Dublin’s new South Circular Road cycle lanes prompt pushback

UPDATED AT 16:24: The emergency motion was withdrawn by Cllr Doolan, saying that the council are already acting with consulting with businesses and residents.

— Councillors get different feedback from the public, from 2/3 in favour to 99% against.
— Project is billed as “not perfect”, but “massive progress” on an unsafe road.

Cycle lanes currently being installed on the South Circular Road have prompted both strong pushback and support, although some councillors are getting a different sample of that.

Dublin City Council’s South Central Area Committee, which starts at 3pm today, is to hear an emergency motion on the issue this afternoon.

The upgrading of the cycle lanes, with extended lanes and bollards, is on-going. The works are on the South Circular Road between Conyngham Road just by the Phoenix Park to the junction with Bulfin Road, where the South Circular Road turns east towards St James’s Hospital.

Ahead of the motion, council officials have met on-site with businesses today. Lisa, the owner of Zinc hair and beauty, said: “As a business there on that strip, we actually welcome the safer cycle lane and all we asked was for a designated drop off zone for deliveries. Productive meeting with Dublin City Council this morning to find a solution for all.”

A local activist Lauren Tuite tweeted an image of the meeting and said: “Really great meeting this morning with businesses on the strip, none of them want a return to the status quo. Fantastic leadership shown by Lisa in arguing for more protection for cyclists and a pedestrian-friendly public realm.”

Speaking to IrishCycle.com this morning before that meeting, Cllr Daithí Doolan (Sinn Féin) said that his emergency motion is not calling for the works to stop, just for a review and further engagement with businesses and residents.

The motion states: “This Area Committee urges Dublin City Council to review the decision to install a cycle lane between Conyngham Road and Bulfin Road, with particular focus on the section at the shops along South Circular Road, Kilmainham. The bollards are causing serious access problems for business.

It also calls for the council to communicate directly with businesses and local residents, outlining the consultation process and the reasoning to install the cycle lane.

Cllr Doolan said: “I’m a cyclist and I cycle every day, so, I’m fully aware of it, but I’m also aware that Dublin City Council don’t introduce positive developments in the best way possible. That’s key, not to just introduce cycle lanes but also we need need to communicate with the public on why they impact, how will they impact and the positive impact as well.”

He said that many people were unaware of the consultation process over the summer.

“If we’re to seriously progress the cycle strategy in Dublin, it needs to be embedded in the community, the community needs to support it and that means we need to win some of these arguments and communicate our position properly and consult with the community. That’s what I’m looking to do,” he said.

Cllr Doolan said: “There will always be push back — people’s response to change is either negative or positive. There will always be a small percentage of both camps that you won’t persuade, but you need to reach out and aim to communicate to a majority of people.”

“I was thinking about it today when I was cycling to work. It’s a slight insult to cyclists, it’s a bit like ‘through up a few things around the city and nobody cares about them’. Well, this is significant infrastructure — if we’re putting in a football pitch or houses or a new road, we communicate adequately. But when it comes to cycling, it’s almost creating a conflict because it is not taken seriously. I think that’s unfortunate as I think cycling should be taken seriously and the infrastructure should be taken seriously,” he said.

He said a communication strategy could overcome “the stereotypes, prejudice and explain why this is positive”. He said: “If you make communities safer for cyclists, they are safer for everyone and I don’t think that’s communicated properly.”

Asked what are businesses and residents saying to him, Cllr Doolan said that people said that they were totally unaware that it was happening, that it’s blocking traffic, that it’s creating chaos, and that one shop is claiming that they are letting five staff go because of the cycle lanes.

The claim from one retailer was posted on windows at the shop, which IrishCycle.com understands has been since removed. The retailer, who runs a EuroSpar, claimed because of the new road layout that there would be a “loss” of two members of staff working in Insomnia just two days of the work starting on the cycle lane. But some members of the public have pointed out online that it might have more to do with the retailer opening up a dedicated coffee shop a few doors down from the shop.

Asked if this was the case, Cllr Doolan said: “It could well be, I’m not going to get into the ‘he said, she said’ of it. But that’s what they are stating. We need to be able to overcome that with rational argument and discussion. The feedback, 99% of it has been negative, and I think that’s unfortunate and I think it could have been avoided.”

“All of this needs to be communicated properly and I don’t think it is too late to do that. We need to learn from what happened here.” said Cllr Doolan. “I’m not saying we need to capitulate because there’s a vocal minority or even a vocal majority — if you’re position is correct, you should have the confidence to engage in those who disagree with you.”

Cllr Michael Pidgeon (Greens) said: “This has been such a treacherous stretch for so long. We’ve had schoolchildren and commuters injured on the route, as cyclists were forced to swerve out into general traffic.”

“I’ve been pushing for segregated cycle lanes here for a long time. It’s not a perfect scheme, but it’s massive progress compared to the unsafe road that was there. There’s been quite a bit of support and pushback locally. I’ve received about thirty messages or calls about the lane: about 20 supportive, and ten in opposition or seeking changes,” he said.

Cllr Pidgeon said: “There are definitely some problems that need fixing, such as space for deliveries for local shops. We’re working with businesses and the council to try and resolve them. I’d love to get to a point where we can iron out the issues and get local consensus on this.”

“There has definitely been delays to car traffic, but this is what we’ve seen in the initial weeks of any road changes. The coming weeks will give us a sense of how things bed down,” said Cllr Pidgeon.

Cllr Pidgeon said: “As ever, I don’t think these lanes are for existing cyclists. I want them to empower and encourage the many people who don’t currently feel safe cycling, but would like to give it a go. Polling in Dublin found that this is nearly 21% of the population want to cycle but don’t – in addition to the 24% of Dublin adults who already cycle at least once a week.”

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