Official warns “difficult choices” needed to trial Liffey Cycle Route

— Proposals to trial route planned since 2010 to be presented next month.
— Options for continuous route requires removing cars off sections of quays.
— Councillors highlight danger for cycling on the quays.
— Cllrs also stress impact of pollution from cars, need for climate action.

Dublin City councillors last Monday told city council officials to speed up the process looking at options to trial the Liffey Cycle Route this year, and officials have committed to come back to March council meeting with proposals.

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The Liffey Cycle Route was first proposed in the city development plan in 2010. After further delays with the project late last year, the petition was started seeking to a trial a cycle path on Dublin’s quays in 2020, and then look to build a wider quick-build cycle network.

The petition now has over 4,350 signees and it is supported by this website and a number of cycling groups.

At the council’s monthly meeting last week there was cross-party support expressed at the meeting for trialing route. But it is expected that there will be significant opposition to options which removes cars from sections of the quays once these are presented in more details next month.

The discussion last week followed on from a shorter discussion at the January council meeting, which reported on at the time.

Article continues below video of discussion:

Cllr Gary Gannon (Social Democrats) said: “The EPA have highlighted that Nitrogen Dioxide levels in the city centre regularly breach EU limits. When we talk about the idea of the climate crisis impacting on the communities which are most vulnerable, the inner city community is being quite literally being poisoned by the level of congestion in this city.”

“As people try to cycle into the city centre, it’s unsafe — it’s unsafe because of the level of cars, the level of congestion, the lack of cycling infrastructure, and it’s unsafe because of the city council’s lack of urgency to build the appropriate infrastructure to confront this dangerous situation,” said Cllr Gannon.

Cllr Gannon said: “So, what I’m asking from the city council today is urgency — urgency in terms of building much needed infrastructure. If we can get this right, if we can trial it, if we can halt the delays that seem to be never ending, then we can change the culture and then engage in our city in a friendly and sustainable way.”

He added: “I’m asking the city council to trial the Liffey Cycle Route — we’ve had too many excuses, it has gone on too long, the delays seem never ending. All we’re asking for is for it to be trialed.”

Cllr Tina MacVeigh (People Before Profit) said: “I’m 100% behind the immediate implementation [of the route]. I would like to hear detail from the manager why we’re getting more delays.”

She said: “I was knocked down on the quays and also on O’Connell Street last December, twice on the same date… it’s kind of getting to the stage now where people are questioning if they can cycle in this city.”

Cllr MacVeigh said that with the benefits to the environment, physical health, mental health, easing congestion, promoting cycling is “absolutely a no brainier”. She said that the project “might seem like a tall order” when the city is slow to deliver projects such as contra-flow cycle lanes, but that the council “has to aim high”.

Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) said that the “best way to do is to ban cars”. He said that the “proposed plan by the NTA is simply not workable” due to the boardwalks and removing footpaths and trees.

Cllr Flynn has previously said that he is “pro-cycling” while comparing a parking-protected cycle route to a “velodrome”. Last week he said: “Cycling form individuals refused point blank to get off their bikes and walk across a number of bridges when there was a number of viable options there. They refused point blank because what they want to do is create they wanted a cycling kind of, you know, racing track.” It is unclear what Liffey Cycle Route options he was referring to where cyclists would need to dismount at bridges.

He added that the plan by the NTA, with boardwalks, is “absolutely wrong and will be resisted”.

Cllr Cieran Perry (independent) said: “As a cyclist, I use this route every day going to and from work, so, I support the trial.” But he highlighted what he said was a flaw in the process of the discussion. He said that the ‘topical issue’ method of discussing issues is weaker than proposing a motion.

Cllr Donna Cooney (Green Party) said: “I’m very much supportive of the Liffey Cycle Route but I do think we need to look at a trial now.”

She said that during Velo-city — an international cycling conference held in Dublin last year — examples of trials around the world were shown. She said that trials are “often something which allays people’s fears and, in fact, they show that businesses are thriving much better when you bring in cyclists and have cleaner air and less cars.”

Cllr Marie Sherlock (Labour) said last month that councillors were told that a report on a possable trial would be produced in Q2 2020. She said: “To be frank about it, that is too far away. If we’re going to be waiting until the middle of the year to have feasibility study we’ll be waiting until the end of this year or next year to see any progress on this.”

Cllr Naoise O’Muiri (Fine Gael) said: “I’m entirely unclear where Cllr Flynn stands on this. He seems to be in favour of a project, just not this one.”

He said: “Fine Gael are fully supportive of this. I think it’s a key project for the council for this term, this has to get done. I’m fully supportive as well of a trial. The more attention, trialing, coverage and support it can get, the better.”

Cllr O’Muiri added: “I cycled from the IFSC to this meeting and that road [the quays] is chronic.”

Cllr James Geoghegan (Fine Gael) said: “I’d like to echo O’Muiri’s statement and everybody else’s, it is really essential that this trial proceeds.”

“Everybody around from every single party is screaming for more segregated cycle lanes right across the city,” he said. He added that councilors are always told that there’s issues with funding, or issues with the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Lord Mayor, Cllr Paul McAuliffe (Fianna Fáil), said: “In the battle for climate change, I think supporting cycling and segregated cycling routes has to be the lowest hanging fruit. If that is something we cannot get across the line, we’re going to have much bigger problems.”

After referring to a climate change event he is hosting, the Lord Mayor said: “There will be people out there who aren’t responsible on this issue, who may come along and make more populist response.”

Cllr McAuliffe said: “As part of our roll we have to inform the public that there are difficult choices. But, I tell you, segregated cycle routes is not one of them, it’s something we should be 100% behind.”

Brendan O’Brien, Dublin City Council’s executive manager for its transport section, said funding for cycling is increasing. He said that the level of money the council gets from the National Transport Authority’s sustainable transport funding stream has gone from €7 million three years ago to an anticipated €27 million this year.

He said the council has been doing a lot of design, consultation and environmental on the Liffey route.

O’Brien said: “The actual width at certain sections of the Liffey Cycle Route forces us to make a difficult choice, so, we can trial a Liffey Cycle Route this summer from end-to-end as long as the members here agree to ban cars off the quays.

“Now, that sounds like a difficult choice, but when you consider that at various different sections… that if you consider the south quays at the Ha’penny Bridge there’s just two lanes and we have to give public transport space because the bus service brings the largest number of commuters into the city. So, the other lane is the space where we either take it for the cycle track or for cars — it is a simple choice.”

He said the NTA plan is centred around boardwalks and creating extra space. But he said that, to trial the route, officials can come back to councillors at the next meeting with a list of what can be done, and what is difficult to do, including options to remove cars from sections of the quays for a trial.

He said: “The easiest way we can do a Liffey Cycle Route is to ban cars of certain sections of the quays, which causes problems to do with delivery, access etc etc, but we will commit to come back to the March [council] meeting with proposals.”

O’Brien said that there is a “huge amount of permissions” which have to be got to progress the NTA version of the route and that the council is currently looking at issues such as environmental impacts and testing the strength of different quay walls to see if they can take boardwalks.

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