Campaigners skeptical that Dublin’s new experimental junction design will be safe

A sustainable transport campaigner has said he was almost killed yesterday by a motorist and other motorists acted aggressively while he was trying out Dublin City Council new experimental “protected” junction design.

Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority has started the “rollout”of the design despite advocacy groups strongly objecting to its use on safety.

Sources have previously told IrishCycle.com that the hands of councils are tied because the National Transport Authority refuses to draw up guidance for Dutch-style junction design.

The Dublin Commuter Coalition — a group which campaigns for sustainable transport— yesterday said: “This design puts people on bikes in conflict with left turning cars. It is not safe for cycling. BusConnects proposes using a similar design for hundreds of junctions around Dublin.“

The experimental design has been put in place at the junction of Balbutcher Lane and Hampton Wood Drive in Ballymun.

Feljin Jose, the PRO of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, yesterday tweeted videos and images of of the new junction

He said he was “not looking forward to BusConnects using this design for hundreds of junctions around Dublin”. As IrishCycle.com covered yesterday, the council is also planning to use the design on the Clontarf to City Centre project.

Jose said: “Not shown in this video is the time I was nearly killed by a left turning driver while going straight on green.”

“Cyclists go straight while drivers turn left. Drivers turning left are supposed to yield but this didn’t always happen. So I was nearly struck and beeped at in the middle of the junction on the way home,” he said.

An advanced green light will give you a head start which helps if you’re both starting from a stop. Sometimes. I didn’t always get this advanced green light.

(article continues below tweets)

The Dublin Cycling Campaign has also objected to the use of the junction design.

Kevin Baker, chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said: “Dublin Cycling Camapaign is skeptical that this new experimental junction design will be safe. It doesn’t follow international best practice. We shouldn’t be re-inventing the wheel when we can copy proven approaches”

In its BusConnects submission on junctions, the campaign went into further details. It said: “The Dublin Cycling Campaign strongly objects to the Dublin-style junction design proposed as part of BusConnects.”

“From our evaluation it does not meet the needs of cyclists and results in an untenable safety scenario where people cycling are vulnerable to left hooks, particularly at larger junctions. Unfortunately, there is not a single version of this junction in operation in Ireland to evaluate in real-life,” the group said last year.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign added: “The only comparison is Lombard Street, which is currently being removed by Dublin City Council. BusConnects is proposing a mass roll-out of an experimental junction design that could have systematic design flaws that lead to serious or fatal injuries for people cycling.”

On the section of its website explaining the junction design choice, Dublin City Council said: “We wanted to provide a solution that could be applied to most junctions in Dublin, which are typically more restricted in space than those in many other countries.”

That council claims that “providing a full set back width for a car would mean we would need to provide an additional set of signals and this arrangement would not fit at many junctions in the city” is contradictory to the layout in Ballymun and the planned layout on the Clontarf Route which provides for two separate traffic light poles for two cycling traffic lights at each corner of the junctions.
The council said: “Our design seeks to protect the cyclists up to the stop line and then protect them as they are crossing the junction, to reduce the risk of being side swiped. It provides protection to the cyclist from turning vehicles, thereby significantly reducing the risk but also provides additional space for the cyclist to divert into in case a collision is imminent.”
On this point, it added: “By keeping the cyclists tight to the vehicle lane it reads as a single carriageway and the cyclist is more visible to the drivers. If cyclists were diverted to the left, around a full set back width for a car, left turning vehicles may believe the cyclist to turning left and not continuing straight through the junction.”

This position takes no account of decades of Dutch practice which has proven safer than designs used in most countries or that having people cycling right beside motor vehicles at junctions means that the people cycling can be in blind spots, especially on larger vehicles.

In London, new cycling infrastructure which protected people cycling up to the conflict point on the junction but which did not have separate traffic light phases for forward-moving people on bicycles and left turning motorists was linked to an increase in cycling deaths

When Dublin hosted the Velo-City Cycling Conference in 2019, renowned UK cycle route designer, Brian Deegan said that the cycling design standards used in London were Dainish-like but they found that drivers turning left behaved poorly swinging left on front of people cycling. He said that there were “quite a lot of fatalities” and it was at that point that more Dutch-like principals were adopted.

Dublin City Council said: “Cyclists have been given an advance stop line, which means they are more visible to the car in a standing start position. In addition, the cyclists will get a 5 seconds advance start on the vehicular traffic.”

The council claimed that “The design also enables the provision of a continuous signalised pedestrian movement, which is particularly important in ensuring the vulnerable pedestrians are protected. Dutch design, and other alternatives like cycle roundabouts, often allow for conflict situations using uncontrolled crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists” — however, the council is still planning infrastructure in Dublin which continues to needlessly mix people walking and cycling; and pedestrians crossing over cycle path is planned as a basic design at bus stops and at other locations.

The council’s position on the provision of the need to provide a traffic light over cycle paths also takes no account of the years of human behaviour on display on existing segregated cycle routes where people waiting at junctions will proceed to the forward most protected position.

Dublin City Council late last year posted this video of how their new design is supposed to work:

 

The following diagrams — included in the Dublin Cycling Campaign’s junction submission on BusConnects — shows and explains the differences between the Dublin, Dutch and UK junction designs:

 

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.

4 Comments

  1. This is more dangerous than the “murder strips” where drivers can at least see that cyclists are continuing straight.
    It’s obvious that people will be injured or killed by these new designs. Drivers will – understandably – plead that it appeared that the cyclist was turning left, and changed his or her mind and continued straight on. The design clearly has the cyclist weaving to the left then swerving back out.
    The only way these junctions will work safely is for an entirely separate phase for people on bicycles. The engineers already provide a separate right-turn-only phase at many junctions for vehicles – for safety reasons. It’s imperative that the same safety is provided for cyclists. And only a very short phase will be required as bikes are most efficient at moving through traffic signals in greater numbers than cars ever can.

  2. Dublin City Council said: “We wanted to provide a solution that could be applied to most junctions in Dublin, which are typically more restricted in space than those in many other countries.” They just made that up, surely. The Netherlands has lots of tiny narrow streets in their cities and they have great cycle-infra. And in the example above in the video – that’s definitely not a location where space is lacking. That claim by DCC sounds exactly the same as the old line about Dublin being a medieval city. >:( Utter nonsense. Thanks for the diagrams, as they help to highlight the differences in the layouts.

  3. Hi Paul – a separate phase for cyclists is not the answer. It is both unreasable and impractical to expect cyclists to stop like a pedestrian and wait for a green light while parallel traffic is progreesing beside them. Many cyclists will simply not wait and could swing onto the road before the signal (which has its own risks) where they can proceed through the junction and maintain their momentum. Full adoption of Dutch standards is the way to go: it should be everything, even down to the road markings they use. They have decades of experience of this on a country-wide scale…

  4. Could you have it so the cyclists don’t have to wait? Let’s say the light is green for traffic for 30 seconds. Have a red light for left turning traffic and green light for cyclists for the first 20 seconds. Then for the last ten, the cyclists’ light goes red and there is a green arrow for motorists to turn left.

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