COMMENT & ANALYSIS: O’Connell Street’s revamp was finished in 2006. It was a massive redesign that rightly took space from motoring and reallocated it to pedestrians, but cycling was left as an afterthought.
The narrow single-directional, non-segregated cycle lanes in the design were originally planned to run along the centre of both sides of the street, ie to the right-hand side and beside the central island.
You can still see the layout along the short section of the street where the roadway is paved in stone outside the GPO — the van below is pictured on Google Street View driving on the old layout which (amazingly) was never adjusted on this section of the street (in was adjusted on the northbound side as part of the Luas works):
This layout made a bit of sense, to avoid the high volume of bus stops along much of the street. But the central location was never going to work safely and attractively for cycle lanes without segregation, a bit more width, and connects at both ends with a dedicated traffic light. So, it was probably the right decision to abandon the flawed implementation.
Then along came Luas Cross City, which was again a welcomed project overall. But — yet again — cycling was an afterthought with the squeeze put at locations like O’Connell Bridge and things made more awkward with tracks and trams along the northbound side of the street.
The Luas project was also allowed to eat into the fancy paving of O’Connell Street… is it unthinkable for the same to happen for providing for cycling?
To make space for cycling, Dublin, as a city, needs to be sure it knows that this is worth doing — this website clearly thinks it is, but is there enough people who agree?
But is a two-way cycle path in the centre of one side of O’Connell Street practical? That question is why this is a big project, it’s really not just one street. Then there needs to be a plan of how the cycle route is designed as seamlessly as possible to link to other streets at both ends. A bit of network planning is needed and also at least a mini-circulation plan is needed.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has O’Connell St marked as a primary route on its draft GDA Cycle Network Plan, while Dublin City Council has said that it thinks the focus should be on connected routes. Yet, the city council’s 5-year plan would leave a big gap in north-south cycling provision all around O’Connell Street.
My guess: They think the street is too difficult to broach. Are they wrong? Should cycling only be provided where it’s easy for the council to get internal and external agreement?
It’s quite a big gap and there’s a lot of reasons why the other areas and streets are also difficult — to the west of O’Connell Street there’s a long pedestrian areas with no crossing of it and to the east there’s Marlborough Street, which is not that wide and has the southbound Luas tracks on it.
And what’s traffic circulation planning? It’s basically part of planning for car-lite city centres. Ideally, you’d draw sections around the city centre and say to motorists you’re not driving through those lines dividing those sections.
All car parks are still accessible, deliveries can still get in etc. But some motorists would have to go longer routes in some cases and would not be able to use the city centre as a through route.
Ghent is one of the best know examples of implementing traffic circulation planning, this is a great video from Streetfilms (who you should subscribe to):
Below are examples of traffic circulation plans implemented in Ghent and Leuven in Belgium, and planned in Paris (wrong reported in some places as a traffic ban):
But is such too radical for Dublin?
Dublin has been basically implementing what can be seen as incremental traffic circulation plans for decades. The Dutch city of Groningen also implemented a traffic circulation plan, but most Dutch cities have, like Dublin, been a bit more incremental in their approach, the result can end up being the same in the end. I’m just saying cities take different approaches, it would be better if Dublin took a leap forward.
But Dublin could also add to its incremental approach by stopping private traffic from going by east-west at the top of O’Connell Street, and from coming down Parnell Sq east turning west and enforcing the existing O’Connell Street bus gate (which has been in place for a long time, but is not respected or enforced).
This would not be just “for cycling”, it would also be for walking (see below), public transport (there’s still too many ways for cars to edge their way in at the top of O’Connell Street, a vital junction for public transport), and for liveability (there’s a high volume of apartments on Parnell Street).
So, with that in mind, a project to build a two-way cycle path on O’Connell Street should at least include cycle paths:
- (1) Going east-west on Parnell Street — westbound at least extending past Parnell Square West where the street becomes two-way, and eastbound at least as far as Marlborough St / North Great George’s St (this would involve making this section one-way).
- (2) North-south on Parnell Square East at least as far as Blessington Street (which could at first be put in place by making the current quick-build contra-flow route into a two-way path).
- (3) North-south onto O’Connell Bridge, D’Olier Street, College Street and extending the existing two-way cycle path on College Green at least linking into Churh Lane.
The cycle path on O’Connell Street and beyond should be of high quality, including using a general width of close to 4 metres wide. There’s little point in doing this and skimping on quality or possible capacity.
So, what would a two-way cycle path look like on O’Connell Street and what would it take?
Parrnell St (between O’Connell St and Parnell Square West)
If Dublin can be brave enough, this is what it could look like — wider footpath, two-way cycle path, and buses and access would still use the left tram lane here but access would only be towards Parnell Square West.
In all cases, the suggestions would increase the people-carrying potential of the routes in question
Cavendish Row / Parrnell Square East
And here’s what it could look like — access would need to be maintained for deliveries and drop-offs etc, but this could be done while maintaining bus priority on the remaining lanes by for example getting motorists to turn off into Rutland Place (a wide laneway across from the Gate).
O’Connell Street (starting from the north end)
This is the northern end of O’Connell Street:
And this is how the space could be changed — this is basically very similar to what’s currently on the northbound side of the street, but this would provide for a continuous route:
The existing bus gate at the northern entry to O’Connell Street would need to be enforced and the single bus stop related or indented.
This is it in the context of the full street:
O’Connell Street (north of Cathedral St)
At the Luas stop at the north end of the street:
And how it could look — the taxi bay is as is currently, but it would another would be required for the bus stop or relocated:
O’Connell Street (north of the Spire)
And this how it could look — this would need indented bus stop bay/s (shown here as a bus lane), possibly including the removal of some trees and/or the reconfiguration of a small section of the central island… is that really too high of a price to pay?
The following two suggestions are as per Part 1: How to quickly build a Dublin City Centre Cycling Access Loop:
And how it could look:
At this point, the two right lanes shown here should be bus lanes, not just one:
Is there a vision in Dublin for something like the above? Or will Dubliners be left for another decade without any safe north-south cycle route in this area?