Two projects show problems around designing for cycling in Ireland in 2021 — when theory hits reality (part 2)

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: This is part two of this article, part 1 can be read here

Basically, the point here is how high-minded design ideas are so contradictory when the designs are drawn up and meet the reality of projects in the real world. The examples focused on are two South Dublin County Council projects — the Dodder Greenway Phase 6 and Wellington Lane Walking and Cycling Scheme.

The Wellington Lane project shows some clear examples of this contradictory thinking:

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As we’ve mentioned before, the National Transport Authority (NTA) has had a strange focus on avoiding using Dutch-style designs, especially at junctions. This is now compounded by a small but determined group of anti-cycling disability campaigners who are spreading scaremonger about having segregated cycle paths at bus stops.

These two mentalities combined lead us to realities like these contradictory designs: For example, the plans for Wellington Lane has fully signalised crossings at bus stops, meters away from a junction using shared use areas… how does this make any sense: One second the cycling and pedestrian interaction needs a fully signalised crossings and then the next second mixing these apparently deadly bicycles with pedestrians is fine?

Then, near Faughs GAA Club, we have the contrast of the apparent need for a fully signalised crossings at a bus stop but then meters away the council can use both (1) a shared area at a shared crossing and (2) non-signalised crossings across some large car park entrances. The project also includes non-signalised crossings at many side roads.

Why does one need to be signalised but not the other? The scaremongering around bus stops has won out. That’s why.

When Wellington Lane gets to its junction with Templeville Road, there is a stunning (not in a good way) bit of work in contradictory design — using the Dublin-style “projected” junction which seeks to avoid non-signalised walking and cycling interaction and then South Dublin County Council adds in shared areas where people walking and cycling will interact. This makes little sense.

It’s a poor and contradictory design, but I have to give a little bit of credit to South Dublin County Council on this one, it is at least more realistic to human behaviour than the NTA’s high-level thinking which seems to do its best not to think about how their designs will work in practice.

The Dutch-style protected junction design is far better and it should be used here. See: Cycle path design: Dutch-style vs Dublin-style protected junctions.

When Wellington Lane gets to the roundabout where it meets Orwell Road there’s a bit of a welcomed surprise — maybe the closest thing we’ve seen in years in Ireland to a Dutch-style roundabout.

It’s on a large scale because, apparently, the council don’t want to go to the expense of making the central green area smaller.

If the crossing works and are safe, there is one other issue — the size of the roundabout means there’s a stronger desire line of going around the roundabout the ‘wrong’ way when cycling. The council could accommodate this by extending the two-way cycle path around the roundabout. This however is likely a step too far for officials, so, at least provision should be made so that it can be tried in the future without too much additional work on the design.

On the Dodder project, the contrast is similar — fully signalised crossings at some bus stops 100 metres away from a shared toucan crossing:

There’s an alternative to shared toucan crossing but involves leaving people walking and cycling to interact without traffic lights at some point:

There does not seem to be much of a contract in design here at this junction but if you not the text in the left side of the image, you’ll see that there’s an access point to a shared urban greenway at the top left of the junction. So, we have the contrast of a Dublin-style junction because people cycling and walking cannot apprently interact with each other, but a shared greenway.

Despite being well aware of the conflict between walking and cycling on shared urban greenways councils and the NTA keep building them even where there is ample space to have seprate walking and cycling paths on such routes in urban areas.

And despite the ample space around the junction, the designes take little or no apprent concideration to the desire lines between the cycle paths in diffrent directions and the greenway.

And despite using a Dublin-style junction to avoid mixing walking and cycling, just done the road where the route on the Firhouse Road meets the Knocklyon Road there’s another shared crossing.

Really this is a prime example again of having space but not bothering to provide for walking and cycling access in all directions (including across the road and on/off the greenway). This is another common issue of designers being too focused on (1) motor traffic capacity and (2) proving for cycling along a route without looking at all the connections that some people cycling need to make:

The Old Bridge Road / Ballyroan Road suffers from similar issues just on a larger scale:

The big question here is how can the NTA be moved on from their current thinking which ties the hands of councils who want to do better things? Is Minister Eamon Ryan willing to direct them to change their thinking and, if not, why not?

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3 comments

  1. Hi Cian – signalised pedestrian crossing just to get over the cycle track is just daft and a waste of public money. Do the NTA think that they are better than the Dutch? I suspect it is proposed just for the visually-impaired as I doubt other pedestrians would actually press that button for a cycle track crossing: in my experience, most pedestrians do not consider the cycle track hazardous enough not to walk along it. So why do we need it for the visually-impaired? I’ve done a lot of km cycling but cannot recall ever encountering a white cane user or guide dog and if I did I would certainly slow down and give them more space as I imagine most other cyclists would do too.

    Large shared spaces with Toucan crossings are just a cop-out when the authority does not want to acquire more space for full segration. The fact that we are left with shite cycle track infrastructure seems not to matter much to the scheme sponsors.

    I dont think we should be praising SDCC for the protected signalised junction at Templeville Road.
    1. Experience of these junctions that have already been built is that there are issues: cyclists turning left to go straight is a major safety issue as left-turning drivers think that the straight-heading cyclist is turning left.
    2. For cyclists travelling straight they are forced into a chicane system involving 4 tight bends. There should be no penalty for using the cycle track: good cycle track design should confer an advantage to cycling. This chicane system encourages cyclists to take the path of least resistance which involves weaving out into the roadway which has its risks but it is what I would do.

    The Dutch protected junctions are a much better design. They also allow cyclists to turn left outside of the signals. The Dublin design will encorage light-breaking by left-turning cyclists.

    I have no hope that our green minister will interfere: he is weak-willed.

    Reply
  2. Sorry, I should have worded the Templeville Road junction section better — I’ve edited it to make it clear I’m giving them a small bit of credit for realism and I’ve made clear that I too think that Dutch design should be used.

    Re acquiring more space for full segregation: I find that the most frustrating part about it, most of the time the space is there, it’s just poorly used with grass verges put behind cycle tracks or even behind footpaths or used for painted buffers etc.

    Reply
  3. Regarding the roundabout, given the size there’s a good chance people will cycle counter-clockwise when turning right rather than travelling the long way around regardless of what the design intends. That movement probably needs to be accommodated in the design or just shrink the roundabout size (or both). Also it looks like the buffer space will be used for HGV wheel overrun – the overrun space should be around the centre circle not in the buffer.

    There is also a glaring contradiction in providing zebra crossings across a main road, while requiring traffic lights on a cycle track.

    Reply

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