Review of Ireland’s bicycle route guidance in question after NTA defends existing designs

— Clam by NTA CEO refuted by TDs and campaigners.

National Transport Authority CEO Anne Graham has rejected a suggestion from a TD  that there was safety questions, particularly for children, in Ireland’s cycle route design guidance.

The news in the same week that campaigners criticised an experimental NTA-backed junction design — campaigners said this is another example of Irish authorities trying to reinvent the wheel rather than following tried and tested Dutch designs. 

Graham said that the designs in the manual — which includes a design which cycling campaigners internationally refer to as a “murder strip” — were safe and the review of the National Cycle Manual focused on making improvements rather than replacing 

This comments were made at parliamentary Committee on Climate Action discussion on the reduction of carbon emissions of 51% by 2030.

Jennifer Whitmore, a Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, said: “My questions are primarily for Ms Graham. The first question is in relation to the National Cycle Manual, I know Mr Creegan mentioned that it is being updated. When will that be completed? There is significant funding going into infrastructure and cycleways at the moment and there is a fear that the funding is being used to create cycleways based on a document that is ten years old.”

“There are concerns about the designs in that document not being particularly safe for children or new cyclists” said Deputy Whitmore. “In the context of speaking about a social change, that is really where we need to be focusing. When will that manual be completed?”

IMAGE: A National Cycle Manual design.

Hugh Creegan, the NTA’s deputy chief executive, said: “The National Cycle Manual, we start updating it later this month, hopefully, and it will take approximately four to five months. But in the meantime, we do have the existing Cycle Manual, and most of that is still rock solid in terms of what it is doing. It’s more detail is what we need in certain places, such as junctions, and that we will be providing.”

He added: “We have interim guidance from BusConnects that various local authorities have used.

It will take us approximately four to five months [to complete the manual] and we will do training exercises with local authorities then.”

IMAGE: A National Cycle Manual design.

Anne Graham, the CEO of the National Transport Authority said: “But, I suppose, I do not want to give the impression that anything that is in the Cycle Manual is unsafe. They are safe cycling facilities. It is about improving the cycling facilities rather than making unsafe provision safe.”

Brian Leddin, the chairman of the committee and a Green Party TD for Limerick, said “Ms Graham said the National Cycle Manual was safe. Many people would take issue with her on that. If we are designing infrastructure for everybody, from a four- or five-year-old children to elderly people and people with disabilities, the existing National Cycle Manual and what’s in it, I certainly would not regard it as safe.”

Cycling campaigners reacted strongly to the comments on the Cycle Manual.

Ciarán Ferrie, co-founder of campaign group I Bike Dublin, said: “I find this very disturbing. I thought it was an accepted fact that the National Cycle Manual needs to be updated. I understood that the update was underway. If the NTA CEO doesn’t see the problems, it doesn’t bode well for the update.”

Another campaigner who goes by the name Limerick Cycle Design on Twitter, said: “Hugh Creegan, who seems to be a bit more honest, acknowledged issues with the NCM, particularly around junctions and they were working to make them safer. That’s when the boss jumped in to say there was nothing unsafe in the NCM as it is. Defend defend defend. Admit nothing.”

Cllr Oisín O’Connor, a Green Party councillor in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area, “The National Cycle Manual is being redesigned by the same engineers who think the current one is grand and overseen by the leadership team who think only a few tweaks are needed. If the new National Cycle Manual isn’t overhauled, I’ll be calling for cycling to be moved out of the NTA’s remit.”

Separately, just last week, Cllr O’Connor tweeted about the design commonly called a “murder strip”, although his tweets did not refer to it as such. He said: “It’s very frustrating to be telling engineers that this isn’t safe for children and to be replied to with ‘but it’s in the National Cycle Manual’.

Deputy Whitmore’s question was asked after Creegan made reference to the update of the Cycle Manual while he was answering a question by Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, who asked about compliance with the manual.

As well as flaws with the Cycle Manual local authorities have also failed to follow what are viewed as better sections of the manual. 

Senator Higgins had asked: “I am aware there are a number of active travel jobs planned in local authorities but is there a question there of what kind of terms of reference they will have? Specifically on the regional design offices, the new 18 posts, how much seniority will they have? Will the national cycling manual be something they are really empowered to insist on being implemented in local planning?”

Creegan said: “There has been an announcement that a large number of posts are now going to be assigned to active travel in the various local authorities across the country. The key focus is the city regions, for the obvious reason that there is more network to develop but also covering every single other county. For some of the rural counties the intention is that the regional design office is operated by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and that its resources are augmented so it can also provide the service to deliver these cycling and active travel projects.”

He added: “The Senator asked how much seniority they will have and will they be fully empowered to deliver the National Cycle Manual. There seniority level will be a case-by-case thing but overall there will be a proper team in place to deliver the projects that are needed in every county across the country. On getting the standards we need, we are updating our National Cycle Manual, we will be providing training to all the local authorities starting later on this year and all of those units that are being set up will be tasked with fully applying the quality standard set out in the Cycle Manual with the projects they deliver.”

Cian Ginty
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.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m curious to know Brian Leddin’s basis for deciding that a four- or five-year-old is the appropriate design user. Why not a three- or a two-year-old?
    I have raised this with Dutch cycle designers and academics before and none of them would contend that four or even five years old is the entry age for safe independent* cycling.
    Perhaps a Dutch reader might chime in?

    *i.e. own bike, rather than unaccompanied

    I’d also love to know where Cllr O’Connor thinks cycling should be moved *to*.

  2. Surely there’s an acid test for this – can the people who stand over these designs actually get on a bike and experience these designs themselves – I also wonder what they’d think about young or elderly members of their own families utilising their poorly designed infrastructure

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