Dublin TD mounts email campaign against cycle path to schools

— Project expected to go to vote in early September.
— TD encourages objectors to email councillors ahead of vote.
— Only 8% of submissions to route to schools project objected to section.
— Some local objectors threaten legal action. 

Despite a warning under 10 days ago that leaders need to act to reduce emissions, some South Dublin politicians are continuing to object to a trial of cycle route designed mainly to allow children to cycle to school.

The objections relate to a plan to hold a six-month trial making around 900 metres of Deansgrange Road one-way to provide a two-way cycle route, a key part of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s plan to quickly link new and established cycle routes together. Suggested alternative routes would be indirect and involve a number of complicated junctions.

Fianna Fáil TD Cormac Devlin and Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward are among some of the most high-profile politicians objecting to a key part of the route.

IrishCycle.com understands that a Deputy Devlin has asked fellow objectors to email all Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council councillors via the all-councillor group email, grpcouncillors@dlrcoco.ie.

As is now common in Ireland and across different parts of the world, politicians objecting to the project are doing so while they are claiming to be supportive of cycling. A number of objectors are even relying on the old adage “I’m a cyclist too”. While politicians supportive of the project state that a shift to cycling is needed to support the decarbonisation of transport in line with targets.

IMAGE: Project in context.

Cllr David Quinn (Social Democrats) said: “In order to address the 2030 climate targets, we must encourage people to switch to public and active transport. The DLRCC Park to Park route will create a safe segregated cycle route for the parents and children of the two Deansgrange schools.”

“I’m in favour of the trial cycleways, including the one planned for Deansgrange. I have asked that mitigating measures be implemented such as reducing so-called rat running in adjacent residential roads,” said Cllr Quinn.

He added: “This scheme is intended to promote cycling and this has to be part of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council programme of actions to address climate change. When installed it should help change people’s behaviour and in time lead to reduced use of cars. Everyone will have to buy into some form of behaviour change.”

Cllr Séafra Ó Faoláin (Green Party) said changes to make streets more livable in Blackrock and more recently in Dun Laoghaire have turned out to be “fantastic for businesses”. Cllr Ó Faoláin said: “In Blackrock — where the street has been made one-way — several businesses have opened since the pandemic started which is fairly extraordinary given that businesses have closed down all over the country.”

Cllr Ó Faoláin said that Deansgrange would benefit from the traffic calming and reduction approach. He said: “At the minute, Deansgrange isn’t the kind of place that you want to hang around as traffic is so bad, there’s cars zooming by the whole time.”

He said that lower traffic levels at midterm break show just how much traffic is tied up with children being brought to school by car and that “many of the kids could be cycling”, but he said “you cannot blame children or parents when the infrastructure isn’t safe”.

“Every person on a bike is one car off the road — in a lot of cases people who cannot cycle will get to places quicker, but, for some people, we are asking that there might be an extra minute or two on your journey. But that’s a small price to pay compared to getting children to school safely, and reducing our emissions.”

“On climate change, we are asking farmers to reduce our emissions by 50%. When it comes to asking suburban Dublin dwellers having to make a bit of a change to their lifestyle, ultimately it will improve quality of life,” said Cllr Ó Faoláin. “In Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown we have no agriculture, the next two largest emitters are transport and energy. Energy is mostly at a national level, transport is the one area we have control over. The best way to do that is to provide safe cycling infrastructure for people who want to cycle”

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IMAGE: Map from the consultation for the DLR Safe Walking & Cycling Routes, showing Deansgrange Road on the section of the planned network shared by the Part to Park and Mountains to Metals routes.

Deputy Devlin — who is objecting to a key section of the project — said: “I support investment in sustainable green infrastructure, particularly the development of walking and cycling infrastructure and the expansion of the public transport network in Dublin…. Since being elected to the Dáil, I have raised the need for investment in green infrastructure and projects like the S2S and the Lee to Sea coastal cycle routes on a number of occasions — most recently during my remarks on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.”

He said: “I welcomed the Active School Travel proposal when it was published by DLR officials last year. I arranged a public meeting with DLR officials and residents, businesses and other stakeholders to examine the proposals. The engagement process found the majority of people supported improvements to the network. However, a number of local schools, bus users, people with a disability, businesses and other stakeholders flagged concerns about the negative impact of the Deansgrange Road aspect of the proposal.”

Deputy Devlin said: “In my own submission, I highlighted several alternative options that would leave Deansgrange Road two-way, alleviating many of the issues raised while also allowing the segregated cycle tracks to proceed. These suggestions included the original cycle route proposed in the Deansgrange Area Plan 2010 – 2020 which went out on public consultation and had buy-in from Councillors, officials, local schools, bus users, residents and businesses.”

He added: “Ultimately DLR officials chose to proceed with their original proposal. The issue is now a matter for Councillors to consider at their September meeting.”

Senator Barry Ward did not respond to a request for comment on another letter he sent to people in the area, but he posted a video to social media.

In the video yesterday, he said: “Today I put out a tweet about an article in The Irish Times, describing the fact that some Deansgrange businesses have decided to bring a legal challenge against the one-way cycle route proposed by DLR County Council on Deansgrange Road. There have been a number of replies that I think have been very ill-informed, so, I want to set a couple of things straight.”

“Firstly, I am a long time and very strong advocate of cycling infrastructure in our area. I think it’s really important, because it encourages and allows people to cycle…” he said.

Senator Ward said: “But that doesn’t mean that every proposal for cycling infrastructure is a good one, or can’t be questioned or modelled. In the current instance what DLR has done is to decide to push ahead with the plan, despite the fact that a public consultation last year showed that the vast majority of people were against it — those were people who took part in that public consultation were residents of the area, businesses and even councillors.” The letter from Senator Ward goes further and claims that there is “a blatant disregard for public opinion”.

However, shortly after Senator Ward tweeted his video, Robert Burns, Director of Infrastructure at DLRCC, tweeted: “In the public consultation on DLRCC Active School Travel Routes, 63% (3,987) of the 6,431 overall submissions supported the project.”

Burns added: “499 submissions or c. 8% of overall submissions objected specifically to the Deansgrange element of Park to Park & Mountains to Metals routes.”

Senator Ward also wrote that “In my experience, residents are generally supportive of better cycling facilities and welcomed what was initially described by the Council, but the Council now proposes to develop a one-way system on Deansgrange Road to make space for the cycle lanes.” However, it is unclear what the Senator is referring to — the plan to make Deansgrange Road one-way is a key part of the original project outlined last year, and the 8% of submissions to the public consultation were objecting to the one-way system.

UPDATE: The line “IrishCycle.com understands that a Deputy Devlin has asked fellow objectors to email all Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council councillors via the all-councillor group email, grpcouncillors@dlrcoco.ie” originally said “a TD” without naming Deputy Devlin. Although no other TD is mentioned in the article, this line was changed for clarity to make clear it was Deputy Devlin which it referred to.

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