COMMENT & ANALYSIS: I’ve been disillusioned by walking and cycling design in Ireland for years, but looking at first three BusConnects routes submitted to An Bord Pleanála has been depressing.
The National Transport Authority (NTA), are directly responsible for not just BusConnects but also for allocating most of the active travel funding from the Government and they are responsible for revising the main guidance on cycle route design.
The following are IrishCycle.com’s first two articles on the design of BusConnects routes:
- First BusConnects goes to planning: If you tolerate this poor design, your route will be next (Clongriffin to City Centre)
- BusConnects infrastructure fails not just people cycling but also bus passengers… what’s going on at the NTA? (Belfield / Blackrock to City Centre)
The third BusConnects route submitted for planning is the Blanchardstown to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme. For walking and cycling infrastructure, it is overall the worse route so-far, which is saying something.
I don’t know how to stress this more strongly: Nobody was expecting perfection with BusConnects. But the level of poor design is alarming for a body which is in control of the purse strings for a good chunk of the €1 million a day that the Government is saying it is spending on walking and cycling.
It’s worth saying that a percentage of the BusConnect project will be paid for by the active travel budget. It has yet to be disclosed what percentage. As things stand, this would be a very poor use of active travel funding.
There’s a whole host of reasons that the NTA is messing up design for walking and cycling, but political and campaigning intervention is needed by anybody who cares about making active travel and also bus travel both safe and attractive.
I’m sure the NTA will have excuses — the NTA’s deputy CEO has already sounded like anti-cycling groups in claiming to councillors that Dutch designs are unsafe, and, when the NTA’s CEO appeared at the parliamentary Committee on Climate Action, she tried to claim that the designs in the National Cycle Manual were safe for children.
The writing has been on the wall for some time that the two most senior officials at the NTA are not a safe pair of hands for providing for cycling for all. But the BusConnects designs are so far away from best practice — for not just cycling but also for pedestrians — that action is now needed by campaigners and politicians.
Blanchardstown to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme
The rest of this article will cover the Blanchardstown section of the route and the Castleknock to city centre section will be covered separately. Full drawings and other documents can be found at blanchardstownscheme.ie.
The project starts north-west of the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre and just north of the N3 interchange. It crosses the N3 loops around and into the shopping centre.
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Cycling provision continues to be poorer than it should be and there’s also limited bus priority here at the start of the route:
There’s no real shortage of space here, especially not on both sides of the bridge and around the junctions:
On the leg of the junction heading towards Coolmine Cottages — one side ends not segregated and the other side is narrow up to the yellow arrows:
Despite the massive size of the junction and the available space, the choice here is a Dublin-style “protected” junction which the NTA is using rather than opting for safer and more attractive Dutch-style junction designs.
Not only are junction slip junctions retained, but there isn’t even adequate space for people to turn and allow space for those going in the other direction:
This is a common theme in BusConnects — no widths available here but the cycle track circled in yellow here seems to be artificially narrow given the available space compared to that circled in orange:
This is the preferred traffic light sequence at protected junctions in the Netherlands — separate time for people cycling straight on and motorists turning:
In the BusConnects design, motorists turning will have a green light in conflict with people cycling straight on — see arrows to the left of the image:
How can they think this is a good idea? Even the traffic light diagrams shows the conflict here:
The geometry of the Dutch-junction design means that, even when motorists are allowed to turn in conflict with people cycling straight on, by the time the motorist has turned to where the father and child are, they would have slowed down and have a better line of sight:
In the typical Dutch design, there’s quite a bit of space between the line where cars start to move off and the cycling crossing:
In the Dublin design, there’s little of no space between where motorists set off and the cycling crossing.
Motorists will be turning with people cycling often in a location of poor visibility and with little space to slow down:
Moving on… what’s this weird kerb on the cycle lane on the bridge?
Is it really?…
Yes, BusConnects is actually planning “light segregation” on a dual carriageway bridge with three lanes in each direction and the cycle lane is a sub-standard width for a segregated lane… more so for beside a lane approaching a motorway slip lane:
Before moving onto the details at the back of the Blanch centre, the next drawing shows a stretch of the Old Navan Road between the last junction and just beyond the second eastbound slip road onto the N3:
The current design of the cycle lane across the slip road junction entrance is really wide and in desperate need of fixing:
But this is far from what’s needed — the yields, the angles of the crossings, the lack of raised crossings for speed control:
Moving onto the junction on the other side of the N3:
At Blancharstown Road South behind the shopping centre there’s quite a lot of space:
The poor design is a choice of what is being prioritised:
There’s no bus lanes here in the northbound direction at all… not on this full drawing:
Or up to beyond the next junction (current a roundabout):
Let’s look at the details…
The proposed two-way path here allows for easier, more direct and safer access into and out of the shopping centre area from this side… but…
But the connections on both ends are rubbish shared footpaths and convoluted junction designs.
The darker grey areas here are shared footpaths:
The designs here are nothing short of cycling designed as an add on.
This is not how you design for safe and attractive cycling… quite strange choices if this is anything but cycling as an afterthought:
This is not going to be a pleasant place to cycle, especially with no buffer between the cycle path at the bottom of this image and so many lanes of traffic:
The next junction is a new junction into the park:
Not only does the bus priority end for this car park access, there’s no way to legally cycle from the opposite side of the road into the shopping centre… even the shared footpath areas just stop:
Then we have the junction design to replace the Blakestown Roundabout… the details here are just bonkers. I don’t know how to put it more politely here.
How can the NTA submit this design for planning and also be allowed to manage the National Cycle Manual?
Here’s Limerick Cycle Design with an additional point on this junction:
If you’re cycling in the direction of the arrow (the arrow is shown off the cycle path here to keep the details clear), where to you wait before crossing to keep the path clear for people cycling in other directions?
If you’re asking people crossing the road to yield before they and the people behind them can fully get off the road, maybe the designer’s choice of cross locations is wrong? Or maybe the whole design is wrong? Especially on such a large junction.
This whole junction has an anti-pedestrian design — staggered crossings, penned island areas, slip turn retained.
And unrealistically asking people cycling and walking to share areas and then — just a few metres away — also try to use traffic lights to control their interaction.
Why is this island junction sticking out?
Just off the junction heading into the centre of the shopping centre area there’s more shared space footpath areas (dark grey) and a poorly designed crossover:
BusConnects is just going to pretend that there’s no need for anybody to be cycling in this direction, including not only loads of shops, workplaces and the housing beyond it, but also Blanchardstown Library just 350 metres from this junction:
Even for bus priority — this is not a good idea here. The NTA is putting too much reliance on camera enforcement.
There could be a two-way busway along here feeding into the bus proposed station/interchange. But shockingly there’s car access on both sides of the interchange
And here we have people cycling being told to yield to a car park?!?
And an even bigger area of shared footpath surfaces where walking and cycling are mixed (darker grey)… which tells people it’s ok to cycle on the footpath, which some will do so more because the cycle routes are convoluted…
This is one of the worst bus station /interchange designs I’ve seen and it’s mainly because the NTA has felt they needed to allow for car access.
This could be so much better.
The crossing here is around 12 metres wide — the width of four traffic lanes. All at once, just to get from the shopping centre to the bus stops.
The BusConnects team really don’t seem to care about people who aren’t the average fit and able person.
To get from the shops at A to the bus stops at B you have to cross three separate staggered crossings.
To get from the shops at C to B you have to (1) walk the long way to get to the 12m crossing or (2) use the shorter route but using 4 crossings.
Is this designed more for bus users or to keep car access?
The design even removes the raised crossings which improve pedestrian safety, while making at least one crossing point longer.
At the junction of the other side of the bus interchange, there’s even more shared footpaths where walking and cycling are mixed (dark grey):
Continuing towards the city centre this is the existing two-lane road:
And this is the road widening planned by BusConnects — not just bus lanes, but extensive turning lanes too:
Yet, four times along this short stretch of road it’s planned to narrow the cycle path as below.
It’s a good design concept to have a buffer between a cycle path and where motorists turn in, but there’s no reason the cycle path should be narrowed over and over at entrances:
And the cycle path at bus stops is also narrowed apparently for pedestrian safety:
Yet, pedestrians are expected to cross a distance which is the equivalent of 6 lanes wide — 18 metres wide.
And — again — the crossing distance is being widened but the raised crossings are being removed.
Is pedestrian safety design only being aimed at cycle paths? Weird isn’t it?
And how many gaps are there in the bus lane?
5 southbound and 4 northbound:
And the bus stops (locations shown by red arrows here) are quite some distance from the only mid-block crossing on this road… all not to disrupt the car park entrances.
One or two of these things combined might be ok, but the volume is issues on this short stretch is unreal:
The last bit of BusConnects infrastructure with walking and cycling provision in Dublin 15 is this junction and crossover:
This is a roundabout to junction conversion — so even with the road widening, there’s a good bit of space to get the cycle paths right:
But the designers have opted for more shared footpaths nonsense where walking and cycling are mixed (dark grey):
Linking the junction up with the off-road cycle tracks that start north of the junction might be outside the boundary chosen for BusConnects, but…
But this design carves up the space making it — if anything — harder for the link up to the off-road cycle tracks in the future:
This is an amazing combination of an unrealistically confined shared footpath space in dark grey and a dangerous transition back onto the carriageway.
If people who don’t want to mix with motorists are mixed on crossings and footpaths, why wouldn’t they continue on the footpath?
For the people who want to merge back into the road, there’s quite a bit of space here for the transition on the left to be more like merging and have people more protected until they are able to pick up speed to merge.
Note the left lane is around the same width as the two lanes:
The opposite side of the junction is worse — the merging point placed before the end of the traffic island.
And there’s no lack of space here.
This is one of many recurring issues for BusConnects.
Getting from A to B here requires crossing the road twice — there’s no lack of space here for having cycle paths on both sides here:
That’s it. That’s all the walking and cycling infrastructure that BusConnects provides on this side of the M50 in Dublin 15.
The drawing greyed below is the currently under construction Snugborough Junction Upgrade Scheme, which BusConnects links in with. It was an early warning of the poor quality of BusConnects’ walking and cycling provision.
And there’s no walking or cycle route covered by BusConnects for 6 full sheets of drawings. No alternative away from the N3 covered by the BusConnects project.
To give you an idea of the length of that, this article has covered 7 sheets of drawings.
The section of this route from Castleknock to the quays will be covered separately.
This article was originally posted as a Twitter thread.