Can Dublin #GreenTheQuays if it means disrupting car traffic?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: This is the first of a series of articles looking at potential routes following the question: Should Dublin trial a protected cycle network even if it means facing down opposition? 

In 1997 nearly 90,000 people in cars were crossing the canals into the centre of Dublin in the morning rush hour. In 2018, it was just 48,820 people in cars. From 50% of commuters down to 28% of commuters, yet, cars still get the vast bulk of central space.

More people are now living in and commuting into the city centre, but they are expected to live with pollution, and a lack of safe and sustainable access around the city centre, and being. Most people who are resident, work, and even shop in the City centre do so by other means than a car, but everyone is expected to tolerate being squeezed for space and comfort by cars.

A few key points:

  • most people think de-carbonising transport has to happen
  • most people think pollution should be reduced
  • most people think inactivity is major health issue
  • but the city has had nearly a decade with limited changes of space
  • ….and when there’s any suggestion to take space from cars there’s strong opposition.

Before reading this article, you are best to read:

Some context on transport capacity of different modes:

  • In most places car capacity on the quays is only around between 380-600 car per hour.
  • Around Smithfield, for example, rush hour car numbers are recorded at just 377 per hour.
  • To compare that: Luas trams carry up to 408 passengers per longer tram OR between 309 and 319 for the shorter trams.
  • Or Dublin Bus buses carry around 80 to 100 people per bus. So, just 5 buses or less carry more than an hour of cars on some sections of the quays.

The argument of there not being enough public transport doesn’t stand up to close inspection in the city centre:

  • Luas Cross City opening offers direct or much improved connecting services connecting areas such as Cabra, North Circular Road, Stoneybatter, etc. The extension and joining up the green and red lines has ment an increase of over 4 million journeys per year.
  • Trains from the Kildare line starting to use the Phoenix Park Tunnel added capacity and direct services to areas west of the city.
  • Around 100 new buses have been added the last year or so when GoAhead started operating, and more buses will soon be on order. These are spread across the city but quite a lot in the context of the car capacity of the quays and other public transport also helping.
  • According to TII, the Luas tram extension programme is on-going, it includes increasing 26 green line trams by 11 metres or 60 extra passengers per tram. TII said 3 trams will be completed this year with the remainder carried out in 2020 or very early 2021.
  • Cycling will not suit everyone all the time but a safe cycle route along the Liffey would serve people from Castleknock and beyond, as well as more inner areas where there’s still notable car use.

This suggestion would include removing traffic lanes in places, but: Where will all the traffic go? It would take too long to explain here, but we have written about this before. See these two articles for starters:

With that long preamble, on with the show…

Can Dublin trial a protected cycle network even if it means facing down opposition? And, more importantly, how might that look along the Liffey? Here’s one idea which largely follows the previous Liffey Cycle Route option 7.

The quays link so much together — existing segregated cycle routes (blue in the image below), planned cycle routes, under construction routes (yellow), residential areas to employment, inner city to larger parks, residential to shopping and entertainment, train stations to each other and towards the port, etc.

A key to note here is that the bulk of the suggestions here includes no changes to kerbs or footpaths, so, footpaths are not shown in most cross-section images below.

An obvious choice for segregation for temporary infrastructure is the plastic “Orca” dividers, with bollard insets, which Dublin City Council has started to use. In some cases, there might be more room for green planters and, in other cases, heavier concrete or larger plastic dividers might be best (on corners etc).

Here’s an example of the Orcas, with every few including a bollard insert:

But the first bit of infrastructure would be advance warning signs for motorists as far out as before the M50 highlighting that there is a change in road layout and there is no through route on the quays for motorist to the Docklands or Dublin Port:

At the western end of the route we have the Phoenix Park main Park Gate, located at the western end of Conyngham Road (which quickly leads onto Parkgate Street). To date, none of the different proposals for the Liffey Cycle Route have addressed a continuous segregated connection into the park.

The current layout of the gate posts of the long removed gates is relatively new and motoring-focused:

The historic layout including around about equal distance between all of the gate posts


A view from the inside of the park implies that the central of the three gateways was larger, but that could be down to perspective:

The larger modern spacing still poses an pinch point issue unless wider vehicles, including coaches and tourist buses, are banned from the main entrance:

A short-term solution to trial is a two-way cycle route between the Park Gate and the first roundabout — with the removal of motor traffic flow in on direction in this area. This would fit in with making the park less of a commuter route and at the same time providing sustainable access.

There’s pros and cons to choosing the city bound or the Dublin 15 bound directions. The nearby gates are shown in blue markers with red arrows. The North Road gate in the top right is two-way, while the Island Bridge Gate, shown in the bottom left is one way, exit only.

Conyngham Road on the west side of Infirmary Road (North Circular) / Parkgate Street junction can fit a layout like this — 4 metres might seem large in an Irish context but without that being the aimed goal of a width, the route would quickly become too busy to function safely and effectively:

The other side of the same junction: Parkgate Street at Infirmary Road is a bit narrower, narrower is ok over short enough distances — the general lane narrow should also help with the street’s problem with speeding motorists:

Parkgate Street general:

One exception to avoiding changing kerbs and pouring concrete is two bus stops which cannot be avoided, and which need to remain accessible.

A build out bus stop would be needed at Parkgate Street — this must include a pedestrian-priority crossing between footpath and island bus stop. The bus stop would be concrete and the crossings would have a ramp to highlight pedestrian-priority.

All of the dark shaded area would not need to be concrete, only the bus stop its self. Closer to the DublinBikes station it could include a space for DublinBikes pickups to load and unload bikes.

If the route was made permanent, the shaded area here is one of many areas along the route which would be good spots for tree planting — the oppsite of the current National Transport Authority plan to remove trees so cars can be kept on the quays while giving priority to buses and walking and cycling coming in only after buses and cars.

Note: The bus lane marked on the right of the below image would be the indented bus stop as above:

At the start of the quays and the start of Wolfe Tone Quay a difficult choice is needed.

This is a wide section of roadway for three lanes but is it not enough to keep the three lanes and squeeze in a two-way cycle path. This would mean a loss of the inbound bus lane, but there is a solution…

A bus gate just at the Luas Crossing of Parkgate Street — much like existing bus gate on Bachelor’s Walk, this would hold cars as buses get priority to clear the pinch point section eastbound:

Here’s what would fit on that pinch point section on Wolfe Tone Quay:

After the pinch point, the Frank Sherwin Bridge can provide two-way cycling access from the north quays to Heuston Station and beyond.

Here’s what we estimate can fit on the bridge between the existing kerbs (as noted in a previous article, the NTA drawings for their latest design for the route seems to underestimate the overall width of the bridge).

Below, the orange line in the first image and red line in the second image represents an outline of the two-way cycle path into Heuston Station and the purple lines shows one of the possable routes to St John’s Road West and towards the N4.

The purple route is clearly not perfect but such trade offs would be needed trialing a fast-build route or network:


Back to the north quays… most of the rest of Wolfe Tone Quay is four lanes wide, plus a narrow cycle lane.

That allows for something like this:

At Sarsfield Quay there needs to be a short section of narrowing of the cycle path to allow for bus priority for less than 90 metres:

This is around what fits on Sarsfield Quay — the cycle path is notably narrowed but only for a short section:

At Ellis Quay (west of Blackhall Place junction) this would be the layout:

This is Ellis Quay (east of Blackhall Place):

And on Arron Quay:

This is very rough but it would allow people cycling in both directions on the two-way cycle path (shown as orange) to turn into Smithfield at Arron Quay onto Arron Street — the cycle path being around 4m wide and the buffer (green) being about 0.8 should allow people to move around each other, some of the 4m could be marked as turning lanes as is the case on the East-West Cycleway in London.

Where Arron Quay meets the junction of Church Street right turning buses may be needed to be accommodated.

Here there is space for a turning lane which will allow a quicker right turn from the two-way cycle path into Church Street via the advance stop line (when the traffic lights for buses are red).

There’s also the potential for some tree planting or other greenery here:

This example from London isn’t quite the same but it’s the same type of bicycle traffic light layout:

At Inns Quay on front of the Four Courts the follows is the type of thing that could fit.

Here, if the route was made permanent, the quay-side footpath could be extended to use some of the space currently shown below as buffer space:

…the quay has narrower bits at both ends which are around this size:

Ormond Quay could look something like this — again a possable place for extra tree planting:

Ormond Quay Upper west of the junction with Capel Street:

Ormond Quay Lower east of the junction with Capel Street:

As we’ve written about before the route up along Swifts Row / Jervis Street — it’s a prime candidate for another two way route to link into the Liffey.

East of Swifts Row / Jervis Street — bus lane and two-way cycle path only — bike racks illustration of where footpath can be widened when / if trial is made permanent:

Eden Quay east of O’Connell Street — with bus bay, bus lane straight ahead and bus lane onto the Rosie Hackett Bridge at Marlborough Street:

Eden Quay, east of Marlborough Street, with bus lanes and stops in both directions — the eastbound lane here (left) could be also a local access route out of Marlborough Street.

Eden Quay, like Parkgate Street, would also need concrete bus stops

Custom House Quay is very wide overall but the carriageway is surprisingly narrow when you start splitting it up — the footpaths are very wide in this location.

From Custom House Quay, the route would link in with the existing Docklands two-way cycle path on the south side and the contra-flow around to the north end of the Customs House.

The north side of the Docklands needs cycling improvements but it would not be within the scope of this trial.

Where does it go from here? We also need to look at a few more connections and a wider suggested quick-build network around the City centre…. but it depends on the reaction to this to start with… can we build it?

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