BusConnects redesign of roads from Castleknock to Ashtown is a continuation of Ireland’s disregard for best practices

— BusConnects plan: Cycling and walking mixed at junctions, cycling yields to motorists.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The first section of the Blanchardstown to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme, around the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, was so poorly designed that this website said that the question of the NTA’s commitment to cycling needs to be addressed. Sadly the section of the same route from Castleknock towards the city centre to the Ashtown Roundabout is just as bad.

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We start looking at this section just inside the M50 — the bus and car routes across the M50 are both covered in this project, but the walking and cycle routes are not…

Everything west (left) of this image is of motorway-type design even if it’s not classed as a motorway, so, it doesn’t make sense to route cycling that way.

The north-south movement should be provided for cycling, but it’s not, except to mark the footpaths as shared paths (darker grey):

But the shared paths (dark grey) don’t even link to the cycle tracks (red):

And what fresh horror is this? This is an unreal poor level of design. There’s so much wrong with this…

This design is not how you provide safe transitions on/off a cycle track — this is a key detail that BusConnects keeps getting wrong:

The street shown below, which runs parallel to the dual carriageway is marked as a bicycle priority street but cycling doesn’t get a priority transition onto it?

And these shapes are anything but natural for how people walk or cycle:

All three zebra crossings are far too offset from the roundabout. There should only be about one car space between the roundabout ring and the crossing — we don’t need to point abroad, local authorities across the country install zebras at roundabouts in a way that’s better than this.

The NTA knows cycling isn’t allowed across zebra crossings. A legal fix — if even needed* — can allow for parallel crossings.

(*there’s no legal bar from adding yield signs with a plate saying to bicycles.)

Again, on the opposite side of the roundabout, we have a bicycle priority street (this side is a cul-de-sac). But it doesn’t have as much as a raised crossing or ramp before the crossing point, and cycling loses priority (yet again) on a low-traffic street marked with bicycle logos… how does this make any sense?

In the Netherlands, it’s becoming more common that priority is given to cycling on rural routes using a ‘bicycle street’ design. For example, this cycle path on the right in the foreground of the image below gets priority over motorists on the right when they are merged together in the background:

The normal bicycle street sign (which says cars are guests) is even repeated, painted on the ground:

The street in Castleknock is just access to a limited number of houses and a GAA club:

Yet, we’re left with this — cycling yielding:

It’s worth zooming out again to remember this street is parallel to a dual carriageway with 6-8 lanes of traffic (including bus lanes but no other cycling infrastructure).

Yet, the NTA cannot even design in priority for cycling on the quiet street beside all of these lanes:

For “Mixed/Shared Streets” the NTA’s cycle manual says that it’s “Essential that cyclists ‘take the lane’ and traffic follows” — I’m not sure how this works when the street is at the max of 7 metres wide — at that kind of width, it’s hard for most people to “take the lane”.

The BusConnects team plans to push their design over the max to 7.3 metres wide:

In the Netherlands when low-traffic streets form part of cycle routes they are marked as bicycle streets. Dutch cities add measures such as cycling-friendly speed ramps, red asphalt, block/imprints in the middle or at the edges and ‘cars are guest’ signs. Yet, they still have issues with motorists misbehaving.

But in the Castleknock example, the NTA includes:

  • bicycle logos which have never been explained to motorists what they mean in this context.
  • people cycling yielding at both ends.
  • no vertical or other traffic calming.
  • wider road than NCM guidance.
  • and does not follow other points in the guidelines.

The other guidelines not followed includes not having a centre line on the wider version of low-traffic streets:

A cycle route running alongside a six-lane dual carriageway, but…

…still, cycling has to yield to a GAA club… ie a private entrance…

And then, just east of the GAA yield markings, people cycling have to yield in both directions to a filling station entrance — right beside the dual carriageway which has needlessly wide traffic lanes for the 60km/h speed limit:

This is extremely excessive lane widths for a 60km/h road — the bus lane here is basically 4.1m wide when around 3-3.25m is the norm in standards, and the general traffic lanes are too wide for 60km/h:

Meanwhile, the width of the cycle path is narrow for a main cycle route, and the width of the actual hard buffer between the cycle path and the bus lane is suboptimal for this kind of road and especially so at any entrance such as a filling station:

The EU Interreg website on inter-urban cycle routes states: “Most existing guidelines (see comparison in the table) give 4.0 m as recommended width for a bidirectional cycle path, and 2.5-3.0 m per unidirectional cycle paths. Minimum widths are respectively 3.0 m and 2.0-2.5m.”

Nobody or almost nobody expects these standards to be applied everywhere, ie not likely on a confined street or along a rural greenway.

But this is beside a dual carriageway and outside the confines of the main built-up areas — 3m wide is just too narrow when it should be 4m+.

And on this section, there’s not even a continuous bus lane on the other side of the road:

This is the Navan Road Parkway junction — with the train station and park and ride north of the junction and the new housing area to the south:

The NTA is reworking the junction, but basically keeping this design for people cycling on the bridge to/from the train station, which will be upgraded to Dart services under the Dart+ plan:

That’s this design:

And the design here will be reworked, but will be basically the same — people cycling and walking will be needlessly mixed on shared footpath-like surfaces:

This is the planned design from the NTA — people on an inter-urban cycle route are put in conflict with people waiting at a crossing to get to the train station:

This is the NTA’s design on their own project which they have submitted for planning — can anybody say that the NTA are fit to look after the bulk of €1 million per day on walking and cycling?

This is east of the train station junction:

Then the speed limit drops to 50km/h — but as with the road design in the 60km/h area was more like 80km/h design speeds, the 50km/h area here is more like 60km/h+ and there’s no clear transition or ‘gateway’ area as prescripted by DMURS:

Meanwhile, the width of the cycle path — which is already below best practice — is narrowed around the bus stop — this is also done while there are good indications from London that this kind of thinking might make walking/cycling conflicts worse.

The section shown below — with the Phoenix Park racecourse housing development south (bottom of image) and commercial units to the north — is so poor for walking, cycling and bus passengers:

There’s no clear way to cycle from the commercial units to the cycle path on the other side — do you (a) get on the footpath and use two different crossings or (b) cycle in an erratic / not expected direction, ie like a motorist at first and cycle up onto the shared path?

It has yet more areas of shared space (dark grey) rather allocating the space needed and designing properly for both walking and cycling:

People crossing the road and waiting for the pedestrian/cycles lights to turn green will be blocking those cycling between D15 and the city centre etc:

There’s zero need to have shared areas at this crossing or to have such a poor lining up of the cycle path and crossing — this is painfully bad for no reason at all:

Nice big housing development… so, the NTA is going to fix the cycle paths to allow residents cycling access to their planned two-way path on the main road?

Err… no! They are going to add a turning lane for motorists and have no apprentice way to get on/off the cycle route legally except dismount well before the junction or, while there are motorists behind the person cycling, turn into the crossing:

The current planters on the cycle track is a lovely touch by the management company — I’m nearly surprised the BusConnects team haven’t adopted this as part of their bus stop design:

Again: This isn’t just about cycling. The BusConnects designs are also poor for bus passengers. To get from the homes marked in the A area to the B bus stop across the road to go into town, you have to cross three separate crossings.

This is all because an existing crossing (circled) is left in place for no reason. The current location was because of the bus stop there — now the bus stop is being moved, but they didn’t bother to move the crossing or add a new one.

At the Ashown roundabout, there’s a junction replacement design. For cycling it is yet another Dublin-style “protected” junction with yet more contradictory design elements:

The contradictions on this one are clear:

  • Red circle: The shared area which is connected with the two-way cycle path is mixed with people trying to cross the road.
  • Yellow circle: Walking and cycling interaction is controlled by a traffic light.

A happy medium between these two designs is Dutch-style cycle paths, with raised crossings where pedestrians need to cross. This means traffic lights are not generally used to (hopelessly) control the interaction between people walking and cycling and also that big shared areas (which are disliked) are not used.

This is the traffic light sequence for the junction — confusingly the north-south cycling crossings are linked to go green at the same time as wrap-around all-green for pedestrians (motorists have all red at the same time), but the east-west bike lights conflict with motorists turning left (flashing amber shown for motorists turning left):

A conflicting turn means people cycling (green line and arrow, below) will be going straight on at the same time as motorists turning left (orange line and arrow).

This is against best practice. There are conflicting turns in the Netherlands. But, where these are used, there are better sight lines (cyclists are more likely to be seen by the turning motorists).

There’s also not enough space in these protected corners for people cycling to wait to cross and allow people to turn left:

How narrow is this gap? 1 metre? Less? This is a design that the NTA has submitted for planning permission and the NTA is in charge of setting design standards for cycling in urban areas:

Maybe the cherry on this poorly designed cake:

To cycle legally from the two-way path at A to the road into the Phoenix Park, at B, you have to go all around the junction and possibly have to wait at three different crossings:

Or maybe the worst part is that, to cycle along the main route into the city centre (from A to B), you have to use two separate crossings rather than a diagonal crossing:

And the worst part is that the traffic light sequence which is shown would allow a diagnosis crossing:

In fairness to the designers, it’s messed up due to unrealistic requirements set by NTA senior management. They claim to be pro-pedestrian but, we know from the Dublin-style junction already in place, that the NTA are disregarding the fact that people won’t use the design the way they want.

Before moving into the narrow section of the Navan Road, the BusConnects plans also has this isolated redesign of the Ashtown entrance to the Phoenix Park…

This is a mess — this junction and access to the park needs a larger rethink and it’s not clear why the NTA’s BusConnects project is getting involved with this.

Especially as they won’t look at improving walking and cycling in the short distance between the park the Navan Road:

To be continued…

This was originally posted as a thread on Twitter by @IrishCycle on August 8, 2022. This article version is edited.

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