COMMENT & ANALYSIS / LONG READ VERSION: Now that it’s been confirmed that Sandymount’s Strand Road cycle path trail is to start next month, here’s five things to help make the Sandymount cycle path trial a success.
1. Connection to the city centre
A city centre cycling link of under 1.3 km long could link the Strand Road cycle path trial with the Grand Canal cycleway and onto the developing network of segregated cycle paths in the city centre. As shown above, a network is developing on east of the city and there will be more to come in the coming year.
A city centre link would transform the Strand Road trial from being isolated from the city centre to be connected to the growing network of cycle routes in the centre of Dublin.
Key to this idea would be making Bath Road and Londonbridge Road access only for motorists and providing a short sections of cycle paths on (1) Grand Canal Street Upper and (2) on Church Ave in Irishtown / Sandymount.
Having the bridge over the River Dodder turned into cycling and emergency services access only is called filtered permeability.
This has been used across Dublin to stop rat running in housing estates, most examples are decades old and there maybe even wasn’t a name for it back then, But in recent years there’s been overall success stories in Drumcondra, Grangegorman and at the nearby Pigeon House Road.
Council officials also know that these schemes bring more objectors to the mix from people who don’t want change, so, it would be understandable that they might want to shy away (or run a million miles) from this idea. One thing to keep in mind is that most potential objectors are already up in arms.
There’s also few alternatives and no alternative north of this point — Ringsend Bridge is too confined with heavy traffic and bus routes, and the Eastlink is also confined and needed in both directions as the main HGV Dublin Port access to/from the south port.
The main suggestion for a city centre link is shown as a red line in the above city centre map and as a red line again below. An alternative is in yellow.
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The alternative also has it’s pollical downsides. It’s a bit longer at closer to 2km and it also has more tricky junctions and is a bit less direct. But there’s nothing impossible in it and maybe worth considering if the main suggestion is ruled out.
The alternative runs from Beach Road to the Grand Canal via Leahy’s Terrace, a section of Sandymount Road, the eastern half of Lansdowne Road, Newbridge Ave, Shelbourne Road and Grand Canal Street Upper. Some of these roads would be suitable for filtered permeability, but roads like Shelbourne Road and Grand Canal Street Upper would need cycle paths and than would mean a choice between removing parking or making them one-way.
A Shelbourne Road and Grand Canal Street Upper cycle route is worth looking at in its own right, even beyond the Sandymount trial. For now, on balance, I think the main suggestion above maybe be a better idea. But if others think otherwise, I’m not trying to be too prescriptive, just to say a high-quality city centre link is needed and there’s few options.
2. Connection to Blackrock park
A connection from the main Beach Road and Strand Road section of the trail to Blackrock is vital in extending the use of the trial. The drawings for most of this have been public for some time at consultation.dublincity.ie under the text “drawings for the Merrion Gates to the DCC boundary are available below”.
The Strand Road trial combined with a city centre link (as covered above) would allow children and adults to cycle to/from areas around the existing Royal Canal and Grand Canal routes in the city centre all the way to Sandycove and everywhere in-between while avoiding mixing with traffic on large and busy roads.
The everywhere in-between bit is key here. While some people might cycle the full way, the route will allow people from different areas to cycle different parts of the route. For example, Sandymount to Sandycove, Sandymount to the city centre, Sandymount to Dun Laoghaire, Dun Laoghaire to the city centre etc etc etc.
It would not be perfect, and there would be some mixing with motorists on low traffic roads, but it would be a million times better than the current situation.
3. A cycle path with a decent width
Even if Dublin City Council wants to provide space for formalising the existing parking along Beach Road and Strand Road, a balance needs to be taken to also maximise the width of the cycle path. There is space to provide some on-street parking (taking it off the footpaths) and still have a wider cycle path than planned — this is covered on our article on the Beach Road section of the trial, but also applies to Strand Road.
There’s a number of reasons the width of the trial cycle path should be maximised, these include:
- Safety and comfort of all users and pedestrians
- Capacity at busy times
- Promote and enable social cycling
- Emergency services access
Capacity, safety, and comfort within the cycle path might be obvious to mention, but even people who call for segregated cycle paths often think they are just nice things to have. When everyone is crammed into a smaller space without space to react, safety and comfort can be quickly compromised.
If a cycle path is going to be popular, it is vital that the cycle path is wide enough for peak times. The S2S on the north side is too narrow for when it’s mildly busy and way too narrow for busier times. The Strand Road could be even more popular given its location between areas like Blackrock with high cycling use and the city centre and more designations closer to the route than there is on the S2S north.
Having the cycle path wide enough for emergency services access is also important when a road is being made one-way. If the Gardai or fire services really need to use the cycle path, people cycling can generally quickly get out of the way, allowing the emergency services to bypass any congestion in the southbound general traffic lane or to go contra-flow.
The Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network was punished back in 2013 and IrishCycle.com at the time covered it, including how the plan talked of the importance of “social cycling”. It’s not featured enough, but social cycling is key in strong cycling cultures. It might have connotations with leisure cycling but it’s far from about just leisure cycling.
Social cycling includes, for example, cycling to school with friends:
Going shopping in the city centre with your mother:
Cycling your child home from school:
Going out for dinner with your partner and overtaking another couple as you’re going a bit faster because the babysitter was late:
4. Links to the community of Sandymount
There are already strong objections to the main trial, so, if Dublin City Council wants to maximise local buy-in, it needs to also maximise the usefulness of the trial cycle path to people in Sandymount who already cycle or those who might take up cycling.
More directly linking the route to more people in the community will include other measures (see next section below), but on a basic level people need to be able to between the side streets of Sandymount and the trial cycle path. Again, this was also covered in the IrishCycle.com article on the Beach Road section of the trial.
5. Follow up on promises made
The above four points are ones which IrishCycle.com wants to highlight. Sadly when there’s strong opposition to a project it’s all that more harder for people who want it to succeed to look for details to be done right.
Dublin City Council has previously mentioned mitigation measures, including traffic clamming, filtered permeability etc. It should go without saying that these need to be put in place where the council can do it straight away or as soon as possable. The council should also be ready to act if further local measures are needed at any stage of the trial.
Monitoring and responses to issues quickly will be key to avoid objectors turning fixable issues into a PR disaster. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, as an example, were ready to adjust bollards quickly and, in one case, council staff stopped traffic for a short while to help a resident get use to reversing into their driveway when they had been used to reversing out.