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BusConnects infrastructure fails not just people cycling but also bus passangers… what’s going on at the NTA?

— Belfield / Blackrock to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme is another example of design that fails cycling and bus users.

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COMMENT & ANALYSIS:  After looking at the first BusConnects infrastructure project to be submitted for approval to An Bord Pleanala recently and now the route route, as below, it is clearer that there are reoccurring poor, inaccessible and even some dangerous designs which the NTA seems to be determined to keep using.

It seems like an intervention by the Government and transport Minister Eamon Ryan will be needed to sort this out.

Any claims that the National Transport Authority’s BusConnects team is just looking out for the safety of pedestrians is simply countered by the use of the bus stop design in the third image below which is wholly insufficient as a common design for bus stops — it’s not just dangerous to people cycling but also to bus passengers. It’s unfair to all that the NTA is using design designs where better designs are available and the space is usually available too, it’s just it’s not a priory for the NTA.

Some very strange things about basic cycle path designs are being said by the NTA to councillors and others. It’s unclear what the motivation is, but their thinking is not supported by the experience in Dublin of the so-called “Dublin-style protected junctions” or the evidence from other countries, including not just the Netherlands but London too.

As shown below, the NTA’s design are highly contradictory too. When it suits them, they’ll implement restrictive traffic narrowing of cycle paths and then at other points — often within meters — the designers mix people cycling onto shared section of footpaths and shared crossings.

The level of this can not be mistake for pragmatism, it’s dictate from somebody within the NTA about pedestrian crossing points of cycle paths that makes little sense in the real world, so, contradictory designs start showing up rather quickly.

At the same time the BusConnects designers have produced very few examples of traffic calming aimed at motorists travelling along the main route and the standard traffic light set up at most junctions is to allow motorists to turn across people cycling straight ahead.

The NTA — or a part of the organisation at least — clearly does not understand how you design for Cycling For All. The designs are not fit for handcyclists or others using adapted cycles, don’t allow for the space needed for cargo bikes or even just a small group of secondary school children cycling together. It’s design all too often that might suit the middle aged person cycling to/from the city centre, but lets everybody else down.

An improvement? Sure, mostly. But way too far away from where routes like this need to be for them to accommodate the current numbers of people cycling, never mind trying to get many more people cycling. Nobody is expecting it to be perfect, but there’s no point in spending money and getting this so wrong.

Belfield / Blackrock to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme

The second BusConnects infrastructure project to be submitted to An Bord Pleanala is the Belfield / Blackrock to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme, full details of which can be found belfieldblackrockscheme.ie.

This article was originally a twitter thread, you might prefer to read it in that format?

The route starts at Stradbrook Road / Monkstown Road / Temple Hill…

There’s no real space issue at this bus stop, there’s a choice being made to make the cycle path just 1 metre wide (or less?) at the bus stop:

This double narrowing and chicane on approach to the bus stop:

— Pushes all cyclists towards buses and other traffic.
— Will have the most impact on people using adapted cycles, mobility devices, trikes, etc.
— Distracts from pedestrians crossings
— Will be worse in icy weather.

Read our previous article here:

There’s indications from London that a greater number of conflict are caused at more confined bus stop designs. It’s understandable that some people will fear change, but the NTA seems to be giving into scaremongering.

This design can be found outside the Ibis Utrecht hotel — it’s a form of traffic claiming onto the side road:

And Street View:

BusConnects however uses this concept and turns it on its head by putting the cycle track on the outside of the traffic calming — very strange… why?

The wider junction is a bit of a mess but it’s also likely out-of-date with an SHD already approved and another in planning.

This is very confusing layout without stacking areas for people cycling turning in different directions when there’s mostly space available for such and it’s hard to see how this would work in practice:

It doesn’t help that the traffic signals drawings are at a different orientation than the main drawings…

There’s no stacking space here at the diagonal cycling crossing:

There may be an error in the traffic light diagram, as…

It seems to suggest that the diagonal cycling crossing will have a green light at the same time as buses and motorists will cross over it:

That would mean that buses and motorists would have a green light at the same time as the diagonal cycling crossing… I’m guessing this has to be an error.

Less likely a mistake is motorists turning right (green) being able to turn at the same time as cyclists crossing (dark green). This is a common feature of the NTA’s planning around protected junctions.

This isn’t a diagonal cycling crossing but it’s an abnormal angle.

There’s good reason the Dutch try to avoid conflicting turning. We should too.

There’s so many recurring issues with junctions with BusConnects.

If there’s no pedestrian crossing or if the pedestrian crossing is red, why would anybody cycling stop at stop line 1 when stop line 2 is a safer more forward position to stop?

Two bicycle traffic lights in quick succession as a means (likely unrealistic) to help with the numbers of people on bicycles waiting without blocking the cycle path from another direction, before reaching a third at the diagonal cycling crossing.

This is a bad idea — lights in quick succession in the same direction are confusing. You see one but not the other.

Next drawing…

At the next junction — Temple Road at the south east edge of Blackrock Village — is this more typical of the so-called Dublin-style protection junction.

There’s ample space here for a safer Dutch-style protected junction.

There’s no real reason for these cycle paths approaching/ going away from the junction need to be so narrow:

On the other side of the junction — another example of bicycle traffic lights for the same direction in quick succession:

The practical issues with the Dublin-style junctions design is known since one was built and it’s not working as designed… see:

Dublin-style protected junction vs first Irish adaption of Dutch-style protected junction design

Then we have more unneeded narrow points at bus stops which (1) seem to cause more conflicts in London compared to less confined designs and (2) these designs the NTA are using will impact the most on people with adapted cycles, @age_cycling etc.

Next drawing….

With the left turns from general traffic lanes and the right hand turning bans, this Dublin-style junction might have a better chance of working:

A few improvements could be made including straight if out the cycle path towards the crossing point:

At the next junction, George’s Avenue this layout is planned:

This is the access from the west now:

If implemented, this section would be a downgrade to the crossing.

Although the bollards would be an upgrade to cycling on the south/west side of George’s Ave (text reads: “PROPOSED TRAFFIC CONTROL MEASURES TO CONTROL EGRESS FROM GEORGE'S AVENUE TO AUTHORISED VEHICLES ONLY”)

An alternative cycle path layout could be realigned to something like this.

Some would claim this would be more cycling-dominated. But it would allow for the reduction of shared spaces and more predictably:

Outside the shopping centre, the cycle paths narrow around the bus stops in contrast to the wideness of the road:

Again, this isn’t just poor for cycling, it’s also poor for bus users.

There’s no reason here to have such a small space between where people get on/off buses to where bicycles go by — a space which should and can be wider. Strange choices are being made:

Over due getting back to this…

The next junction (circled in yellow below) has no pedestrian crossings across the Frascati Road (aka the Blackrock bypass)… maybe this can be excused given the raised off-junction pedestrian crossing (orange below) and the proximity of the next junction (blue below).

Here’s the junction without crossings across the main road and the raised crossing to the left…

Despite having no pedestrian crossings across the main road and, in the bottom right, the slip turn removed, some of the waiting/turning areas for cyclists within the protected areas are still being designed with insufficient space…

Instead of following the Dutch there’s two sets of bicycle traffic lights in close proximity (around about where I’ve marked the red Xs).

The idea seems to be to hold cyclists at the X on the left so that other cyclists have space to make the yellow turn and wait at the 2nd X.

Similarly, on the bottom right hand corner — but this will require three sets of bicycle traffic lights.

This is a confusing mess which adds confusion and danger, clutter, and expense during construction and on-going maintenance.

All because of a refusal to follow Dutch design.

In between the two junctions there’s another bus stop with restrictive narrowing:

In some places cycle route designers could claim that people like me are taking BS when we mention cargo bikes/trikes, and adapted cycles.

But DLRCC and Blackrock definitely isn’t one of those places — there’s loads of cargo bike in use and the DLRCC is providing adapted cycles:

The more I look at BusConnects the more I’m convinced that some senior NTA people:

(1) don’t get Cycling For All.
(2) bought into scaremongering about cyclists.

This design not just narrows the path on curves where extra width is needed but pushes people towards moving buses:

As I wrote last week (https://irishcycle.com/2022/06/14/mahon-cycle-scheme-looked-promising-at-first-but-it-should-go-back-to-the-drawing-board/): After cycling with a handcyclist for a few days last week, I’m even more confused on how any engineer could sign off on a design which narrows a cycle track and pushes people towards moving traffic at that narrowing point.

The level of the cluelessness of how dangerous this is to people cycling never mind disabled people on trikes or three-wheel handcycles is just stunning.

And the experience from London seems to be the most confined cycle paths at bus stops are experiencing higher issues than the least confined — boxing people in too much leaves no room for forgiving design (ie going against one of the principles of the National Cycle Manual).

To facilitate the dangerous design of pushing people on bicycles towards moving busses, there’s quite frankly bizarre designs at some junctions before bus stops.

Ie people waiting to turn up Mount Merrion Ave (X below) will be at least partly blocking people going straight ahead

This is the issue in a nutshell with a lot of the designs — BusConnects is designing for low volumes of people cycling:

From the designs they are puddling forward, also get the feeling they are designing for the single commuter cyclist and not a mix of people including a parent with a child on board and another beside them:

After the junction there’s another restrictive bus stop design with double narrowerings — the angle of the road here makes the the cycle path quite sharp even more so than the NTA’s usual design.

The angles + narrowings are a clear destabilising risk at even moderate speeds.

Here, it makes so much sense to have the green buffer between people cycling and buses and have people cycling protected a bit on the raised crossing.

But all of these normal designs are cancelled out due to the NTA wanting a particular design at bus stops:

Castledawson is a substantial enough of a development but there’s no crossing here for cycling towards Blackrock village etc. Yet, the fairly large dedicated turning lane for motorists coming from the city centre is retained.

Commuting given priority over local.

The cycle paths along this section of the Rock Road are planned to be quite narrow in an area with fairly high — this hardly seems an approbate solution for an area with already relatively high cycling:

A glimpse of contradictory design thinking in BusConnects:

(1) Dublin’s cyclists are such a danger that they need more excessive traffic calming at bus stops than anywhere else.

(2) We’ll mix walking and cyclists at crossings because separate crossings cost a little more:

Same at Blackrock College… a dedicated cycling crossing for school children is out of the question when a shared crossing will do!

Seriously, these contradictions are fairly solid evidence that there’s something up with the NTA’s thinking on other designs.

At the Booterstown end of Blackrock Park, where the DLR Coastal Mobility Route starts, there’s still shared space left as the connection from the two-way cycle path in the park and all cycle paths outside the park.

How do the BusConnects designers not see the inconsistency here?

If the NTA implements these designs with excessive and dangerous narrowing on busy cycle routes, they should be not surprised if some cyclists — including people in adapted cycles or hand cycles — remain in the bus lanes at least on some sections:

This 2-way cycle path is likely to be too busy for its width yet the NTA is planning to increase the likelihood of collisions by having artificial narrowing.

It’s claimed to be for pedestrian safety but experience in London shows narrowing at bus stops can be more problematic.

This kind of design would be ok for a quick build project. But is it good enough for a long-term solution?

It feels the NTA is trying to squeeze too much in here with a 2-way path on one side and a with-flow path on the building side while retaining x2 bus lanes/general lanes.

This design is unsafe and unfair to not just the people cycling on the cycle path but also the bus passengers who are being left with so little dedicated space for boarding or disembarking buses.

All so an office block here can retain a strip of grass outside it?

It looks like it might be more about retaining car parking and the grass strip further down:

This is the plan for the junction at Merrion Gates (Strand Road).

It still includes a massive turning lane into Strand Road which hopefully won’t be needed if the Court of Appeal allow the Strand Road cycle route:

This looks Dutch-like but if you look at the stop lines in the cycle paths, it’s designed with unrealistic expectation how how people cycling interact with not just pedestrians but also others who cycle.

This design needs a whooping 12 — yes 12! — bicycle traffic lights!

North of Merrion Gates, the cycle paths look way too narrow — a guess is useable space or 1.5 metres or less.

Here’s the cross-section for the above drawing — 1.5 metres is not good enough or safe enough for trikes, handcycles, or other adapted cycles such as those used by Cycling Without Age. That’s before we even talk about the need to provide for things like social cycling side-by side or even a parent cycling with their child.

In case anybody is in doubt, 1.5 metres isn’t wide enough and especially not on a long-term project.

This junction shows a lack of understanding of how projected junctions work and the need for stacking locations for people turning — there isn’t a huge amount of space along all of this junction but there is space that could be used better:

Same thing at Nutley Lane which is a busier junction and there’s more space here too… these seem to be more like early draft drawings than designs submitted to a national planning board.

@anbordpleanala planners should be rejecting plans with this level of poor detail.

We’ll continue to look at the main route towards the city centre and we’ll go back to Nutley Lane (which is part of this route) later…

The junction at Allsbury Road has much the same issues… implementing this design as shown will result in people cycling in bus lanes.

The QBN bus project office were notorious for trying to get cyclists out of the way of buses using rubbish designs. QBNO merged with the NTA.

Just to be clear about this: Mandatory use of cycle tracks isn’t coming back anytime soon. For a minister, it won’t be worth the hassle from cycling club in Ireland as well as many cycling campaigners. Bus lanes beside sub-standard cycle tracks will be used for cycling.

The cycle paths here are 1.5 metres or narrow. We know from all sorts of guidance that it isn’t wide enough for segregated cycle paths. It’s a choice to keep all the lanes here.

This narrowness continues over 1/3 way across the next drawing page, so, this is quite a long section with unacceptably narrow cycle tracks.

This very long bus stop design isn’t good for pedestrians, bus users or cyclists.

This is extremally bad design due to restrains put on the designers, but cyclists will be blamed when it’s finished and people don’t act the way they think…

One thing that I have mentioned about many of the Dublin-style “protected” junction designs is this kind of detail which all advice going advices again — especially with the traffic light set up the NTA is planning, it just shifts the conflict point. It’s really dangerous:

Another backtrack as the next tweet was orphaned from the thread…

On the issue of choices being made, maybe the NTA should accept that if it wants to keep all the traffic lanes that and doesn’t want to use CPO, that protected junctions won’t fit at locations like this?

We know motorists, pedestrians and cyclists won’t act the way they want.

Around the River Dodder in Ballsbridge, there’s a lot going on here… better than the current situation? Sure. But…

The unrealistic and contradictory design constrains put on the designers hampers this being far safer and far better.

The side road to bottom of the image below is not a thought route but has quite a few offices.

There’s a turning lane for motorists but no space provided for people cycling turning in or out:

No space for anybody turning in as per the arrow here so they aren’t blocking people cycling straight on:

No space for stacking here despite the plans including removing the current slip turn:

And those cycling in a left with another example of a dangerous conflict with motorists — and they are just told to yield at an awkward angle in an awkward place:

The contradictions:

(1) People walking and cycling, including the main flow of the Dodder Greenway, are mixed on a toucan crossing.

(2) People cycling are mixed with motorists turning.

(3) But walking and cycling are regulated by traffic lights at all other crossings.

The BusConnects team plans to do some substantial work lining Herbert Park (road) with Shelbourne Rd while making Elgin Rd entry only.

— This concretes Herbert Park as a 2-way rat run.
— Concreting Shelbourne Rd as the same.
— But still includes a sub-standard protected junction.

This is a road through a park… why are is the NTA telling people cycling to yield and where the traffic calming… is traffic calming just for cycle paths? The NTA’s BusConnects team seems to think so…

Pedestrian priority zone = shared footpaths…

But rather designing protected junctions and cycle paths properly, there’s contradictory fudges like this shared area circled below. So…

❌ Dutch-style junctions because people walking and cycling apparently cannot self-regulate… but…

✅ Cyclists using lengths of footpaths?

After the junction more sub-standard narrowing…

The BusConnects routes turns into Pembroke Road here… signs will say local access only and there will be a full bus gate (ie bus lane traffic only) further up the road at Waterloo Road.

This is quite a bonkers shape for a protected junction if it was to be used as normal. Again, there isn’t enough turning space.

But, like other junctions, there’s some signs that this design is a draft or work-in-progress.

Regardless, it shouldn’t have been submitted to ABP.

Besides the overly restrictive bus stop designs which aren’t good for bus passengers or people cycling, Pembroke Road is fairly decent overall:

And the main reason it’s good is that a difficult decision was made — using a bus gate:

This bus stop design on the right below, however, is bonkers…

How can anybody — expect maybe someone blinded by hate of cyclists — see this solution as good for bus passengers when there’s so much space available?

This is an image from the National Cycle Manual for protecting cycle lanes from motorists when there’s a narrowing on the road:

So, why would you design a cycle path like this right beside where buses are turning out without a wider, stronger buffer?

This is the crossing along the Grand Canal:

They are just trying to do too much east-west (bottom and top of image below) along the canal here.

The cycle lanes are too narrow to be segregated, especially the one at the top right.

And what are people yielding to at the bottom when cycling straight on?

It looks too small for protected junctions — people waiting to turn could block up everything making the crossings dangerous.

The route along the canal needs a larger re-think, but — to be fair — that’s a whole other project.

Read our previous article:

Here’s a sample from that relating to the above junction:

Back to BusConnects…. On the bridge there’s limited space to reallocate by removing one traffic lane.

But cycling and walking could do with more space here. But it’s not clear the balance is right here — a cross-section drawing with measurements would help!

On the other side of the canal, the new turning restriction might help somewhat.

But the Grand Canal Cycleway is already overcapacity or at least was at peak times pre-Covid. A rethink is also needed here and it’s a poor choice for a planned orbital route.

The design also doesn’t seem to have learned from over a decade of use by people walking and cycling.

Space reallocation is needed here.

Cross-sections are available at belfieldblackrockscheme.ie, but often not for all sections of the streets or roads and sometimes the cross sections are away from the pinch points.

Onto Baggot Street Lower inside the canal…

The space at the bus stops between where people get on/off buses and the approaches also squeezes people cycling (especially trikes and adapted bicycles) — it’s not good for bus passengers or people cycling:

It’s bad enough needlessly narrowing a cycle path, but the way BusConnects is planning it, people cycling will be pushed towards buses at the narrow section:

And where a bus stop is near a side street junction, the narrowing is across the mouth of the junction.

This goes against the design principles of “forgiveness” — ie rather than having space to avoid a motorist pulling in on top of you, the space is restricted:

Along this short section of street there’s:

— Narrowing due to bus stops on both sides.
— Narrowing due to parking on both sides.
— Narrowing due to a bus stop on one side.

As the route comes to an end, the junction between Baggot Street Lower and Fitzwilliam Street uses a protected junction again without the space for a protected junction to function properly, especially in a busy city centre location.

This is yet another transition which makes stating in the cycle lane worse than joining the bus lane at the last side street before the junction:

Nobody can say there was no space to design better quickly — this is just a massive single lane here:

Reducing the extra wide lanes would be invaluable to getting the protected corners that little bit wider at at least three sides of the junction… no, there’s no apparent effort to get these to work.

And again the design doesn’t account for pedestrian or cyclist behaviour.

On the short section of Fitzwilliam Street everything is squeezed in — bus lanes, cycle paths and car lanes in both directions.

The cross section doesn’t seem too bad… but…

But the reality on one side of the street, for around half the length of the street, is narrowing of the cycle path followed by another bus stop design which is poor for passengers and people cycling:

That’s the end of this route in the city centre, now back to the branch the route, from Merrion Road to RTÉ along Nutley Lane:

From the Merrion Road up to the Nutley Lane entrance to St Vincent’s the cycle lanes are on both sides of the road until there’s a cross-over to a two-way cycle path.

There’s so much wrong with the cross-over…

For starters, why isn’t the bus stop relocated back to the other side of the junction so that there’s no interaction with the cycle path?

The great contradiction of BusConnects is that, travelling along the main routes, nearly exclusively traffic calming is aimed at people cycling on cycle paths, but designers include shared footpaths (the darker grey areas below) and and shared crossings:

The two-way path on one side of the road, without a footpath on that side, continues up as far the golf / sports club entrance:

It’s pragmatic to have no footpath on one side here. Hopefully the desire lines are as weak as it seems on one side and the cycle path doesn’t turn onto a defacto shared path as 3 metres wide is just about enough for a two-way cycle path in this context (the hill etc).

With all the space available here, it’s not clear why the cycle path and raised crossing doesn’t curve in here (rather than being narrowed):

At the end of the Nutley Lane branch of the route there’s two different drawings shown — the first which is made up of shared space footpaths (darker grey areas) which is dreadful for pedestrians and cycling:

And the future layout when the Bray to City Centre scheme is delivered.

Besides the unrealistic expectations of how most people walking and cycling use protected junctions, this is a hugely superior design:

Originally tweeted by IrishCycle.com (@IrishCycle) on May 27, 2022.

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