LONG READ: Plastic bollards installed as part of the Safe Routes to School Programme on the Ranelagh Road in Dublin were downgraded to stubble bollards — which are designed to be easy to drive over — after intervention from two TDs and a local councillor.
The segregation of the cycle lane was watered down, just north of Supervalu on the Ranelagh Road, after representations from the politicians, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information request.
The three politicians involved were Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan, Labour Party leader and TD Ivana Bacik, and Cllr Dermot Lacey, also Labour. The two parliamentarians and councillor all defended their interventions and their responses are outlined below.
“New bollards have been installed to protect the cycle lane on Ranelagh Road, in the vicinity of Ranelagh Multidenominational School, to prevent parking and providing space to for all users of the space,” said Claire French, a senior executive engineer with Dublin City Council, explained in an email on May 30 of this year, 2022.
French added: “This was identified through working with the school as part of the Safe Routes to School Programme, as a measure that improves safety in the area of the school, particularly at school times.”
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The partly protected cycle lane was marked as 24-hour cycle track sometime since the start of the pandemic and remains marked as such this week. It’s shown on Google Street View as being a 24 hour lane in 2021.
It is strictly illegal to load or park in such a cycle lane, but campaigners and people who cycle often complain of lack of enforcement.
The first set of bollards were installed directly outside Supervalu and south of it in May 2020 as part of the Covid Mobility measures, but the recent problems started when extra bollards were installed on the cycle lane just north of the supermarket as part of the Safe Routes to School Programme. The newer bollards stretched as far as the school north of the village centre.
The newer bollards covered an area which is treated as but not legally marked as a loading bay.
It’s not fully clear when the full-height bollards were first installed but they were reported as missing or damaged by at least one member of the public on Wednesday, April 20. This or other reports were mentioned by a council official as the bollards being reported “removed/stolen” in an email on Monday, May 30, and said to be reinstalled on Tuesday, May 31. At this stage, the bollards seem to have been removed unlawfully by persons unknown.
The removal or damaging of bollards has been a surprisingly common occurrence across different council areas — in some cases, disgruntled motorists are able to just screw off the bollards by hand. No criminal damage or theft is claimed or implied here on the part of Supervalu, any other businesses or by anybody mentioned in this article.
It was only when the bollards were reinstated, on May 31, that the manager at Ranelagh Supervalu emailed politicians.
The email, released with the manager’s name redacted, said: “In the past hour our store loading bay in Ranelagh Village has been blocked by bollards erected by DCC [Dublin City Council]. We have no choice but to unload daily deliveries from the main Ranelagh Road (30 minutes in total), blocking traffic exiting the city and forcing cars to the opposite side of the road!! Not to mention how unsafe it is for our colleagues to be on the main road too!”
There was no “loading bay” outside or beside the shop before this. The manager is referring to the cycle lane.
The Supervalu email added: “Would really appreciate help with this, I’ve no idea who to ask for in DCC. Other retailer neighbours are also exacerbated by the sheer lack of consideration for us to trade safely and efficiently. Any help is greatly appreciated.”
In an email to council officials on the same day, Labour Party leader and local TD, Ivana Bacik, wrote: “I’ve had a query in from the Manager of Supervalu Ranelagh earlier today, saying that the Loading Bay outside the shop had been blocked by bollards erected by Dublin city Council, and to express his concerns with the knock off safety issues. I’m attaching his email, below, as it outlines the matter.”
She added: “Would you mind escalating it to the relevant person in Roads & Traffic please, so that the matter can be reviewed/resolved asap?”
Shortly afterwards, Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) also forward on the email from the supermarket. He said: “Please see email below – this is a serious issue for this business and I would be grateful for a response as soon as possible.. Thanks in advance.”
Two days later on Thursday, June 2, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and another TD for Dublin Bay South, Jim OCallaghan, wrote to officials and said: “I have been contacted by at Supervalu, Main Street, Ranelagh. tells me that the store’s loading bay in Ranelagh Village has been blocked by bollards erected by DCC.”
“They have no choice but to unload daily deliveries from the main Ranelagh Road (30 minutes in total) blocking traffic exiting the city and forcing cars to the opposite side of the road. Retail neighbours are also concerned at the lack of safety involved and which is necessary for them to trade safely and efficiently,” he wrote to officials.
He added: “I was hoping that this could be looked into and hopefully a solution can be found which will allow Supervalu to continue to operate their business in a safe manner.”
Records show that a fourth politician also emailed officials, Clir Claire Byrne (Green Party). But this email was sent after the downgrading of the bollards happened.
On Monday, June 20, Cllr Byrne said: “These are the bollards that have gone outside Supervalu right? They are small bollards that can facilitate the unloading of deliveries. Is there time limit on when deliveries can take place or are vans allowed to park here to offload? I fully support these bollards by the way but just wanted clarity on the situation for businesses so can respond to reps from Super Valu etc.”
Supervalu Ranelagh, owned by the Musgrave Group, also more directly lobbied officials.
This correspondence was also released under Freedom of Information legislation. The individual and company names of the sender were redacted, but the email author said the Musgrave Group was “Our Client”.
The person or company acting on behalf of Musgravea was more upfront about the use of the cycle lane for loading.
On Wednesday, June 1, the author wrote: “There is a cycle lane directly adjacent to the store’s frontage onto the R117 regional road, which up until recently had operated on a timed basis (07:00-19:00hrs Mon-Sat). This cycle lane has been amended so that it is now a mandatory 24-hour (Mon-Sun) cycle lane outside of the store, and is now delineated with bollards, without consultation with the Musgrave Group.”
At this stage, the lane was 24/7 for around two years. The legal nature of the lane had not been changed “recently”, only the bollards were added to help with enforcement of the law and safety of people cycling.
The email added: “As a result, it is now not possible for delivery activities to be legally undertaken at the store. This is a very significant problem for the SuperValu store and I would appreciate if we could discuss a possible solution at your earliest convenience.”
However, in 2020, one truck did seem to be able to unload in front of Supervalu while blocking the general traffic lane rather than the cycle lane. Motorists waited until it is safe to go around the truck — something that’s often asked of people cycling but somehow seems unthinkable to ask people driving this.
However, after representations from the three politicians, rather than motorists going around the truck, officials were choosing to send people of all ages cycling around the truck.
On Thursday, June 2, the council’s manager for the South East Area, Brian Hanney, asked by email: “Has this issue been addressed so that I can respond to Councillors?” Council official Claire French replied: “The crew are heading out there this afternoon so the bollards will be changed out for the lower ones the truck can drive over.”
By Thursday, June 9, a clerical officer at Dublin City Council also wrote to a member of the public to outline how the council’s “Traffic Officers have informed me that change was made to facilitate the unloading of a forty foot truck at 6am every morning at SuperValu, in order to prevent the truck from blocking the road.”
The member of the public, whose name was redacted as part of the Freedom of Information process, replied and said that they had “a few concerns”.
They wrote: “The Super Valu truck does not limit its unloading to 6AM. In the past they have unloaded at 5pm. Have they committed to the Traffic Officers to limit unloading in the future to 6AM? It would be brilliant if they have committed to this.”
They also asked: “As this is a 24 hour cycle lane, it is my understanding that it is illegal to unload on the cycle lane at any time. Do Super Value have an exemption/permission from Dublin City Council to unload on the cycle lane?”
They said that cars were now also using the section of cycle lane where segregation was watered down to allow for loading.
The three politicians were asked by IrishCycle.com for the reasons for their intervention.
Deputy Bacik said: “Representations were made to me by cyclists and by a local business in relation to an issue with vehicles pulling out into the centre of the Ranelagh Road as an unintended consequence of the erection of bollards outside SuperValu in Ranelagh. Alongside other public representatives from other political parties, I was happy to bring these concerns to the attention of Dublin City Council.”
“Indeed, I have had extensive communication with Dublin City Council in relation to road safety and traffic problems in Dublin Bay South since I became a TD in 2021. For example just down the road, on Sallymount Avenue in Ranelagh, there is no cycle lane and the road is in disrepair. As a result, the corner turning on to the Ranelagh Road is treacherous for cyclists. I have already asked that Dublin City Council address this matter,” she said.
She added: “As a daily cyclist myself and convenor of the All-Party Oireachtas Cyclists group, I believe that the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is of utmost importance. Several accidents have taken place on Ranelagh road in recent months and Dublin City Council does need to review road and traffic arrangements generally in the area to take account of safety concerns. It is vital that we allocate for cycling and for pedestrians, most importantly.”
Deputy O’Callaghan said: “I was contacted by Supervalu in Ranelagh who stated that they couldn’t unload produce for the shop because of the large bollards. I contacted the Council since I believed it was a legitimate issue of concern.”
He added: “Ultimately, they were replaced with smaller bollards which still protects cyclists but enables the shop to unload produce.”
Cllr Lacey said: “In relation to Ranelagh I received a query I asked for a response. The Supervalu is in a particularly difficult location. Controlled parking for deliveries in my humble opinion is better than none as someone who cycles alomg that route three or four times a week. However, I did not advocate any particular option as I was happy for the engineers to look at it.”
“As late as an hour ago I supported the planned Clonskeagh through Ranelagh cycle route and asked that side road or off road facilities be provided for deliveries. That is a necessity in built up residential areas like Ranelagh. Please read my email. I asked for a response because there was an issue. Trying to find solutions is part of my job as a Public Representative,” he said.
Later, he added: “I just cycled through Ranelagh. Higher more solid bollards are back outside Supervalu with the lower bollards just before — beside a small indented area. Perhaps a time-restricted loading allied to strict enforcement might work.”