How to build a quick-build north-south cycle route in Dublin City Centre

— This only works if there’s political will to accept taking space from cars and reducing motor traffic flow in the city centre. 

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: As part of a series of quick-build cycle network, this is article suggests a route which takes in North King Street / Bolton Street, Capel Street, Parliament Street, Castle Street, Werburgh St / Bride St / Heytesbury St, into Portobello and onto Harold’s Cross and Rathmines, with interventions to the bridges to both areas.

Here’s the broad outline:

The route includes:

  • A continuously cycle route while avoiding affecting bus priority.
  • Minimal possible kerb changes — the cross-sections shown below deal with kerb-to-kerb widths and, so, exclude existing footpaths.
  • Segregation is provided using segregated cycle tracks with bollards, dividers and planters etc (blue lines above).
  • Segregation for heavy traffic is also provided using traffic control / reduction measures (purple lines above)  such as bollards to stop through motor traffic and changing traffic flow. In these cases people cycling will mix with local access traffic.
  • One route, it does mean improvements are not needed for cycling on the main route from George’s Street to Camden Street etc.

This is the Street View of Bolton Street now:

You could — for example — fit the following on Bolton Street which is 15-16 metres wide. These design would have to bend into allow for the existing crossing islands at junctions (unless these were removed). This example is 15 metres wide and includes ‘buffer’ areas acting here as social distancing space for people to step off the footpath:

At some points along the street some loading / parking will be needed OR a lot of extra enforcement. These suggestions exclude right hand turning lanes which currently take up a huge amount of space on the street.

The point of providing these images isn’t to say the council needs to do it X way, it’s to show something different is possable. Although maybe not magic carpet lanes:

At the top of Capel St and on Ryder’s Row, onto Parnell St, the suggestion is to have a two-way cycle path replace the general traffic lane which is currently beside the existing contra-flow cycle track:

We’ll leave it up to people’s imagination as to what it will look like with the lane closest to the cycle track changed into a two-way cycle path — it might reduce junction capacity for motor traffic, but most of the time the existing layout is a big waste of space and encourages speeding.

What to do with Parnell St is another article… for now we’ll continue along Capel Street. This section is a low-traffic section and can be left as is in the short term — this is not about getting the ideal street layout but making change to enable firmer changes in the future:

For the middle section of Capel Street, the suggest in this article is to restrict through access using a bollard/s or a planter at the key point shown below. This is the city centre equivalent of the Drumcondra bollards, which were opposed at first by residents and councillors before their effects were shown to be positive enough to gain public support.

There are a number of ways this could be done — the suggestion in this article is to reverse the flow of these sections of Capel Street. By doing this it does not require a change to the flows of other streets.

While this is just one section of one route, this type of system is in line with sustainable traffic circulation planning. The type of planning which looks to increase people-carrying capacity by shifting people to sustainable transport and pushing the remaining car traffic out to larger roads. In other words having people drive around the city centre’s core, not through it.

The bollards or planters could be put where the bicycle logo is shown here:

In the above plan for the middle of Capel Street, there would be little or no kerb or changes on the street. Markings and signs would make it clear that cycling is allowed in both directions.

It would efficiently become what many cities are calling “bicycle streets”, where there is car and delivery access while bicycles keep the street as a through route and have priory over turning cars at junctions etc.

In the short term, much of the parking spaces might be needed as social distancing space. In the longer term, it’s a choice one or both of the above sections become walking and cycling only.

Care would have to be taken with the above and motoring so that other possable routes do not turn into ratruns or become heavier used ratruns, such as that the no entry ‘except access’ section of Wolfe Tone Street south of Mary Lane:

The next section of the quays is between the Luas red line and the quays:

Here’s the part south of the Luas tracks:

And what’s possable between the kerbs, excluding the loading bays / parking:

This is Capel Street at the quays:

And one possibility for fitting in the cycle route on this section:

The two-way path would continue across Grattan Bridge (aka Capel Street bridge) and onto Parliament Street.

On the north side of the bridge at Capel Street, the two-way cycle path could cross from Capel Street to the bridge sharing part or all of the same traffic light sequences as the traffic lane and/or pedestrian crossings.

The south side crossing from the bridge into Parliament Street would be less compatible with the current traffic light set up (unless the turn from the bridge to Wood Quay was banned). However, there is a missing pedestrian crossing from the west side of the bridge to Parliament Street. The two-way cycle path crossing could work well with a new pedestrian crossing, which needs to be provided anyway.

There’s a question then on Parliament Street does the two-way cycle path continue as far as Dame Street.

A possable link from Parliament St to Castle St is via Exchange St Upper. A downside is that it has cobblestones, but on the upside: (1) it’s more of a direct crossing onto Castle Street and (2) makes more sense for the cycling movement from Dame Street westbound to turn right because there’s space at the junction of Castle Street to wait before turning right.

The junction of Dame Street with Cork Hill / Castle Street would be made bicycle only with Castle Street made two-way, with access only from the other end for motorists.

South of Castle Street, the route turns onto Werburgh St and Bride St.

This would work best if buses on those streets were switched to Patrick Street, as planned in BusConnects. This is not 100% needed but would make the cycle route a lot easier to do and already planned as a bus-priority measure.

On Werburgh St and Bride St there can be cycle tracks protected with bollards or planters in both directions or a two-way cycle track on one side of the street — with buses shifted to Patrick Street, there’s more space left over for loading and parking etc. However, to make decent cycle tracks of 2m+ in each direction, there will likely need to be the following:

  • A reduction of parking in some spots.
  • Removal of turning lanes (straight forward and turning lanes merged).
  • Removal of bus lane (or other lane if buses are not shifted to Patrick Street).

The rest of the main section of the route use one of two options: (a) Drumcondra bollards approach multiplied into blocking rat running at a number of locations or (b) removing residential parking outside houses on one side of the street for the length of New Bride St / Heytesbury St and, across the South Circular Road, on Stamer St.

Option a is the simplest, cheapest and be better for the local area by reducing rat running more that option b would.

As per Capel Street, care and monitoring will have to be used to make sure ratrunning issues are not made worse elsewhere.

Along the canal, explore options for two-way cycling on Windsor Terrace, ie provide waiting areas for cars to yield to cyclists, to allow access from the main route to Harold’s Cross Bridge:

Remove one lane on both Harold’s Cross and Rathmines bridges to make space for cycle tracks in both directions… or Dublin can keep playing waiting for Godot and wait another half or full decade for action…

These measures will greatly improve already busy access points for people cycling entering the city centre, even for those who are not using the north-south route suggested in this article.

On Emmet Bridge (aka Harold’s Cross bridge) the width between kerbs is about ~11 metres. Currently it includes what could be best described as token cycle lanes in both directions and no bus priority.

This is how the space could be used — the red here is a right hand turning lane to turn right into Windsor Terrace

At the Rathmines bridge, this is the state of the route with the highest volume of people cycling into the city centre:

This is one example of what could fit on the bridge — this would mean buses from the Rathmines Road would be better place in the straight ahead lane on the approach to the bridge. Many bus drivers currently use the right hand turning lane but there’s a issue then with trying to squeeze onto the bridge with cyclists around the bus.

IrishCycle.com’s preference for the Rathmines route is bus priority by using bus gates, including one at the bridge and as well as one closer to the centre of Rathmines (where BusConnects plans one). But cycling safity cannot wait until the perfect bus priority measures are in place.

The cycling volumes at the junction will only get busier, and the rat running in Portobello is overdue to be tackled and needed to provide a link to the main north-south link suggested in this article.

As part of this, the junction space at the north end of the bridge needs to be looked at in terms of more space for pedestrians and cycling.

On the west side the existing roadway (green) could be changed into the cycle path and the existing cycle path (blue) changed into a widened footpath. On the east side, the motoring access is needed for access, but the waiting area could be widdened so that the cycle path is ~4 metres wide at the junction:

If quick action on longer routes is not on the cards for Dublin, then what? Wait until the children being cycled and cycling themselves are adults before Dublin sees progress?

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.

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