A planned trial of a two-way cycle path on Strand Road in Sandymount is not postponed until next year, Dublin City Council has said.
The council said that reports in the media were incorrect. The council document which mentioned postponing the project until next year, which was presented to councillors, was based on councillors voting for the motion to postpone the project. But local councillors voted 9-4 against a motion to postpone the trial.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said: “The report in the media was incorrect as the motion was defeated and so falls and the timetable set out in the motion no longer applies.”
“We have had almost 3,000 submissions and the 2:1 in favour was from a week before the closing date and may now be a lot closer, but we are starting the process of examining the submissions and preparing a report on the consultation and the next steps with the project from the October meeting of the South East Area committee.”
A similar quick-build project in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area — called the Coastal Mobility and funded by the National Transport Authority — made the road one-way most of the way between Blackrock and Seapoint. The route has attracted a large amount of people to cycle, ranging from visitors to the area to school children.
If the Sandymount project goes ahead, the two councils have signalled the intent to join both projects up via the Rock Road. Dublin City Council is also looking at the possibility of making a safe route between Strand Road and the Grand Canal cycle path.
LONG READ: Local councillors debate the Strand Road trial:
South East Area Committee meeting of Dublin City Council on Monday and spent a half hour debating the issue, with a mix of views on the proposed trial.
Lord Mayor, Cllr Hazel Chu said: “I fully understand where my colleagues are coming from in terms of frustration, in terms of how they, they heard of this, in terms of how things were communicated. But I also want to point to the reason for the scheme and the title of the scheme: It is a COVID scheme. We are in the midst of a pandemic still, and we will continue to be in the midst of a pandemic… The proposal is that, we are putting in a cycle way to try to make transport easier and better for all concerned.”
“We all have received many emails about this. I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of emails, and it’s not just one side or another. I’ve received many from Sandymount that are supporting the scheme and received many that are against,” said Cllr Chu.
She said that she does not contest the point by other councillors that the council needs to work with the communities and she added: “I understand why my colleagues would be supporting it [the motion], but I myself can’t because I do think we need change now more so than ever.”
The motion to defer the trial was put forward by Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour), Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour), and Deirdre Conroy (Fianna Fáil) — the two Labour councillors involved voted against the South Dublin Quietway in 2018 and again in 2019 on similar grounds of concerns of disrupting car traffic.
Chairperson of the local committee, Cllr Lacey said: “The issue of Strand Road came to us in the middle of August. There’s been proposals both for and against. There has been a lot of good ideas from both people who are in favor of this and people who are against this. And there’s been a lot of suggestions as to how it could be implemented or not implemented. I tried and drafting this motion to reconcile different conflicting views, to see how we could bring them together, how we could bring people together to see how we could improve traffic in the area.”
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) said: “And again, like I said earlier on, and the way that these infrastructures and rolled out for cycling is totally wrong there.”
Cllr Flynn in 2018 appeared on RTE’s Prime Time in the context of 15 people killed while cycling on Irish roads in one year and said that “the biggest problem we have is cyclists behaviour”. On the Fitzwilliam Cycle Route he said that “more and more cyclists think they’re in some sort of velodrome” and on the Liffey Cycle Route he said it would “kill the city economy. Cyclists don’t keep the economy going.”
On Monday, debating the Sandymount trial, Cllr Flynn said: “Nobody’s opposed to a better environment. Nobody’s opposed to cycling and walking. What they’re opposed to was the manner in which this is rolled out, where there’s no proper consultation where it’s simply like, you know, it’s Owen Keegan’s way or the highway. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough at all.”
He said that the motion did not go far enough and that the project should be pulled.
Cllr Paddy McCartan (FG) was dismissive of the well-established concepts of traffic evaporation and modal change. Cllr McCartan has voted both for and against the South Dublin Quietway consultation (voted yes in 2018, but no in 2019).
Cllr McCartan said: “There’s one glib response there for Dublin city council. The traffic we’ll find alternative ways to get into the city. Yeah. But what are those alternative ways? The alternative ways are going up Merrion Road and with no right hand turns up Serpentine Avenue.”
He said that Strand Road was not like the road out to Sandycove, which has been made one-way for motorists with one traffic lane being turned into a two-way cycle path, which he said “has worked reasonably well, as far as the feedback I’m getting, but this is of a different order altogether.
Cllr McCartan said now was the time to “grasp the bullet” and build a cycle path off the road without affecting the current road layout.
Cllr James Geoghegan (FG) said residents were “all for” a cycle route and would “wrap their arms around” a cycle path which did not remove a traffic lane.
Cllr Geoghegan said: “Ultimately, one of the consequences of the proposal, if it was to go to its fruition would essentially to be remove a single line of traffic, which necessarily would benefit at those who live on Strand Road. But what’s regrettable, is that where there is so much support within the community for an amenity like the boardwalk, all along the Strand Road that we’ve been left with the situation, which I understand the ambition underpinning this proposal, which is reflective of what’s taking place right across the city, which is to get people on bicycles and to make cities more livable.”
“And regrettably, we have essentially the streets in Sandymount being pitted against one another. And that I think is just, it’s an unfortunate reality. I think we have to bridge those gaps and I really do think it will be terrible if at this got turned into a kind of a, um, ‘we’re pro cycling’ or ‘we’re anti cycling’,” he said.
Cllr Geoghegan said: “This isn’t actually a binary thing here. It really is genuine, legitimate, not fanciful, not pie in the sky.” He said there was concern that all those cars that the residents of the Strand Road have suffered from will switch to roads in the village.
Cllr Claire O’Connor (Fianna Fáil) said: “I’m still reeling from the fact that I learned about this proposal as a councillor in The Irish times. And that infuriates me. We got it, a two line email from Owen Keegan on a Friday at one o’clock. And then we read about the detail of this in The Irish Times [on the Saturday].”
She said: “The second thing that furious it’s me, and it happens a lot on this council is that if a community takes the position. That they have difficulties with the nuances of a project or a specifically the traffic it’s displacement as a result of a project that they’re then just labeled as anti-cycling.”
On traffic displacement she said: “If a lane of traffic it’s taken away, it has to go somewhere. It can’t, it doesn’t just simply, you know, revert back and bounce back, it’s like water, you know, it has to find its level.” However, sustainable transport experts point out that traffic is less like a liquid and more like a gas, which can evaporate quicker.
Cllr O’Connor said that the issues been raised are legitimate and reasonable. Cllr O’Connor went onto state that “there’s also issues of people trying to access their houses”, but access will be maintained to all houses. Then she said that there was issues with some roads which have with “water pipes and sewage pipes” which she claimed with nothing to support such that they could not sustain extra traffic for longer than six months.
Cllr O’Connor said the question for councillors was not if they were pro or anti cycling but if the public were consultated to and adequate level. She said questioned if people viewed the online consultation as a “box ticking exercise or not” because the project was first “dissemination through The Irish Times”. She said that consultation results should be weighted towards people “who live in the area as opposed to somebody from a random part of the city.”
In a short contribution, Cllr Deirdre Conroy (Fianna Fáil) said she wanted transport minister Eamon Ryan to fund and advance a cycle route on the coast which does not require traffic changes.
Cllr Pat Dunne (Independents4Change) said: “This isn’t just about the residents of Sandymount. Sandymountis a facility that has been enjoyed for generations and generations of Dubliners. I recall as a, as a kid, getting the number eight bus out to Serpentine Avenue and the long walk down to the beach. And then the long walk from the beach out to the sea. We brought our own kids there.”
“Whatever is best for the people of Dublin is really how this issue should be looked at,” he said. “I happened to spend some time over the weekend out in Dún Laoghaire, and it’d been a number of years since I’d been there. You take the coast road from Blackrock all the way past the west pier, past the east period, and beyond that, a cycle track. A cycle track that is used, as I spotted, by literally hundreds of people at per hour. That’s what we should be aspired to.”
Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) said: “There is a public consultation taking place. So, I’m not really sure how much more consultation you want? A deadline is today [last Monday] for anyone wants to make their own thoughts known.
“HGVs are not supposed to be using that route anyways. So this actually might bring an opportunity to properly enforce that there were similar fears raised about increased traffic. When Shellybanks primary school was supposed to move to the former rehab site that’s since moved there. The big fears haven’t been realized,” said Cllr Byrne.
She said: “We can’t have a board work there [along the coast]. Trust me, even as a Green, we have looked at all the ways to do this. There is breeding birds, nesting birds. They’re on it to be in breach of the Habitats Directive. It might not be impossible, but it will be costly. And we delay this project by another five years, minimum.
“We need to complete the Sutton to Sandycove cycle route and Sandymount has been a pinch point for a long time. It isn’t just about the residents, but all the people commuting from the north side to the south side on a daily basis. And now we can actually trial a solution,” she said.
Cllr Byrne added: “It might not be the solution, but that’s the glory of trials, and if we can trial this and keep our citizens safe as part of the COVID mobility measures at the same time, then to me, this is a positive proposal that should go ahead without any amendments. Let’s see how it goes for six months and review it then.”
Cllr Mannix Flynn added: “When you were issuing your report in relation to the consultation process, which I don’t believe is the consultation process. Anyway, can you ascertain, but in that particular report, how many people who made submissions or part of the cycling campaigns and lobbies vast amount of the emails that we received, indeed I received, we would identify it as being part of the cycling lobby. A lot of the emails I received from the local people who lived in Sandymount were just ordinary, everyday folk. They didn’t have a particular campaign. So, we need to understand the campaigning aspect of this versus the local residents who just came upon without any warning.”
Cllr Lacey said: “Okay. I understand your point. You’re making [Cllr Flynn], indeed Cllr O’Connor made a similar point, but you know, lobby groups have a right to lobby. And if you passionately believe in something, you’ve a right to lobby for that even though I’m on the opposite side of some of this, people have a right to lobby. I know Cllr Geoghegan cycle here today and so did I, so I’m certainly not anti-cycling.”
Cllr Geoghegan said he was not voting for the motion because it is too prescriptive. Cllr O’Connor said that she was not voting for it because she said it does not suit anybody.
As the motion failed, the council officials withdrew the report and will present a new report based on the consultation results to the October meeting of the South East Area committee.