Sandymount cycle path: Claims by residents’ group are just plain wrong

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: SHORT READ & LONG READ: One group of residents who are effectively looking for the status-quo for cars on Strand Road are gaining political and media attention which might help stop the cycle path from being trialled. Make no mistake about this — the proposal by this group is non-viable. It’s not a compromise, it’s a well-branded proposal to sacrifice the footpath and mix people cycling with motorists.

The group started off as including local residents of “Serpentine Avenue, Tritonville Road, Claremont and adjoining roads” in Sandymount and now seems to have expanded to including “local residents” “from Sandymount, Ringsend, Irishtown & Ballsbridge”.

The group’s plan to sacrifice the coast-side footpath on Strand Road for 2km and mixing people cycling with traffic for about 300 metes isn’t workable.

Right out of the 1984 playbook for PR disinformation the group has branded its website and re-branded its Facebook page as “Sandymount Cycle For All” — their proposals are not fit for cycling for all (ie not fit for children, parents carrying children or people with disabilities who cycle), and their proposals are also poor for people walking with the removal of a footpath, and dangerous for bus users with bus stops shared with a cycle path.

It could be just pragmatism on Dublin City Council’s behalf, but many viewed it as strange for the council last week to add the group’s ‘alternative’ proposal to the official consultation page for the proposed trial. The council said: “Due to the level of interest in the proposal and with the consent of the STC community group this proposal is being made available to the public. The DCC assessment report will also be made available once complete.”

Even more strangely, the group’s new website, Sandymountcycleforall.ie, does not seem to include the actual proposal document now public on the council’s website. Possibly because reading the document makes it clear how bad the STC proposals are, and what the group thinks the highly successful Costal Mobility Route from Blackrock to Sandycove.

The STC group claims the Costal Mobility Route has led to “chaos and disruption to locals and those trying to access facilities is palpable” when the reality is that some problems needed ironing out and some motorists will never be happy with a cycle path taking up a former traffic lane. Others know there’s a compromise to be had.

But when the STC group says compromise, remember this clanger of a line from its section on “Lessons Learned” from the Costal Mobility Route: “Would it not be better to get the praise of being able to open an attractive coastal cycle route while maintaining the coastal driving route-which is an amenity in itself?” It’s pie in the sky stuff which implies COVID-19 cycle paths can be put in place to offer people an alterative to public transport in a pandemic without affecting car use at all.

Only time will tell if councillors and the council management have enough leadership to stand up to some influential people in Sandymount.

The vision in Dublin — set out in policy document after policy document and voted on by councillors — is fewer people driving all the time and more people using a mix of walking, cycling or using public transport when they can. Progress will keep getting blocked if some councillors and others do not show leadership. COVID-19 is only one crisis we are facing — we are also facing the climate change crisis and our inactivity crisis, so, we need leadership more than ever.

LONG READ: Evaluating the claims made by STC

The group’s new website includes a load of claims which are at best questionable and mostly plain wrong. The new website has a “side by side comparison of DCC’s proposed cycle path, and STC’s alternative proposal”. Below IrishCycle.com evaluates the claims made by the resident’s group — with their comparisons in images and text below showing this website’s evaluation….

DCC = Dublin City Council
STC = Group set up to oppose Dublin City Council’s proposed Strand Road trial

Reality: Plain wrong

The STC proposal is not a continuous two-way cycle path:

  • for about 2km it just proposes changing a footpath into space for cycling
  • the footpath in parts is just 2 metres wide
  • this isn’t wide enough for a decent single direction cycle path, and below min standards for two-way cycle paths
  • it would not safely accommodate the levels of cycling on the DLRCC Coastal Mobility Route
  • for the remaining nearly 300 metres the STC proposal includes mixing cycling with motor traffic:

 

Reality: Disinformation / contradictory

These arguments are seductive but wrong or at best contradictory, because:

  • STC proposal for Strand Road includes an experimental build out and yielding system
  • The build outs and yield system amounts to traffic reconfiguration
  • Tritonville Road is a two-way road and already has two-way traffic
  • The reality is if the narrowness on Tritonville Road etc calms traffic this is a good thing
  • It will dissuade people from using this road for trips to the airport and elsewhere which should be done via the M50
  • It is contradictory to suggest Tritonville Road cannot handle two-way traffic while proposing buildouts on Strand Road and wanting two-way traffic kept

 

 

Reality: Disinformation

There will likely be an increase in traffic on some roads but it amounts to disinformation to claim that Dublin City Council’s proposals will mean Strand Road will be made on-way southbound but it is not the case that northbound traffic will be diverted into Sandymount Green or elsewhere in Sandymount. Why?

  • The route into Strand Road northbound is from Merrion Gates
  • There is a right hand turning lane on Merrion Road for Strand Road
  • The turning land is a massive 300+ metres long
  • There is no capacity to provide anything like that of a turning lane elsewhere
  • Other roads in Sandymount are already used by non-local traffic
  • Pretending otherwise is disingenuous
  • There are minor streets in Sandymoint which are safe for cycling
  • But the main roads in Sandymount are not great places for cycling
  • Pedestrian crossings have been long needed on Sandymount Green
  • These are really needed because of the high volume of motor traffic using the area

 

Reality: Disinformation

The STC proposal is centred around removing the eastern footpath on Strand Road, this means:

  • STC proposal including mixing people cycling and bus stop users
  • This design is not safe, especially not for people who are less mobile
  • People would not be able to walk on the seaside between Sean O’Casey Park and the promenade
  • Those wishing to do so would have to cross the road and cycle path twice
  • STC proposal would make many existing crossings to the promenade redundant
  • STC proposal would make space for pedestrian on sections of the building side
  • But only where there isn’t car parking
  • Thus the overall pedestrian space would be reduced on Strand Road
  • This goes against best practice normally and more so in a pandemic
  • As already discussed, it is wrong to imply all the traffic will divert into the village
  • Traffic calming and reduction measures can be provided on where needed

Reality: Based on scaremongering 

It’s shocking but maybe not surprising that the STC group cannot even bring itself to giving itself a red thumbs down for this flawed section. But as IrishCycle.com covered last week — the group’s main objection here of “exponential increase in risk” amounts to scaremongering.

The mention of a cycle path here is also disinformation — there is no space on this section for even narrow cycle lanes. The practical effect of what STC group is suggesting is painting markings which motorists will have to drive over.

Reality: Based on idealisation

The main roads in Sandymount such as Gilford Road and Park Avenue are not as ideal as suggested, and the 47 bus already uses part of Park Avenue. The STC proposal is mainly a call for the status quo. Traffic calming and reduction measures are needed to make sure things do not get worse.

Reality: It’s more complicated 

This is the type of issue which needs looking at more, but the STC proposals include mixing cycling and bus users in a narrow space at bus stops on Strand Road — which is hardly fitting or safe for elderly residents. 

If going ahead with its proposals for a trial, the council should look at this more at this issue. Areas of research could include how many residents use the bus normally and how many are still doing so in a pandemic given, and what alternatives are available or can be made available which is safer in a pandemic than a bus used by the general public. The 105 figure seems to include nursing home residents, who are unlikely to be on buses in a pandemic.

The southbound bus stop on Strand Road is also around 300 metres of a walk from the Strand Road section of the Brabazon Trust complex. So, it is presumptuous that all residents of sheltered housing are unable to walk an extra 100 metres to the junction of Gilford Rd and Park Ave where a new crossing and bus stops could be placed. The housing on Gilford Rd is slightly closer and indeed slightly further away from the existing bus stops.

But, while this is the kind of issue that cannot be dismissed out of hand, the STC proposals for mixing bus stops and cycle path on Strand Road is unsafe for residents. Furthermore the STC proposal centres on removing the seaside footpath on Strand Road limiting people’s choice to walk northbound to just the building side of the road.

Reality: More complicated boarding on disinformation 

First of all mentioning traffic modeling without mentioning the caveats is spreading disinformation, willingly or not. The city council notes that the traffic model is based on everybody staying in their cars and not a single person extra cycling when there’ll be a continuous route from Sandycover to just beside the city centre.

For example, the model does not include a single person currently driving on Strand Road commuting from the DLRCC area into the city centre switching to cycling. Yet there’s mounting evidence which shows that when continuous cycle routes are provided, more people cycle.

Under this kind of modeling the NTA transport plan for Cork, Galway and Limerick have been criticised because the modeling does not seem to fully account for modal change. Dublin’s progress to date in reducing car use would not have happened if people fretted over flawed maps like these — and places like Amsterdam and Utrecht would be still car-clogged as the 1970s if their residents had reached for such maps.

But even saying that, the traffic modeling does not show impacts in East Wall — it shows traffic decreasing in East Wall besides what seems to be a blip showing East Wall Road with less traffic but somehow marginally more within the Port. The amount of extra traffic in Fairview seems to be not too far from that in Finglas — this kind of points to the fact people like me and resident groups should not be reading these maps unaided.

The traffic model images provided shows mostly reduction in the north inner city… the quays look overall to have a larger increase than Merrion Road…. we do not know what scale there images are but does that prostration seem likely to anybody?

 

Reality: Charter for the status quo

As covered last week, the STC group is engaging in classic scaremongering which happens when these types of projects are proposed.

They are saying space should be shared, but what they are actually mainly proposing is a footpath should be removed so road is not made one-way. This is a charter for the status quo.

If they are interested in traffic reduction in Sandymount, should they not be calling for the traffic calming and reduction measures to go along with the Strand Road trial? The group likely includes a mix of people who want change but are understandably fearful of the change proposed and also those who want car-focused status quo. Currently the status quo element are clearly winning.

Trials and projects generally need months for traffic to bed in. But the reality is that if the trial’s impact is half as bad as claimed by the STC group, then the trial would not last two week never mind six months.

The vision in Dublin — set out in policy document after policy document and voted on by councillors — is fewer people driving all the time and more people using a mix of walking, cycling or using public transport when they can. Progress will keep getting blocked if some councillors and others do not show leadership. COVID-19 is only one crisis we are facing — we are also facing the climate change crisis and our inactivity crisis, so, we need leadership more than ever.

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.

19 Comments

  1. Christian Heretic October 19, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Well, cian, i cycle that route regulsrly and i rarely see anybody walking on the seaside footpath…because they are all enjoying the outer path alongside the water. It makes eminent sense for both cyclists and motorists to utilise the empty footpath. That is the best way forward in my cycling view.

  2. Hi CH, as outlined in the article, the promenade is not continuous, so the footpath is the path along the water for a notable enough section Sandymount.

    Even if that was the case, you have the problem that the footpath is not wide enough for a safe two-way cycle path and the planned alternative proposal has extra conflict between people cycling and pedestrians / bus users.

    And then there’s the not so small matter of mixing cycling with motorists for about 300 metres near the Dart crossing.

    It’s not about a cycling view or not, it’s about looking at what can be done safely and practically. And when I’m talking about providing for cycling, it’s cycling for all. For example, not just the lads who are brave enough to mix with motorists while out for a spin.

  3. Why not have a board way cycle way on sea side. No problem then with Merrion Gates. Join it up at park opposite Willow Park school.

  4. @Julie A boardwalk type of solution is at best years away and after years of planning it might still not get permission given the beach etc are protected areas.

    The trial on the other hand is a COVID-19 mobility measure which aims to give people an alternative to using public in the short term.

  5. @Christian. I’ll bet you drive that route a lot more regularly than you cycle it. There needs to be a change to the staus quo of assumed and de facto dominance by drivers. Private cars are a failed social experiment in urban mobility. The number of people driving and the distance driven by those drivers needs to be reduced for a whole load of environmental, safety and economic reasons. The status quo of 2-way access for drivers in their cars along the Strand Road needs to come to an end.

  6. @Julie. Why not just reduce driver access to one-way along the road as currently proposed. Super quick to implement, and the results, whether positive or negative will quickly become apparent.

  7. Concerned resident October 19, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    Your article has some valid points but your pro cycle lobby bias as evident as the local residents bias to the status quo neither of which is wrong albeit you seem to think the latter is.

    This is not a battle between cyclists and motorist as the majority of local residents will not drive on strand road everyday so this is not an anti cyclists move by residents and the cyclists lobby should not treat it this way.

    These people (me being one of them) have understandable concerns of the impact of the proposal single way traffic on strand road. This road is currently a main road linking south east Dublin to the port tunnel, despite the potential of cycle routes to reduce traffic levels, due to the nature of this route (trucks and cars going towards the port tunnels) this traffic is unlikely to be reduced by a cycle route.

    On this basis the current traffic flow will be redirected through a small village which is totally unsuitable to take large trucks or high volumes of traffic.
    There is the other concerns for families with children whom cycle, scoot and walk to school (the vast majority of locals kids travel to school by these methods), that will potentially be put a risk due to increased traffic through primarily residential roads. This may actually increase car usage locally as parents may feel it is not safe enough to allow their children cycle and instead will drive them to school.

    Both plans (DCC and STC) in my opinion will not work in isolation. Either plan would have to be combined with a broader plan for traffic in the area and I am very concerned that DCC will implement this plan followed by a number of bandaid fixed over the coming years rather than putting time and effort into coming up with the best (not the quickest) long term solution to keep traffic out of Sandymount village and provide a safe and practical cycle route for the south east of the county.

  8. Fair play for the resident to put together a solution that is workable. I cycle that route each day and see it as a big improvement. I’d prefer work with the residents rather against.
    I’ve no problem cycling in traffic from years at it but can’t see why some not comfortable as the road is tight in particular when you come pass the Merrion dart track.

  9. Extremely negative article against a proposal that makes sense. You can find a lot more faults in the original proposal. Not an objective piece of journalism. Shoving cycling down the public’s throats won’t get people cycling. Btw most people that I know that live in BlackRock and on the Southside affected by their new cycling infrastructure thinks it has been a disaster.

  10. Hi Gareth, if you can please point to a flaw in the article, that’d be great, otherwise you’d be just flinging mud.

    The DCC proposal is not perfect but it’s far better and (as outlined in the article) safer and more workable, than the alternative proposal. I could focus on constructive criticism of the DCC proposal if people were not trying to just derail it.

    Anonymous anecdotal evidence about “most people” you know is in striking contrast with firm data which shows the DLRCC route has increased the numbers of people cycling and the accounts from people that they have switched from walking and cycling. Cycling will never be for everyone and some people just don’t like change.

  11. Hi Aaron, I’ve outlined in detail about why the alternative is not workable, and you haven’t outlined a single tangible reason why my analysis is wrong.

    As you say yourself, your comfort cycling in traffic might colour your perspective on this —- but just remember, with the alternative suggestion, people will expect you too to cycle on what’s effectively a footpath with a bit of paint etc and in the past where projects aren’t good enough to attract and accommodate road cyclists, motorists target aggression at them.

  12. Hi Concerned resident, as I outlined more in the article I published last week, I can understand concert from residents and agree that more needs to be done to calm the village and offer connections to/from the Strand Road Route: https://irishcycle.com/2020/10/14/people-of-sandymount-irishtown-and-ringsend-please-dont-mind-the-scaremongering/

    Re the motorists using Strand Road — people going to the airport etc should divert to the M50, that’s what it was built for. But a surprising amount of the traffic is heading to town / the Docklands and for a lot of people, these are trips which can be cycled.

  13. Hi Aaron, This is about providing a piece of infrastructure that is safe to use for all users.Putting in a Micky mouse version is a waste of time and money as it will not provide the level of insurance needed for those less blasé than you. I too feel comfortable cycling in traffic, however as I am in my late sixties a little less than I use to and therefore look to proper infrastructure so everyone can continue cycling.

  14. cormac mac gearailt October 20, 2020 at 10:45 am

    This is good analysis of what I believe it a charter for the status quo. i.e. “What arrangement can go in that still allows us to not change our driving behaviour” THIs is a COVID trial – we are now looking at 25% capacity on public transport. I think the DCC proposals are justified.

  15. Gareth said: Shoving cycling down the public’s throats won’t get people cycling.

    No-one is shoving cycling down anyone’s throat. This is all about enabling those who wish to cycle an opportunity to do so. Surveys and data have consistently shown that many more people in Dublin would cycle if safe segregated cycle infra was available to them. Gareth – if you don’t want to cycle, then fine, don’t, carry on as before, but stop shoving your car-centric ideas on the rest of us.

    Gareth also said: Btw most people that I know that live in BlackRock and on the Southside affected by their new cycling infrastructure thinks it has been a disaster.

    And yet, Gareth’s anecdotes are in contrast with the actual data that the changes made have enabled more people to cycle. Perhaps Gareth only knows a certain type of person that is already happy to cycle on the current car-dominated roads, but the majority of people don’t want those sorts of roads. Kids can’t cycle to school on their own because of them. People with disabilities are severely restricted because of them. Elderly people and the majority of women also find them far too intimidating to cycle on. I don’t know Gareth’s friends, but they’re not representative of the majority of people that would like to get from A to B safely on a bike.

  16. Sandymount residents are not against cycling or cyclists. We are concerned that vested interests like ours naturally should be listened to and respected. Sandymount is already a ratrun for motorists. the new proposals do not give due attention to waht new proposals will add to the traffic in our village[ Yes it is a village] There are 2 glaring proposals that deserve to be studied if cyclists wish to use one side of Strand Raod.
    1. The footpath running from Sean Moore to Merrion Gates could be treid. It has very little usage as it is for pedestrians.
    2. The Green belt running most of the same route could be fashioned as a cycle way.
    3. Many cyclists already us the promenade regularly at off perios in the Am and pm.

    Park Avenue is totally unsuitable for regular usage as a bus route.
    Dublin city officials do not appear to have seriously consulted local reps elected and non-elected. T

  17. @Tony — you seem to have commented without reading the article….

    “We’re not against cycling” is what nearly every group in Ireland or the UK says when they object to cycle routes. Your other points are covered in the article and the other article linked to above.

    The consultation was very high-profile. The problem is that claims from objectors — like the claim of the unsuitability of roads for buses — are unsupported or biased on incomplete info.

  18. Just for noting, traffic flow counters have been installed on roads around the Sandymount village approaches. I went over some this morning.

  19. We’re not against black people or foreigners, it’s just that our road/neighborhood/village/town isn’t suitable for those types of people. Such people should be accommodated elsewhere, and we wish they would be accommodated elsewhere (so that we don’t have to deal with them).

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