dublin doesn’t yet have but the council are in no hurry to fix capacity issues on the Grand Canal Route and if a low-quality Liffey Cycle Route is built it will cost a good deal to fix it and it will be harder to fix fundamental issues.

The next few images shows an area between Parkgate Street and Blackhall Place where both the buffer and width issues can be solved with ease but there’s no attempt to do so.

You could say it’s better to give any extra space to pedestrians but this project does not respect pedestrians by its lack of crossings at busy junctions and by having mixed cycling and walking crossings.

 

This bus stop bypass is again welcomed but the cycle track should continue with a buffer between it and the bus lane.

Two more minor junctions where the foot and cycle paths should remain raised and at least a small buffer should be included:

Here’s an overview of the next section around Blackhall Place and Smithfield:

This website has previously suggested that streets like Watling Street include contra-flow or two-way cycle path access to the Liffey. Amazingly as part of a cycle route the NTA and Dublin City Council are for some reason proposing to make the street two-way for all traffic by narrowing the footpath beside Guinness’ wall.

We will deal with the other details below but with this overview of the two bridges note all the missing pedestrian crossing — making it harder to walk safety along the quay walls on the north or south quays or on the building side on the south side:

The crossings are circled below as follows:

  • Red: Removal of an existing crossing
  • Blue: New crossings needed to make walking along the quays or building side accessible and safe.
  • Purple: New crossings needed to be fully compliment with the Manual For Urban Roads and Streets.

At this point there is no clear way as to how people on the cycle route can turn right over the bridge and up Watling Street or turn again onto the south quays.

There’s infrequent left turns here — perfect for the raised cycle path treatment already mentioned:

This left turn into Blackhall Place is a different issue

The cycle track could be put inside the left turn lane and segregated not just be a kerb but also by traffic signals — for this to be safe there should be a protected cycle path junction on the top right hand corner of the junction.

Doing this would be a lot easier if there was segregated cycle paths on Blackhall Place and the bridge. But this is a fundamental problem with the project — the NTA doesn’t want to tackle junctions and roads intersecting with the Liffey Route. The reasoning is partly BusConnects and partly not wanting to affect traffic flow much.

Instead, we’re left with existing cycle lanes on the bridge still pointing to the footpath and building — highlighted by the yellow arrow we’ve added below:

At the bottom right corner of the above junction, this is where — months apart last year — that I’ve crossed with my children standing at the blue X and motorists ran a red light when my two children wanted to cross on the green light.

The first time I grabbed them and the second time I was holding them back before the green man went on. The footpath here is narrow for waiting while people are trying to walk on along the quays behind you. Add in a buggy, wheel chair or a person walking with a bicycle and it’s a mess. If the boardwalk intersects with the bridge wall it will made it better, but if it intersects with the quay wall and not the bridge, things will be far worse:

If we look at the other end of the bridge for a second, we see that once again there is no apparent way designed for cyclists to turn right onto the bridge and into Blackhall Place, Stoneybatter, etc and, again, bollards planned for a new cycle route:

And note how the existing pedestrian crossing is removed:

Next up is Ellis Quay and Mellows Bridge — the main pinch point and problem area for project.

Council officials have tried to explain the solution here as to say that there’s currently a row of bollards and digging into that space of the footpath doesn’t really amount to removing footpath space. But experience of walking and cycling here, and detailed drawings tells me they are trying to square a circle.

All of this for a substandard cycle track and squeezing pedestrians more beside some of the highest population density areas in the country with a high number of apartments along the quays.

Adding a boardwalk to the quayside here will likely make things worse as the access points at least on one end will remain narrow as they cannot change Mellows Bridge and on footpaths on the building side are to be made narrower.

As the quays get to the junction of Queen Street and Mellows Bridge about half and then more than half of the width of the cycle lane is taken from the footpath.

At this point there I also a curved rise in the road surface towards the bridge and it’s here where the raised cycle track becomes an unprotected cycle lane fully exposed to buses taking the curve of the road:

Any increase in people walking along the quayside on Ellis Quay will only be followed by existing footpath pinch points at the bridge, an existing narrow section on Arran Quay and narrowing on the building sides of both quays:

On the the bridge there a welcome contra-flow cycle track towards Queen Street but this again is at a loss to the footpath rather than reducing space for cars.

The cycle track extends onto Bridgefoot Street on the southside:

 

Things are mostly much the same on Arran Quay.

With the addition of a welcome bus stop bypass and another two side streets where the cycle track wrongly drops again to road level:

Then at the junction of Church Street there’s again more critical issues. First, here’s an overview… is there something missing from this four-lane bridge?

Here the National Transport Authority has includes a cycle lane of the type of what’s called a “murder strip” by campaigners:

Looks fun, right?

This image from a photoshoot from German active transport lobby group Changing Cities of what the cycle lanes will look like… in fact, maybe a bit narrower and a bus on one side instead of a truck:

There’s ample space to make this a fully-segregated junction with protected islands for cyclists all around the junction, but the NTA’s focus is a mix of buses and cars, squeezing in pedestrian and cycling, where possible:

On to Inns Quay where the Four Courts is and there’s a good looking bus stop bypass, but…

A mix of this drawing and the Google Maps image shows the bus stop bypass is nearly right beside the columns of the Four Courts, which would make the footpath needlessly narrow:

Then the cycle path goes back out onto the road without any island protecting it from the double bus lane when there’s ample space. It might be just a sloppy drawing but it really shouldn’t be this sloppy after an 18 month review:

We’re onto the 7th bridge in this article. Here’s an overview of the layout of the 7 bridges:

  1. Luas and pedestrians only
  2. Pedestrians and two-directional cycle tracks with shared crossings on the left hand side, a general traffic lane, a bus lane, a general traffic lane (all northbound) and a footpath with no crossings in any direction.
  3. Two lanes southbound general traffic lanes.
  4. Two general traffic lanes in both directions with unprotected narrow cycle lanes, one pointing into a footpath / building.
  5. Two traffic lanes southbound with one footpath and one footpath removed for a contra-flow cycle track.
  6. Two general traffic lanes in both directions with footpaths both sides.
  7. Three general traffic lanes northbound with footpaths both sides and a semi-segregated cycle track.

This is the switch-over point from the building-side to the quayside.

I know some people don’t like the idea, but switch over of the cycle track to the quayside is a good idea to avoid the very busy bus stops ahead on the central quays.

This should be a protected junction on the bridge:

The side road north of the bridge should also be cut down to one lane, there should be a pedestrian crossing here and the cycle path should be protected:

There’s also ample space after the junction to protect and widen the cycle track and also widen the footpath:

To be continued….

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

6 Comments

  1. Great stuff there. It basically appears that cycling is the last piece of infrastructure to be fitted in, in each case.

  2. Cian – once again a spot-on analysis. i suspect the NTA don’t follow your blogs or choose to put their blinkers on! It is also a pity that some of those large off-road paved areas shown cannot be planted with trees.

  3. Thanks Cian. I would agree that we should be providing for pedestrians better by putting crossings across every arm of every junction.

    And your example of raised cycle track passing a side-street is informative. Those smaller side-streets on Arran Quay, Arran Street and Lincoln Lane are crying out for that treatment.

    Hoping your work and that of Kevin Baker on BusConnects lead to improved experiences for sustainable modes of transport. Without delaying implementation though – I can’t wait another 8 years!

  4. Are there any viable, real-world (Dutch?) examples similar to what’s proposed for O Donavan Rossa Bridge where the bike lane switches from left to right at Inns / Ormond quay?

  5. Why doesn’t the NTA hire someone like yourself to help them? If I was a clueless Irish transport authority I would personally just hire out a Dutch or Danish team to come over to Dublin to do the plans properly.

  6. I recently reviewed some of the Busconnects plans and came to the same conclusion: whenever space is tight the first thing that’s sacrificed is the cycle lane. Some junctions cannot possible have been designed by someone who uses a bicycle themselves.
    One thing you don’t focus on are the contra-flow cycle lanes on the wrong side of the road like on Mellowes bridge. I find them a terrifying idea because it’ll be the last thing drivers expect. Also the two-way cycle lane near Heuston with cyclists effectively riding on the right is asking for problems.

    One thing you do mention many times is the lack of segregation between cycle lane and road. This is definitely a double-edged sword. Yes, the physical segregation makes the cycle lane safer by making it harder/impossible for cars to intrude. The flipside though is that it also makes it hard/impossible for cyclists to use the road to overtake slow fellow cyclists. With the narrow lanes that are planned here that can be a real problem.
    I regularly ignore cycle lanes for that reason; I’m happier cycling inbetween cars than stuck behind slow cyclists. That may be because I’m Dutch though; I’ve 40+ years experience cycling in traffic.

    I’ve no degree in civil engineering but I do have a head for solving problems plus a lifetime of cycling experience (and yes, I drive a car as well. And a motorbike). I would love to get more involved in improving cycling infrastructure, I just don’t know where to start…

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