How to quick-build an east-west route along the Grand Canal in central Dublin

— As always: 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: This is the latest article in our series of quick-build cycle network in Dublin. In this article we suggest how the city can quickly build a two-way cycle path along the central section of the Grand Canal and, secondarily, by adding to bus priority along the South Circular Road.'s reader-funded journalism won't survive without your help. With over 762,000 views so-far this year, it's not just "avid cyclists" who read this website, but, if you want it to keep going, more support is needed from readers like you. Now, back to the article...

Why do this?

  • Making the city more livable — fewer car trips means clearer air, less noise, and making more space for sitting down or for walking, cycling, public transport, and even greenery.
  • Making the city more healthy — both from getting more people more active to reducing air and noise pollution even for those who are not active.
  • Greater capacity — protected space for cycling can carry more people than the equivalent space for cars or buses (and bus priority measures are also suggested in the section part below).

Those benefits are balanced against interrupting the status quo, which will take adjustment for some people and that can be hard. Access for people in cars would be maintained, but at lower capacity for cars (ie there would be few car trips). Some people would have to travel further in their cars, but the implantation of such traffic circulation planning proves that this results in overall fewer km traveled by cars, and lower pollution as more people switch at least some of the time to walking, cycling or public transport.

There’s two elements to the suggestion in this article:

  • Along the Grand Canal — a continuous 5km two-way cycle path with a general width of 4 metres mostly beside a one-way lane for private motorists going eastbound.
  • Along the South Circular Road — two-way access for cycling and buses (not continuous lanes) with one-way access for private motorists going westbound.

Some will question why the route goes east when it’s just across the canal from the existing Grand Canal Cycle Route — the main reason is capacity: the current route suffers from hard-to-fix pinch points and is already over capacity at peak times. It will not handle extra bicycle traffic from a 4 metre wide cycle path coming from the west, plus more of a quick-build network.

Some two-way access for motorists in both of the above, but mostly for local access only. The latter can be built after the former, but it should not be done the other way around.

If you don’t like this idea, then what’s your alternative? Will it take another 5-10 years or more to build a segregated route along the canal?

The below cross-sections are done using As with other articles, there’s 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, orcas, dividers and planters etc.

We start along the canal just east of the Suir Road Luas Stop and the cross-sections are as if we are heading east with the cycle path on the canal side.

Along the Grand Canal:

Dolphen Road from Luas to Herberton Road:

Junction of Herberton Road — the median here is as existing:

East side of Herberton Road junction — the median here is as existing:

Dolphin Road east of Herberton Road:

Parnell Road:

Parnell Road at junction of Clogher Road and Donore Ave:

Junction of Harold’s Cross Road:

Grove Road:

At ~8 metres wide (which is narrow compared to the rest of the route), the junction at Rathmines Road is too narrow for a left turning lane — the left turn towards the city centre would have to be banned OR the straight ahead movement for motorists would have to be separated from the cycling crossing.

Short section between Rathmines Road and Mountpleasant Ave Lower:

Canal Road:

Junction with Ranelagh Road:

Grand Parade:

Junction at Leeson Street (former N11):

Mespil Road on short section between Leeson Street and Sussex Terrace

Mespil Road east of junction with Sussex Terrace

Mespil Road east of junction with Burlington Road

Mespil Road junction with Baggot Street

Short section of Haddington Road two-way access for motorists between Mespil Road and Percy Place:

Haddington Road general:

Haddington Road east of Northumberland Road

Haddington Road at junction of Shelbourne Road

Bath Avenue and Londonbrigde Road

Along the South Circular Road:

The choices along the South Circular Road are to (a) keep the same or (b) add bus priority which will help with traffic reduction.

NOTE: The suggestions here for the South Circular Road can be implemented after the canal route suggestions above. Some of the measures below will only make sense if done when the O orbital bus route (part of the shorter-term BusConnects routing plans) is put in place. Other measures can be put in place in advance of the O route.

Bus priority along the above shown section would aid the planned O orbital route:

The South Circular Road on the approach to James’s Hospital would be the western end of the one-way system for motorists. From the South Circular Road junction with Suir Road to the James’s Hospital campus remains two-way for access, shown here on the yellow line to the left on this map.

This is an example of our research into widths: There’s four sections of widths — ~12m (green), ~11m (light blue), ~10m (purple), all heading towards the hospital, and ~8-9m (brown) by the hospital campus heading towards the Luas bridge:

On the South Circular Road (towards hospital) at the junction with Suir Road, this is what’s possable if cycling priority is a priority:


On the narrow section, this is around about what’s there now:

This is possable:

Or this:

At the junction with Brookfield Road, the turn towards the Luas bridge (where where the one-way system starts), the left turn here would be towards the hospital, and there will be no need for private motorists or buses to turn right here, so, the right turn is just for cyclists (there’s no cycle track arrow on Streetmix used to draw these cross section images).

As the South Circular approaches the Luas bridge, something like this can fit around the bridge over the Luas red line:

Within Rialto and part of Dolphin’s Barn, bus priority could be maintained by a strict one-way system along the South Circular Road. But an alternative is allowing two-way local access (yellow) while restricting traffic flow enough to keep buses moving by having one-way bus gates at both ends where private traffic is only allowed westbound (purple sections).

As per all quick build suggestions, fine tuning is a must, including traffic calming, reducing rat running or more cycling or bus priority as needed.

At the junction where the South Circular meets (the street named) Dolphin’s Barn, this type of layout — while it’s far from perfect in terms of cycling, it would give priority to the O bus route and some level of cycling priority.

On the other side of the junction (still looking east, as all of these images), you can fit something like this… it would offer some level of protected cycling eastbound locally, while people cycling westbound would (a) use the canal route or (b) share with buses.

The space is nearly wide enough for a two-way cycle path but it’s a bit too much of a squeeze, especially if you factor in bus stop platforms — so, this won’t really work:

This will fit but it’s too narrow to be protected and would also likely encourage illegal parking:

From Dolphin’s Barn to Camden Street there is quite some differences in the street widths — purple = ~10m, light blue = ~11m, green = ~12m, yellow = ~13m, orange = ~14m.

So, regardless of what’s chosen, it cannot be continuous unless bus priority is lowered overall or for sections.

This fits into the 11m sections:

At 11m it is not enough space to safely have cycle lanes in both directions — ie also do not do this:

At 10m the space is boiled away and it would be safer to have no cycle lane in any direction here — ie also do not do this:

Options for alternative cycle routes north of the canal include reducing bus priority in the above suggestion or having routes on quiet roads north of the south circular road.

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