Part 3: How to quickly build a Dublin City Centre Cycling Access Loop

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

Is this a project for Dublin City Council Beta? Is it too big for Beta? I don’t know, but there’s good reasons for it to be trialed rather than built in a process that takes years:

  • Trialing it is quicker and action is needed urgently on improving safe cycling access in the city centre.
  • It’s cheaper as it can largely be done with measures such as ‘Orcas’ etc (see images below), bollards etc — the main cost of physical elements in this suggestion is probably traffic lights.
  • It can be adjusted depending on the results, fairly quickly where needed.

IMAGE: The Dublin orcas bollards.

You might first want to read:

Those articles covered (1) trailing a two-way cycle path on the north quays from the Phoenix Park to the IFSC where the route would join the existing two-way cycle path on the southside, (2) a route from O’Connell Bridge to at least the Harcourt Luas Stop via Westmoreland Street, College Green, and South William Street, and (3) a two-way access route around St Stephen’s Green.

For this article, the the main loop comes off the north east corner of St Stephen’s Green (where we ended in the last article) — the main loop is shown as a green line here, the purple line is Merrion Row and Baggot Street, and the pink line is the planned Fitzwilliam Cycle Route

Merrion Row and Baggot Street is a location which can be classed as a destination for local shopping, a lunch area for office workers and others, and for night life. It is fairly busy with pedestrians most of the day, yet the footpaths are narrow, especially on the south side of the street.

With the purple line, for cycling, what’s needed at minimum is a segregated contra-flow route stretching at minimum  from Pembroke Street Lower to Ely Place. The current detour for cycling makes a straight line distance from Pembroke Street Lower to St Stephen’s Green of less than 300 metres into a cycle around the block and into complicated junctions and stretching to 950 metres.

What’s needed, to provided for ‘cycling for all’, is a segregated route in both directions from St Stephen’s Green to Ballsbridge and beyond. Doing this and giving footpaths the extra space needed would require reducing Merrion Row and Baggot Street to one lane for motor traffic including buses and cars mixing or moving to a bus only street, at least for through-traffic. If people want to get behind this idea, it would only be between 100 to 200 metres where the route is reduced to one lane, before Baggot Street widens out. It would be about much more than cycling. Would there be enough support for such?

Here’s a sample of Merrion Row and the start of Baggot Street as they are now — note pedestrian activity is far higher here generally compared to what is shown in these Google Street View images:

The width of the above is around 8-9 metres. At 8 metres you could do something like this — including making further space on the footpaths on footpaths by removing the bollards from at least one side of the footpaths.

Again: The footpath space shown is extra footpath space — as with most of the other cross-section images in this, these are only kerb-to-kerb images and do not include existing footpath space:

Back to the main loop — but, even with that, we have to stress that the loop alone is not enough and as the Dutch discovered, a high-quality cycle network is needed. Not just a few routes. The loop can be built quickly as the start of a city centre network.

We start on Hume Street and then go onto Ely Place — both of these require removal of car parking on one side of each of the streets. This might not be easy but consider that it’s a large part as The Guardian explains: how Seville transformed itself into the cycling capital of southern Europe — the space was reallocated from car parking to protected cycle lanes. Also see the Street Films video: How Seville Got Its Bicycle Network.

Here’s what you could fit on Hume Street:

And Ely Place typically:

And Ely Place at the junction with Merrion Row / Baggot Street:

Merrion Street Upper and Merrion Square West generally has a massive amount of space — the typical width is 19-20 metres between footpaths. This is currently mostly poorly used even for cars — most of the time allowing speeding to the next junction:

On west side where Government buildings / the Dail and the National Gallery of Ireland are located, a two-way cycle path could make up part of the main city centre loop:

Merrion Street Lower continues this kind of width — and it’s all a one-way street heading southbound:

Here’s the kind of thing which is possable here — again just between the kerbs on both sides, ie not including the existing footpaths. What’s shown as a parking lane here would also actually be hotel drop off / loading:

It gets a bit narrower after this. And the transition from Merrion Street Lower to Westland Row is the trickiest in the whole loop route. Without changing much of the flow of traffic around this block, this is the most practical solution — two-way cycle paths on both Merrion Street Lower to Westland Row, linked by a straight crossing (shown in purple).

Some space may need to be shaved off the island shown on the right here too.

The alternative is to take more space from cars, have part of Lincoln Place as bus-only (in orange below) and into Westland Row only and/OR reconfigure the traffic island and crossings. To allow for this the yellow route shown below would be provided as two-way access to the TCD campus. Then you could look at doing something different than the purple connection shown. But the purple connection is probably the most practical in the short term.

On Westland Row the suggestion is to have a two-way cycle path with buffer and have it bus-only at least in the north-bound direction. It would be preferred if it was bus-only in both directions as suggested originally in the Dublin City Centre Transport Study

The cycle path could be narrowed at bit at the one bus stop on Westland Row something like this:

Where Westland Row (bottom, below) meets Pearse Street (left and right, below) and Lombard Street East (top, below), the cycle path layouts could look something like this:

An overview image below, includes:

  • All green lines are proposed two-way cycle paths.
  • The point where all four lines join, centre right of the image below, is the junction shown in the last image.
  • The three-way junction at the top left of the below image is College Street (beside College Green).
  • The blue line in the top right corner is the existing two-way cycle path on City Quay.

There’s only so much that can fit into one article, so, I’m not going into too much detail on Lombard Street East and the eastern end of Pearse Street.

Lombard Street East can be done unidirectional on both sides of the street, but I think a two-way cycle path on one side better links up between Westland Row and Pearse and on Lombard Street East it is easier to do in terms of both space and traffic flow. But unidirectional segregation on both side is also an option on Lombard Street East — even after the contra-flow lane was installed, the lane beside it is hardly used even at peak time.

On Pearse Street the two-way cycle path should at least continue until where the Pearse Street meets Sandwith Street and Pearse Street becomes two-way east of this point (around where the Tesco is marked as located below).

Pearse Street west of Westland Row could keep its double bus lane, while be reduced to a single general traffic lane and still have space for a reasonably wide two-way cycle path.

Where there’s existing indents into the footpath, there’s also scope for drop off point at Trinity City Hotel and some possable loading around where the railway bridge goes overhead.

Pearse Street could typically look like this:

The two-way cycle path on Pearse Street is best placed on the oppsite side of the street than the Trinity College Dublin campus — this avoids needing extra space for bus stops and provides better cycling access to the side streets. There’s few of which, so, it’s doable.

I would suggest that minor street that is Mark Street would be made no entry except bicycles where it meets Pearse Street — this stops the need to have cars crossing over the two-way cycle path unaided by traffic lights and also tackles rat running for motorists wanting to turn around.

At Shaw Street / Moss Street the city council’s planned contra-flow project should look at providing two-way segregation — regardless of if that’s cycle paths on both sides of the road or a two-way cycle path on one side. Moss Street contra-flow is long-planned but the city recently indicated on its website that it is restarting looking at contra-flow projects around the city centre.

Given that as part of what is suggested above includes reducing Pearse Street to one lane of general traffic, there’s less reason to keep Tara Street as a three-to-four-lane urban motorway-like one-way street. So, I would suggest space for cycling is needed for safe and attractive access employment, residential and other locations along the street. It is also important to offer an alternative link to/from the suggested Liffey Cycle Route trial than having too many people focused at turning at O’Connell Bridge.

Then we’re back at Tara Street and College Street / College Street which featured in part 1 of this series:

And we’re at the issue of getting around the Garda parking outside Pearse Street Garda Station.

Unless there’s a will for changes to the fancy stone slabs and kerbs etc around here, the best solution at this location is to reduce the space for buses to one lane and have better enforcement of the existing bus-only street outside the Garda station. The two-way cycle path would run between the Garda parking and the footpath beside the Garda station before it uses some of the existing traffic lane near the junction at the Luas tracks:

That’s it for most of the city centre loop, but can look in more detail at links to the loop or any issues raised by readers, and do a overview article. So again: 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.

2 Comments

  1. A lot of work went into this, well done! Questions: who needs to take this up? Is it Dublin City Council? The NTA? TII? Dublin Bus? Department of Transport? Dublin Cycling Campaign and other voluntary groups? All of them?

  2. @Clara — Dublin City Council mainly — although they could do with support and funding from the NTA and Department of Transport.

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