— Dart+ plan includes enlarger junctions and basic mistakes are made for cycling infrastructure.
COMMENT & ANALYSIS: As someone born only three minutes away from my local train station, seeing the potential that Dart+ has in the local community is incredible.
Not only in having more frequent public transport, greener public transport and quicker journeys but also in future-proofing the still increasing population of Dublin 7, 15 and beyond the line in Leixlip and Maynooth.
It also comes as a brand new town is being planned on a greenfield site only across the train tracks from me, the hopefully soon to be arriving Royal Canal Greenway (and yes, on the North Bank from Coolmine to Castleknock) and developments west of me including road upgrades.
When I was born, Ongar barely existed, and now is home to thousands of people, and has seen traffic build-up significantly, with me on my bike overtaking dozens of cars stuck while I cycle past. In some cases, it’s due to overall clogging, but along the train line, it’s due to closed level crossings.
These level crossings are already closed a good portion of the time at peak times and will be perpetually closed once Dart+ sees increased train frequency. Despite calls for quick release gates and the claim these crossings would “divide communities”, the replacement of them with pedestrian and cycle bridges is a good compromise to keep some level of access.
Further, this can be a hugely underappreciated tool in switching people to active travel, as if people have a safe route and is quicker than driving, then why wouldn’t you cycle?
There’s no such thing as “cyclists”, but if people find cycling quicker, then they’ll become people who cycle, for convenience rather than the sake of it. If combined with safe cycling routes and the proposed Royal Canal Greenway, it can be a game-changer.
However, this must be contrasted to some of the proposed junction ‘upgrades’ proposed to compensate for the closure of these motor traffic bridges. This involves adding turning lanes to the junctions at Porterstown Road, Diswellstown Road, Clonsilla Road and Castleknock Road, and funnelling traffic through Granard Bridge and the Dr Troy Bridge.
Basic mistakes are made for cycling infrastructure. At Porterstown Road, there isn’t even a northbound cycle lane, and the turning lane means cars are free to cross the cycle lane, leaving those cycling trapped in the middle between motor traffic going left or right, and is the most dangerous and yet simple change to just simply add a cycle lane and ensure it doesn’t have to cross active traffic.
For Diswellstown Road and Clonsilla, the number of lanes proposed including turning lanes completely goes against the climate emergency in promoting car traffic. Further, both of these being outside of schools is a terrible situation and using non-protected bicycle lanes or sharing with pedestrian paths is a further insult to the supposed climate action that this project is meant to possess.
If we are meant to be tackling congestion, car pollution and avoid cars stalling in heavy traffic, this instead creates the perfect recipe for those to happen, in some cases doubling the number of lanes at junctions that are currently there and is the much more pressing community dividing situation if it is proceeded as is proposed, without much mention in consultations bar local presentations.
So, what should be looked at? Keeping the lanes as they stand is a first, as with congestion already prominent, alternatives need to be looked at that can only be achieved through a significant modal shift.
This means safe routes to schools, safe routes to the Dart stations, and safe routes to local businesses shops and to people living in the local community. Further, they must be connected to create cohesive and connected routes and keeping to the rule that anyone 8 to 80 can use them without fear.
The bridges may provide a major opportunity to create this, but burning metaphorical bridges in saying that the proposed closure of crossings will instead divide won’t achieve this. It needs local buy-in, but it also needs a local mind shift to a new way of getting around locally.
Overview of proposed Dart+ junction “upgrades”:
Porterstown Road: The turning lane means that those cycling have to doge cars turning left, rather than every single best practice of keeping the bike lane on the left of all car traffic.
And if going the other way, forget it.
Diswellstown Road: This is outside not one but two schools, and a whole future development going left. A massive excess of unnecessary turning lanes, in some cases doubling what’s currently there for no apparent reason:
Clonsilla Road, probably the ‘least worst’ example. Cycle lanes just stop if you’re going towards Clonsilla or Coolmine village, and also right beside a primary school again (The one I went to too!) with excessive lanes going North-South. Replacing a roundabout though:
Lastly, there’s the Castleknock Road outside the station. This is meant to eventually be part of the Blanch-Phoenix Park route, already majorly used, but looks as dangerous as ever, and again a case of the vanishing cycle lanes, combined with having to loop on the bike: