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First BusConnects goes to planning: If you tolerate this poor design, your route will be next

— NTA designing for just 3.8% decrease in car use on first BusConnects route.
— Cycling provision clearly isn’t fit for cycling for all.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Despite new bus lanes and cycle lanes, the National Transport Authority is designing for a decrease in car use of just 3.8%. The low-qualty design for walking, cycling and bus users could be why.

Their normal response to a traffic modelling figure like the decrease predicted is that it’s only a prediction. But it’s a prediction based on their design which is too reliant on camera enforcement for bus priority, is poor for cycling and also often poor for bus users and other pedestrians.

The Clongriffin to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme was submitted by the NTA to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) just over a week ago. More details can be found on Clongriffinscheme.ie.

The design gives an indication of why the model might show low modal change away from car use and then an increase in cars in the future… this is overalll one of the more spacious routes, so a word of warning to those reading in other parts of Dublin and in other Irish cities: If you tolerate this poor design, your route will be next.

The NTA is submitting the routes separately apparently because of ABP fears it will be overwhelmed. ABP is known for long delays with its decisions on major projects, so, expect delays anyway. Metro North and Dart+ are also to be submitted for planning permission.

The scheme starts at the under-construction Belmayne bus and cycle scheme, just north of Clarehall Shopping Centre, and ends at Fairview where it links in with the Clontarf to City Centre (C2CC) bus and cycle scheme.

A good chunk of this route is ideal for central/one-side running of BRT-like priority bus services.

The only apparent reasons they aren’t using it is because of cost or it’s more disruptive to cars.

This is the legend for the following BusConnects drawings:

At the northern end of the Malahide Road it’s not off to a good start with a non-segregated cycle lane where buses are turning into and out of Belmayne / Clongriffin — BusConnects cannot blame this on the scheme under construction, the C2CC will be changed to suit BusConnects.

And there’s road widening straight away — southbound goes from 3 to 4 lanes.

Although the slip turn is removed, the bus lane turns into a turning lane before the junction:

Only is an Irish version of a CYCLOPS junction design.

The following is by @LkCycleDesign from a Dublin Cycling Campaign submission to BusConnects showing the differences between Dublin, Dutch and CYCLOPS designs:

CYCLOPS is definitely not the worst design but it seems really unnecessary here. Like the NTA chose this because it’s not the Dutch design.

But regardless of which overall design is used, this is designing for low volumes of cycling and there’s no lack of space here:

This is the first length of a straight stretch of road. Despite the urgent need for climate action we have:

— No substanchal reduction in traffic lanes in any direction.
— Creating cycle paths out of green space, not replacing it, not having

On a more basic level, cycling beside 3/4 lanes without a buffer doesn’t make for comfortable or attractive cycling — the perception of safety is nearly as important as safety in getting people cycling and this isn’t doesn’t cut it:

The 50km/h signs here are a bit of a joke — this isn’t how you design roads for lower speeds.

Instead, the NTA’s BusConnects team is planning for cycle tracks right beside the bus lane and at bus stops, they are planning narrowing which pushes people cycling closer to the buses and taxis zooming by:

This geometry around the bus stop is designed to slow cyclists but we know that layouts like this with a flat kerb the NTA has said it plans to use results in people being injured:

This is due to scaremongering the NTA has accepted and some senior officials who clearly don’t get #CyclingForAll

There are fantastic people in the NTA, but some of the key senior people just don’t get it.

When posting on Twitter about the design, below is a screen grab of the reaction to the narrowing at the bus stops from Ellis Palmer Babe, a UK-based journalist who uses a handcycle to get around.

The narrowing, pushing people towards buses, the severe twists/ turns, high-kerbs will affect people like him the most and most won’t take to the bus lane, so, they won’t cycle.

This is an overview of the next drawing, showing the entrance to ClareHall Shopping Centre — this gives another idea of why modal share along the route will not be in keeping for what’s needed for climate action:

Just to backtrack here to the last drawing — there’s demand here for two-way cycling between residential (R) and shopping (S) but none is provided and the pedestrian access point isn’t being changed to formally accommodate cycling.

Have BusConnects read TII’s Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes report? Do they think it doesn’t apply to cycling?

These cycle paths are designed around people travelling the route, with little apparent consideration given to stopping off or use the paths for shorter distances.

With that in mind, back to the vehicle entrance to the shopping centre:

— Cycle track split without extra space.
— Dumped out into two traffic lanes as motorists speed in from the junction.

This is at best cycling infrastructure design mainly by hardened cyclists.

If you want to access the shopping centre from the south there’s a shared crossing with pedestrians if you’re on a bicycle — when there’s two long dedicated traffic lanes for motorists:

What about exiting the shopping centre? You’re on your own. Have fun cycling across this junction with motorists!

South of the shopping centre — this says it all: Slow markings on the cycle track… but not on any of the three traffic lanes…

And note that the cycle track looks like it’s not segregated as it gets to the crossing and there’s no clear way of accessing the shared crossing.

It cannot be said enough how important it is to have buffer space between traffic and cycle paths at such locations — this is really something that hasn’t been accepted yet in Ireland, but the Dutch know it:

Again we see buffer space wasted between the footpath and cycle path rather than between the bus lane and cycle path:

This is a design of a bus stop in a confined space — but not only is the cycle track needlessly narrow, the space also isn’t confined at all:

The next drawing is the roundabout at Priorswood Road which is to be changed into a signlised junction:

Compared to the Dutch-style junction, the Cyclops junction is inefficient for pedestrians, cycling, and buses.

The below images from the traffic light sequence report shows that the pedestrians and cycling signals go ‘all green’ in all directions.

With this set-up, at no point can left-turning cars be held back.

This means walking, cycling, and buses along the main road are never allowed to have a green light together.

This isn’t for bus priority, it’s for private traffic flow.

This is a very strange commitment to having cycle paths running right beside bus stops without a buffer between them… it’s like cycling is tacked on and not really thought about as a separate space?

On the other side a bus stop with a sub-standard* narrow cycle track — the graphic for ‘slow’ doesn’t fit here.

(* = sure, the NTA will likely adjust the standards to try to justify narrow cycle tracks around bus stops, but it’ll still be below international best standards and claims of being done for pedestrian safety will ring hollow when the NTA cannot bring itself to following the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets or its own street user hierarchy)

On the opposite side of the junction — another narrow cycle path across the road from 4 traffic lanes and bus lane motorists may be blocking at least some of the time:

Pedestrian crossings will be going from crossings two lanes at a time away from the desire line, to crossings more in line with the desire line but crossing 3/4/5 lanes at a time.

This is important for people who find it hard to move fast and for accounting for red light running

These access and exit points to a filling station and the Malahide Road Retail Centre are far from good practice on walking and cycling.

And no access designed for cycling as if people cycling won’t want to access Lidl, Woodies, McDonalds, a pet store etc.

Look at the contrast: A two-lane motoring access point towards a retail park but substandard narrowing of a cycle path around a bus stop:

  • Go slow cyclists!
  • But you keep moving motorists, don’t block the flow of buses or real traffic!

Then we have a well-done link into a housing estate, but sullied by a rubbish crossing because the part of the NTA is happy bunching walking and cycling together on crossings when there’s no need for it.

How can anybody justify these designs in spaces where there’s no lack of space for separate walking and cycling crossings?

I can only guess that some of the people working on this would prefer to be doing better but have their hands tied.

Even the UK are ahead of us on this.

This is the next drawing including the Coolock Leisureplex and ODEON to the top right of the image — again loads of scope for a green buffer along here, but instead cycling right beside the bus lane.

Maybe some will say “it’s ok for commuters” on their own… maybe, but it’s not ok for families or friends cycling side-by-side. Who is the NTA designing for?

There might be some places where keeping the green space where it is, ie to save existing trees. But this is far from the case all the time.

At this smaller bus stop again there’s no real space constraint stopping a better design — this isn’t just poor for cycling, it’s poor for bus users.

The space between where the bus unloads and the cycle path should and could be wider here without taking any space from the road:

This junction is a Dublin-style “protected” junction — left-turning traffic into the retail park will be allowed to turn in at the same time cyclists are going straight on.

A five-second head start is shown but that only helps people who arrive at the junction at a red light:

Some Dutch protected junctions allow motorists to ‘turn on red’ (our left, 2nd image) but the Dublin geometry is so different, turning cars are closer to being at a right angle by the time they cross the cycle route.

The NTA design (1st image) puts cyclists/motorists into conflict with poor visibility:

It also makes no sense to stop at point A when point B is a safer more advanced location to start off at… we already know how this design which is claimed by the NTA to be more pedestrian-friendly takes no account of expected human behaviour from pedestrians or cyclists…

We know this because a version of this design has already been built in Dublin, see the video below.

But no lessons have been learnt and unrealistic expectations remain of both people cycling and walking, this is just a sample and it’s not a busy junction or a busy time:

The NTA now wants to apply this junction design — a design that doesn’t work the way they think it does — to far larger junctions and at far busier locations.

That’s looking for trouble — not only refusing to learn from mistakes, but upscaling those mistakes to busier, more high-speed locations:

Onto the next drawing — including the junction with the Oscar Traynor Road:

The yellow line here shows roughly the same spot — this has been closed off to cars for decades but the filtering allows people cycling to avoid a busy junction at least in one direction.

The NTA plans to clean this area up, great! But why remove the cycling permeability?

On the other side of the road, there’s also no provision for cycling into or out of the residential area… is the cycle route not for local people in Coolock? Or not for any local cycling?

And there should be raised crossings here for pedestrians:

A possibility is the designers are too clever and are closing permanently for cycling to avoid people cycling the wrong way for a short distance on the cycle paths.

Why not provide that cycling option? Their junction design cannot allow for it and they want the space for cars.

There’s no space constraint at the junction with then Oscar Traynor Road (Brookville Crescent), but we get another example of a Dublin-style “protected” junction.

Yet again we’re left with motorists left-turning allowed to cross over the cycle route with poor sightlines:

Next drawing…

More of the same — no direct cycling access into the residential street and a shared walking and cycling crossing where there could easily be separate crossings:

How do locals who want to use this crossing get there? Cycle on the footpath or the wrong way on the cycle path?

Another symptom of planning for cycling on a route but not to/from it around it:

And when people cycling are given access to the residential access/service street, no priority is given to them… yield marking and then even a stop sign…

…is a bit of red asphalt and some cycle logos along the full route including the raised junctions is too much to ask for?

Note that again in sharp contrast to on cycle paths at bus stops, there’s no narrowing required where pedestrians cross the residential service/access streets which includes interacting with not just cyclists but motorists too:

And yet another shared walking and cycling crossing of the main road when there’s again ample space:

Talking about contrast — needless cycle lane narrowed around the bus stop (circled in yellow) and a raised crossing planned for the cycle path (which is good), but no direct crossing for bus users to cross the rat run that is Main St in Coolock (red x is the nearest crossing)

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If we look at the service/access streets on both sides of this section of the Malahide Road, there should be links from these across the next junction….

And this is the next junction… this seems to be a downgrade for pedestrians and cycling safety and accessibility. The current design could be a lot better and is far from perfect but the new junction still seems worse.

For pedestrians and people cycling, it will go from crossing just two lanes on each side when crossing the main road to crossing 4 lanes in one direction, waiting at a staggered crossing and then crossing two more lanes.

Pedestrians will be crossing without conflicting motoring movements, but crossing four lanes of traffic is harder and less safe generally. That’s not to say there can never be four lanes anywhere, it’s to say, that such is one of many reasons why this is a downgrade for active travel.

The more I look at this junction replaced for the current roundabout where the Malahide Road meets Ardlea Road and Gracefield Road, the more issues there are.

Cycling and walking are secondary here.

These are examples of even cycling permeability to be downgraded, ie removed or made harder — circles equals existing connections, and arrows where connections across areas to/from cycle paths are no longer planned for:

There are shops etc in the top and bottom right corners of the junction shown below which serve the different residential areas in all directions.

It’s clear the design does not provide for direct and convenient access to/from these areas by bicycle — another symptom of “planning for the route”.

So, this is one of the corner sections to allow for a waiting area for people cycling to turn right — three of the four corners look on the narrow side around the planned waiting space.

This is designing for low use again:

But then at the fourth corner, there’s…. this… a stay left to turn right arrangement within a ‘protected’ junction! It really screens “cycling is an afterthought”.

There’s really no shortage of space even after the road is widened below.

I could be wrong but this seems to be part of the NTA’s very strange avoidance of following the Dutch protected junction design, like the bus stop designs, it seems, largely based on fearmongering…. or the design of the cycle paths was an afterthought. There’s no good answer here.

Just beyond the junction, there are more confined bus stop designs used where the space is not confined — again, the lack of a wider boarding area is poor for bus users as well as people cycling.

Except for the already mentioned NTA/Busconnets aversion to Dutch design, it’s not clear why the designers have not gone a step further at these locations and followed the Dutch raised area with the Dutch entrance kerb design for minor roads shown below.

And below are two Dutch examples corresponding roughly to the size and contexts of the corresponding locations shown in the BusConnects drawings.

The roads-side edges of both examples above use what is sometimes referred to as “Dutch entrance kerbs”, these not just slow motorists down on entering a sidestreet, but also solve an issue with getting the detail correct across the country

As The Ranty Highwayman explained here: “The UK has started to adopt Dutch techniques, but we have struggled to get our side street entrances right because of a lack of appropriate, off-the-shelf kerb elements. We have tried hard, but we invariably end up dipping the footway/ cycle track to accommodate side street.”

Driveways are a bit different, but bear with me: I commended this DLRCC project for getting the detail like the National Cycle Manual shows. But, even between the driveways, the detailing slightly differed. It will be harder again to keep this type of detailing consistent without a pre-formed kerb.

So, for entrances, it’s best to have a pre-formed kerb to use:

IMAGE: From therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com.

Next drawing… Now we are getting into some more confined spaces…

The narrowing on the cycle tracks at the top of these two images below is excessive — if the NTA are unwilling or unable to CPO the space, then for sections like this they should follow their own GDA and National policy on the hierarchy of road users:

Is the narrowing on this section while the footpath is kept relatively wide because the NTA is facilitating or even providing for footpath parking?

The next drawing is at Mayfield Park… there are green areas on both added of the street and the footpath is being moved inside the tree line on the park side…

But there are still substantial lengths of narrowing of the cycle track on both sides of the road:

This junction might be ok if the turning ban was 24/7 but it’s only for a bit beyond the AM peak — again this might suit most commuters going towards the city centre but it doesn’t suit getting people going to different places across the day:

And then we get more shared crossings into a large residential area when there’s space for separate crossings — but no obvious way on/off the footpaths, hardly the way to encourage more people to cycle rather than drive!

Across the top of the junction there seems to be no segregation — hardly in keeping with the NTA’s claims they are designing for all ages — note the arrow showing where the kerb seems to end:

And again we get scaremongering-inspired designed bus stops — this shows how the cycle path narrows to ~2 metres, then to 1.5 metres, and finally to ~1 metre.

And this design has hardly any space between where people get on/off the bus to where people are cycling across.

Next drawing… including the junction with Collins Avenue:

At Collins Avenue the NTA is using another Dublin-style ‘protected’ junction:

There are currently 4 lanes on the Malahide Road at the northern approach to the junction — so, it might be claimed that there isn’t enough space for a proper Dutch-style protected junction but it’s really a choice — the road is being narrowed here and some of the space is going towards and extra turning lane:

The traffic light diagram shows motorists turning left will happen at the same time as people cycling will be going straight and turning left:

The design of this junction means that motorists turning left (red arrow) will be put in direct conflict not just people cycling straight ahead but also those cycling and turning left (yellow arrow):

There’s ample space here to have enough of a cycle path to at least get people safely onto a side road, but this design is not for comprehensive safe and attractive cycling.

It’s the illusion of provision when the design doesn’t account for people going on/off the route:

The western side of the Collins Ave part of the junction has a cycle lane version of what’s described above but it’s so narrow, it’s a bit of a joke:

Beyond the junction, another stretch of narrow cycle tracks… do we need a reminder why car use isn’t planned to decrease much along the route?

These are the types of spaces across Dublin in which councils are putting bollards into junctions to try to force motorists to take heed/not cut into cycle lanes… but what is the NTA doing here?

They are stopping the kerb in advance of the junction and NOT putting cycling raised crossings where there’s space to do so:

The next drawing includes the junction with Griffith Avenue:

Again ample space to have the bus stops which are better for people cycling and bus passengers but the choice is being made to use this copy-and-paste design to accommodate people who have engaged in scaremongering:

There’s loads of space here at the entrance to Mount Temple Comprehensive School to have the cycle path on a raised crossing and ending the kerb segregation on the cycle path ahead of the school is some statement.

It’s some statement for the NTA to make in front of a school:

On the other side of the road to the school is worse:

— Cycle route narrows in front of a school when guidance says it should be wider at schools.
— Kerb ends before the narrowing, pushing children towards traffic.
— No access point for children cycling to use the crossing:

At Griffith Ave there’s a switchover to a two-way cycle path on one side of the road to detour cycling into residential streets to avoid a narrow stretch into Fairview.

Let’s say the detour is a good idea for a second.

This isn’t the way to do it and the problem is not just this junction:

Because the designers of the BusConnects are so focused on providing for “cycling along the route” and/or cycling provision tacked on or cycling half as an afterthought — none of the following directions of travel are provided for safety within the junction design:

The next drawing is the second last and the first section of the cycling detour to Fairview:

There is a current… or what could be called near-historic… cycling permeability here — part of it is even marked off with a cycle track sign.

The lines here are far more direct and coherent than what BusConnects is planning for.

The BusConnect two-way cycle path makes sense for providing a link like this over to the Marino Ave and to the local shops etc.

And that kind of movement should be provided for more formally if the NTA are serious about providing alternative route off the main road for cycling:

But if you’re trying to get people to use a detour like this the junctions and connections need to be more streamlined with the cycling having priority over motorists at those junctions and connections:

So, for example, at the northern end of the detour, the cycling flow would be given priority:

There’s a real-life example of this on a ‘bicycle street’ in Utrecht — the bridge is for cycling and pedestrians only (the bridge would be the equivalent area of around the trees in the last images).

This is what motorists see when entering the bicycle street — a 90-degree turn, raised table with entrance kerbs, and stop sign:

First image — looking towards the walking/cycling bridge in Utrecht.

Second image — looking towards the existing situation at the northern end of the planned detour. This can be squared off for motorists turning in/out to show cycling priority:

A blacktop surface with the lines down the middle of the road and the odd bicycle logo mostly painted on one side of the road at a time (partly where cars will be half parked on them) doesn’t come close to the idea of highlighting a detoured main cycle route via residential streets:

Two-way cycling should be the norm on all of these streets in Marino even where motorists are directed to go one-way only.

But instead of providing for cycling, the BusConnects team planning for the opposite — further formalising the car-focused arrangements:

There are examples of cycling contra-flow without cycle lanes in Phibsborough:

If you’re going to use bicycle logos on narrow residential streets like this, this version is better than just on one side of the road:

Regardless of the cycling route, the parking situation is out of control here and needs sorting:

And we’re onto the final drawing for the Clongriffin BusConnects route — the connection to the Clontarf to City Centre Bus and Cycle route:

This is a solid intervention, but again parking will need to be tackled:

The BusConnects team seem to be thinking about connecting their detour mainly towards the city centre (yellow arrow) but they need to be looking at people needing to make local connections to shops, the next street, the next main route over etc (ie the green arrow):

At the start of the Malahide Road a two-way cycle link is needed from the Clontarf Route to the cycling detour:

Finally, the Fairview detour fails to be as attractive as it should be because shared pedestrian and cycling crossings are used at this location (and too many others) on the Clontarf to City Centre (C2CC) route, which is currently under construction.

These shared crossings are poor for both pedestrians and people cycling, but still used for some reason? Can the design for BusConnects take a step forward before it is built?

Originally tweeted on the @IrishCycle Twitter account on April 7, 2022. Posted here with edits and a few addtions.

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1 comment

  1. Seeing bicycle turn lanes on most junctions makes me slap my head. They clearly do not know how cycling works.
    I then fell of my chair when I saw their plans for Carleton Road in Marino. I lived there for years and I saw daily conflicts with car drivers who felt the cyclists are “driving in the middle of the road” not allowing cars too pass. As you point out the parking situation is out of control making the road too narrow for smooth passing of vehicle and bicycle traffic. It is also used for rat running to no measure. This is far from a “quiet option”.

    Reply

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