Two projects show problems around designing for cycling in Ireland in 2021 — when theory hits reality (part 1)

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Back in November, the last letter to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan outlined how for cycling to thrive, an underlining issue needs fixing. The letter outline how this issue was raised in the original letter to the Minister, but he did not address it directly in his reply.

This issue is a mindset one. It is partly around co-opting language (such as ‘Cycling for All’ and ‘protected junctions’), and partly the thinking behind how design choices are being made, both at a national and local level. cannot know what the motivations are behind some of the choices in the National Transport Authority and some in councils, but — as explored below and in part 2 — they have developed strange contradictory thinking on designs.

One of the central problems is that senior people in the National Transport Authority have developed some ideas, and they have — for unknown reasons — resisted taking into account both international best practices or human behaviour.

The results of this can be seen when high-minded designs meet the reality of projects in the real world. Two great examples of this are two South Dublin County Council projects — the Dodder Greenway Phase 6 and Wellington Lane Walking and Cycling Scheme.

Punishing everybody because of scaremongering

Having segregated cycle paths at bus stops is a requirement for a safe and attractive cycle network for people of all ages and abilities (including people young and old, male and female, and people with disabilities). It is better for pedestrians than shared areas, and safer than trying to mix bicycles and buses.

Possibly the most controversial cycle path and bus stop combination in the UK — if not the world — is at Westminster Bridge outside Guy’s and St Thomas. But we know from Freedom of Information requests in the UK there was little evidence behind the opposition of cycle paths at bus stops and the origin of the opposition came from the usual anti-cycling nonsense.

Bad faith actors — the sort who support Brexit (this isn’t just flinging muck, Brexit-supporter MP Kate Hoey called objecting to the cycle path “a great opportunity“). And, in Ireland, we know that a lot of the scaremongering about cycle paths at bus stops here has been pushed by somebody who has been ranting about cyclists for years.

As covered by As Easy As Riding A Bike, this is the boring reality of the cycle path at Westminster Bridge:

Undervaluing buffers

One of the most underrated and undervalued design elements of Dutch cycle paths is horizontal buffers between cycle paths and traffic lanes used by motor traffic. The buffers in the location give:

  • An increased level of safety.
  • An increaced feeling of safety and confort.
  • Reduces / prevents casual illigal car parking from blocking cycle path.
  • Space for people crossing the street / road on foot or bicycle.

Horizontal buffers are not possible everywhere, but, where there is space, it makes little sense not to use them in cycle route designs.

But on the two South Dublin County Council projects buffers are missing even where there is ample space — often the buffers are there but placed between the footpaths and cycle tracks, or between the footpath and the boundary wall.

The last image above shows planned wide bus lanes. Irish street design standards had for some time pointed towards 3 metres being wide enough for bus lanes. But officials have started pushing for 3.25 metre bus lanes (again, for reasons which are unexplained). Wider bus lanes like this increase the speed of not just buses but also taxis.

0.7 metres is around as wide as some sub-standard narrow cycle lanes in Ireland — buses don’t need that extra space in most urban areas unless the designers are designing for buses and taxis breaking the speed limit.

This increase in bus lane widths in the last few years has happened around the same timeframe that the NTA has deemed that 1.5 metres cycle lanes are ok (previously, the minimum target was 1.75 metres).

Opting for a combination of wide bus lanes and what are, in effect, lightly segregated cycle tracks, is senseless. Doing where there is space for green buffers is strange, to say the least.

Bus stop narrowing

Recently covered how 1 metre wide cycle tracks are planned at bus stops in Cork, Limerick, South Dublin. You can see examples of very narrow cycle paths at bus stops in both the Dodder and Wellington Lane projects, although the latter it seems the width is more like 1.5 metres at bus stops:

This isn’t the councils going rogue. This is a design created by and justified by the National Transport Authority (more on that in another article soon).

In the image below, the arrows show where the 2 metres cycle track narrows to 1.5 metres (at the red arrows), and then to what seems to be just around 1 metre (at the orange arrows).

The narrowing pushes people cycling towards these new wide bus lanes which will induce speeding. This is a clear sign of officials who are still looking at cycling as something fit men do rather than thinking about children, families cycling together, elderly people or people with disabilities.

That vision for cycling is lacking. Stuck between

Part 2 coming soon…

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