Dunkettle to Carrigtwohill route to be one of Ireland’s first interurban walking and cycle routes

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Cork County Council’s Carrigtwohill to Dunkettle route to be one of Ireland’s first substantial interurban walking and cycle routes alongside a roadway. Its design is fairly good, but there’s a problems — including what it doesn’t link to.

In the longer term the route will link into Cork City. The idea of inter-urban cycle routes international is to provide for the full route and design it so people can seamlessly cycle between the urban areas, from the rural areas between to the urban areas, and from rural to rural areas.

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Images of some of the progress of the route were posted to Twitter yesterday and this is a section which looks good:

The main issue with the route is that on its western edge it links to the Dunkettle Interchange which fails spectacularly on walking and cycling provision — a far more direct route through the on-going interchange project was possible (and maybe still is possible if there was the political will).

The current at Dunkettle routing isn’t just indirect and currently incomplete, a permanent feature of the plan is to direct people walking and cycling up and down a hill in in both direct, ie both heading east towards Carrigtwohill or west towards Cork City.

Back to the Carrigtwohill to Dunkettle route: Cork Council Council has made a video showing what the route should look like:

The shared nature of the path, which is around 4 metres wide in the setting shown in the first image below should not generally be a problem.

Unless there’s some reason to expect a high volume of pedestrians regularly here (which is unlikely), it’s might been seen as unrealistic to expect segregated paths for walking and cycling in between villages and towns.

Maybe post COVID more people in rural areas will continue to walk longer distances than before? Maybe electric bicycles means segregation is needed? Maybe allowing other small electric vehicles onto cycle paths will be the thing which makes shared paths intolerable for pedestrians? I don’t have all the answers on this issue.

But not maintaining the buffer along what should be more village-like settings (below) means the path’s safe usable width is narrowed at these locations due to a number of factors:

  • The lack of a green buffer means people cannot safety cycle right up to the edge of the path beside a traffic lane and beside the parking.
  • Traffic light poles and street light poles further narrow the path.
  • Cars and other vehicles will over hang the path — this can be avoided by following the recommendation in the safety review of the route to block cars from doing so. But any method of doing this needs to be placed in the parking area, not on the shared path.
  • And all of the above happens when there’s likely to be more pedestrian activity including people walking across the path, waiting at crossings, and waiting at bus stops.

This isn’t the worst design ever but the point is maintaining a 4 metre path in a setting besides shops, bus stops etc with the above mentioned factors is a drop in quality compared to a 4 metre path away from urban influence.

Hopefully this recommendation from the Road Safety Audit will be followed:

A key to getting the design right across this project will be to follow another bit of advice on the Road Safety Audit on the design of entrances and side road crossings:

Identifying the issue, the Road Safety Audit said: “It is unclear from the drawings, whether vehicles or cyclists/pedestrians have priority at the entrances. Ambiguity at entrances could cause confusion for drivers and cyclists/pedestrians, increasing the risk of collisions.”

Its recommendation to resolve this issue said: “Given the scheme is for a shared route, which will promote walking/cycling, consideration should be given to giving priority to cyclists/pedestrians at all entrances, providing a direct and consistent route. This could be achieved by maintaining the level and surface material of the shared surface through the entrances.”

Hopefully the council follows this rather than opting for the traditional car-centric design of telling people walking and cycling to yield. And hopefully even more so, they stay well away from add-on designs such as barriers and gates.

Here’s a Dutch example of the same priority by signs / road markings and visual treatment applied to a rural side road — there’s a number of bend-in designs used on the path in the Co Cork route where this kind of priority can be applied:

One last issue is a major recurring issue in walking and cycle route design in Ireland — there’s a number of missing crossing crossing, where there’s no connection to/from the path to side roads, industry estates / business parks, nature areas etc on the road side of the road.

As well as being a connectivity issue, this is a safety issue as users will be focused to try to cross at their own risk where there’s no crossing and no dropped kerb:

Here’s a few examples:

Going by the drawings, the designers should overall be commended. But a few tweaks and additions are needed, including measures some measures within and maybe some beyond the project scope.

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