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How a planned cycle route in Balbriggan could be safer, more attractive and save more trees

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The planned Harry Reynolds Road Pedestrian and Cycle Route is a step better than the existing disjointed cycle paths in Balbriggan, but Fingal County Council needs to be aiming for a higher level of design thinking and the details.

The route will have a strong potential to help link a lot of areas in the town including residential areas to a lot of schools, shopping centres and areas of employment. This route plus some improvements to existing cycle routes in the town would mean a fairly wide basic network (although, there’s a good deal to do to connect up and upgrade existing routes).

In the below map, the Harry Reynolds Road is marked in red below and the blue line is also part of the project as a link to residential areas and the Balbriggan Educate Together National School. It is open for public consultation until 5pm today, see for full details.

Here an image from the route selection document showing the route outlined in the local map of the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan:

This is the map key / legend for the project drawings shown below:

These first four images show the planned route between the Balbriggan Educate Together National School and Drogheda Street. The part of the route circled here:

The plans include unnecessary use of shared walking and cycling paths at junctions, shared sections also at bus stops, and cycle tracks becoming cycle lanes at minor side roads… we’re not going to go into the details of these as we’re proposing an alternative which bypasses much of the flawed details…

This is the existing junction at Drogheda Street, which includes an existing two-way cycle path on one side of the road (in need of upgrade, but it could be worse) — regardless of what route choices are chosen, the connection between the existing two-way path (left and right when looking at the image) and the new cycle route should be improved rather than becoming a shared area at the junction:

The alternative to the drawings above is to build onto the existing suggestion of starting the route using a low-traffic residential street beside the Education Together School and add to that (sections in yellow below) and then plot a two-way cycle path to link up the sections of low-traffic streets and link the route into the existing two-way path on Drogheda Street.

This solution removes the need to have shared cycling and walking paths and reduces the need to cut down trees.

Cycle routes should not be using shared sections with pedestrians and, especially at side street, people cycling on the main route should have raised crossing with clear visual priority over motorists entering or exiting the more minor side street.

For crossing the main road, Westport has a parallel pedestrian/cycle zebra on part of its urban greenway network being used on a regional road without issue on a main road for years. Some of these design elements will be also useful for side street crossings:

In London this parallel pedestrian/cycle zebra crossing on Quietway 2 is more clearly marked and the zebra beacons are expanded to include the cycling crossing:

In the Netherland priority is clearer again:

The next section is the rest of the Harry Reynolds Road:m, circled in yellow here:

We’re going back to the roundabout pictured above but this time going south, as indicated by the yellow arrow:

Here’s the details of what’s planned — again with many of the normal issues with shared space and cycle tracks becoming cycle lane:

There’s a lot of issues to fix and a lot of them could be fixed, but the alternative the suggestion here again is using a two-way path.

Two-way cycle paths are unsuitable where there’s many entrances, but there’s few side streets and the signalised junctions can be worked out in a number of ways.

The two-way path could potentially run on one or the other side of the road, not both except near the roundabout.

Here’s the typical planned cross-section along this section:

And an example of an alternative, again keeping the trees which residents want kept — this might not exactly be right in the way it shows the existing layout (ie the existing narrow footpath and tree line) but this general design can work.

Designing the junctions might be a bit trickier in ways than the council’s plan, but it can be done and the extra feeling of comfort of a green buffer between the cycle path and carriageway cannot be underestimated (while it’s hardly mentioned in the National Cycle Manual).

Buffered cycle paths are far more suitable for children than cycle tracks with a light-level of segregation between people cycling and motor vehicles.

Note: The cycle path can be switched to being on the side of the road with the existing  tree line, between the tree line and the carriageway.

For the rest of the route the main thing which needs to happen is the removal of planned shared space and replacing it with defined space for walking and cycling.

The roundabouts also need reworking into single lane roundabouts or junctions.

These current and planned designs of roundabouts are unsafe for all, unattractive to walking and cycling and, when you start added crossings which are needed for safety, the designs don’t in reality perform that much better than single lane designs. In any case, the goal should be modal shift and fewer trips by car: is reader-funded journalism. That means it's funded by readers like you.

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Cian Ginty


  1. Hi Cian – not sure you noticed the strange arrangement on sheet #9 with 2-way cycle track stepped up from footpath. This is a mistake: footpaths should always be higher than cycle tracks… that’s the convention irrespective of the order they appear on the street. The main reason for this is that pedestrians naturally gravitate towards the higher path as it that is what they have been “programmed” to do and there is a sense of security being at the higher level. It also establishes a hierarchy… pedestrians at the top.


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