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Galway Cross-City Bus Link reduces traffic on some streets but goes as far as knocking houses to increase capacity to car parks

— Bus route elements of this project could be in place in weeks if there was a will.
— Road widening and new sections of car-centric one-way streets for car park access.
— Cycling provision mostly non-existent even where there’s space, rubbish where provided.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: If the BusConnects Galway: Cross-City Bus Link project was an advertisement, even the weak self-regulatory Advertising Standards would rule it as misleading.

The project is an implementation of the city centre section of the overly-car centric Galway Transport Strategy, including the demolition of houses to improve car park access.

It’s not compatible with any vision Eamon Ryan has laid out and it’s not compatible with climate action on transport. So, why is he praising yet another poor project? Is he being misled by civil/public servant advisors? Or his own advisors? Or just going with the wishes of Minister for State Hildegarde Naughton?

In a statement, Minister Ryan said:

“I am delighted that the Galway Cross-City Link has now reached a significant milestone towards delivery with today’s planning application. This scheme is important in providing for more sustainable connectivity in Galway, improving both the quality of people’s lives and the city centre, while also contributing to our ambitious decarbonisation targets.”

But it’s unlikely that it will contribute that much to decarbonisation targets — the Galway Transport Strategy is a car-centric fix and this project is, at best, a very mixed bag.

To start with, with Galway’s bypass so close by, how does it make sense to have not just a city centre circular route for cars (black) and then have another priority route for cars through the city centre?

Galway city centre transport plan

The vast bulk of the actual Galway Cross-City Bus Route could be done with bollards, signs, line markings, a few kerb changes and junction reconfiguration — this work is allowed for under the Road Traffic Acts.

I’m not exaggerating much by saying that the majority of the bus priority in this project could be implemented with around 30 signs showing the bus-only section and the related turning restrictions etc, and the substantial reconfiguration of just a few junctions. There’s surprisingly little to the bus route element of the project.

Other bits, including prettification, could be firmed up over time.

Galway could follow the lessons learned in places like Ghent (see video below) which shows proven quick results. But instead, the project has been bloated to weirdly include — worthwhile but not prerequisite — public realm changes and daft traffic capacity measures to increase flow to car parks.

Instead of quickness, we have another bloated project, which is overall poor on detail and poor because it has such a focus on not just maintaining car park access but increasing the car-carrying capacity for car park access.

Here is a detailed look at why the project is poor:

Having all bus routes, including those from Salthill go via Salmon Weir Bridge — it doesn’t make sense even on wider roads in Dublin via College Green, we know that now. Why is an even more focused version of the same mistake being made in Galway on narrower, winding streets?

Bus route plan from the Galway Transport Strategy

The city centre close-up map does not even show how windy this route is:

City Centre close-up of bus route map as per Galway Transport Strategy

Along with buses, this is also the only primary E-W cycle route in the city centre in the Galway Transport Strategy?

But as the Galway Cycling Campaign and others have now seen, many of the lines on this map are already turning out to be fiction because the council won’t relocate space.

Part of the cycle route network map from the Galway Transport Strategy

This is a happy artist’s impression of the reality of that — a narrow route shared with buses.

86% of elected Green Party reps have signed up to http://CyclingForAll.ie but by supporting projects like this Ryan’s cycling commitment to cycling is becoming questionable.

Artist's impressive of cyclists sharing with buses just east of the Salmon Weir Bridge.

Sharing with buses like this isn’t fun…

Artist's impression of sharing with buses west of the Salmon Weir Bridge.

And it goes on like this through most of the city centre:

Artist's impression of Galway bus and cycle route with buses and cycling mixing.

In case anybody claims the Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will solve anything — it’s a shared surface bridge with no cycling links on any side.

Amazing councillors can campaign about cyclists on footpaths and continue to approve such projects which build-in conflict.

Drawing showing layout planned for both sides of the Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge.

Let’s go back to the western start of the route on University Road — this is a fairly wide section of road at around 11-12 metres between existing footpaths:

Google Maps image of University Road showing a 12-metre width.

Bus rather than try to include any cycling provision, BusConnects includes car parking and a bit of greenery and trees to greenwash that…

The cycle route could have then been routed via the University Hospital Galway on the western side and via the park and around the Galway Cathedral to the new walking and cycling bridge… plan a route that links to something.

Possible alternative cycle route around Galway Cathedral linking more directly with the planned cycling and walking bridge.

If the cycle route was ruled out on University Rd, the University of Galway might see it fit to support the urgent need to decarbonise transport and offer alternative modes of transport in Galway.

So might allow the cycle route to go inside its grounds parallel to University Rd

Possible alternative cycle path via the University of Galway rather than University Road

On the city centre side of the Salmon Weir Bridge, the detailing is poor… No formal crossing for walking and cycling.

And Newtownsmith at the city centre side of the new walking/cycling bridge is to remain one-way despite such one-ways being a known barrier to cycling in Galway

At this point, we’ll continue looking at the route along St Vincent’s Ave etc before coming back to the route along St Frances Street etc…

Drawing showing streets along the project.

Basically along some of this circled section and other streets before coming back to the main route…

Bus route map from Galway Transport Strategy for context

The project includes reworking Woodquay and substantially improving the public realm here, but despite all the space…

Current view of Woodquay Street

But what on earth is happening here? The red cycle track on Woodquay Street is contraflow northbound… so…

What are these entry points to the shared footpath?

The shared sections of the footpath are in yellow (in colour below for clarity but it won’t be paved like that).

Why is there even a shared area here? There are examples of junctions like this across the world where a contra-flow meets a junction like this. Why are we still using 1990s cycling designs for cycling in Ireland?

So, a bit of a better public realm scheme on Woodquay is an overall good thing to attach to a bus project, but the demolition of houses to add car capacity to car parks is not… it’s unreal. It has nothing to do with the bus provision at all:

“EXISTING PROPERTY TO BE DEMOLISHED”
“EXISTING PROPERTY TO BE DEMOLISHED”

That’s what we need in a housing and climate crisis: A few more houses to be knocked to help motorists better access the multi-storey car park and the county council’s surface car parks…

North of the junction where houses are to be demolished for improved car park access making a section of Dyke Rd into a new one-way system for cars.

This is like a very strange quid pro quo for the new section of the bus lane shown here in blue at the start of the Headford Rd.

Just to recap in case it’s not clear, BusConnects Galway includes knocking down houses and making modern versions of 1970s one-way systems to increase car capacity to city centre car parks to/from the Headford Rd.

…and both the NTA and Minister Ryan are going along with it?

The icing on the cake is the lovely little cycle path… all around 70 metres of it which links to nothing…

It’s worth going over how bad this is — starting at the northern end:

Southbound, you join the cycle path by going up at the footpath at the crossing onto a shared area of the footpath. Two right angles.

Northbound there’s no way back onto the road except via the crossing.

At one crossing: Sure mix with people on foot, we don’t want to give any decent space to cycling and walking…

Next crossing: No way, you cannot have cyclists and pedestrians crossing each other unaided.

Just 50 metres more of cycling and that’s it, dumped into a shared surface (yellow):

And where do you go from there?

How do you, for example, get from the shared area (yellow) to the correct side of the road onto St Brendan’s Ave / Bóthar Na mBan (bottom of image)?

That’s the end of that branch of the route and we’re back to the main route.

On Saint Francis St, it’s more sharing with buses –remember, this is a designated primary cycle route too, but not as much as a bicycle logo painted on the street.

It’s worth detouring again for a second to look at the south end of Woodquay…

As with the northern end of Woodquay, there’s needless shared space (yellow) rather than a standard cycling link.

But then we come to the interesting part… with this design, there’s nowhere to cycle from to get to the contra-flow track on Woodquay.

The traffic flow on Daly’s Place is to be reversed (see the last drawing).

But in most places, this is the kind of street where contra-flow without lanes would be provided for legally with just signs.

More sharing the streets with buses (again: it’s also the designated primary cycle route):

Williamsgate looks grand on Street View but, at busy times, the footpaths are overflowing.

It should have been pedestrianised years ago — bridging the gap between Shop St and Eyre Square.

It’s not the kind of street where you’d expect to route all but one city bus route down.

Even some of the Street View imagery shows it getting busy — this won’t be fixed by slight footpath narrowing:

The plan will mess up bus capacity more than routing buses via Bóthar Na mBan.

But routing buses via Bóthar Na mBan would require messing with planned car-capacity increase and using some of the county council’s car parks for road widening to provide for bus priority and turning

No cycling provision at all on Eyre Square or Prospect Hill — then again, there’s also no cycling provision to get here from any route.

They didn’t even bother with painted bicycle logos.

This project will lead to less car traffic on Eyre Square but the car-centric one-way system will still exist southwest of Eyre Square — it’s a key part of the Galway Transport Strategy to keep the system in place. Again, to service car parks.

On the southeast corner of Eyre Square, making Foster Street two-way for buses is a huge improvement over its current state of buses stuck in traffic here.

It’s great to see the NTA show that buses can operate on a 6m wide carriageway.

The current width of the carriageway is around 7m — the little extra space is much needed on the currently crowded footpath on Foster St (although sadly the footpath will not typically be this wide)

For context, this is what Foster St looks like when it’s not that busy. So, even a metre extra for footpath space is really important.

Enforcement will be key, as the left (bus) lane in the image is often full of vans etc. To function as a two-way bus route such cannot go on.

The junction of Foster Street and College Street will also be a large improvement for pedestrians:

Campaigners have expressed concern on how the bus gate on College Rd will function safely for people cycling.

It’s uphill from the city centre core to the city council offices just beyond the bus gate, so, there’ll be quite a stretch between the start and the end of the bus gate.

There seems to be ample space to at least provide a 2m cycle track uphill here:

On the rest of College Road, there could be an attempt to remove on-street parking and fit in a two-way cycle path even if it required some land take from the Connacht Rugby sports ground car park and a small strip from Galway Greyhound Stadium which wouldn’t affect operations…

The majority of houses have off-street parking and others could be provided with alternatives or keep with the cycle route instead of using some of the Connacht Rugby sports ground car park…

But that’s crazy talk… why bother changing much at all? Teal colour = on-street car parking:

At least there are bicycle logos…

Also: Yield marking should never be used at zebra crossings — the markings and signs signify the crossing. Yield markings imply motorists don’t have to yield at other zebras.

This is the current layout where College Road meets Lough Atalia Rd — College Road continues straight along and Lough Atalia Rd is of secondary importance:

The BusConnects plan is to change this so… checks notes… err… have buses turn on and off the new main flow which is the car route? Err… what?

The way this is designed is against bus priority — for example, when outbound buses have a green light, inbound buses cannot make this turn:

Maybe you’ve also killed your bus priority by depending on traffic on Lough Atalia Rd not to back up with traffic or the same to happen at the Dublin Road junction?

The design for cycling is even worse… a huge junction redesign but leaving cycling as usual as an afterthought that makes little sense — having to cycle onto a shared footpath only to join a route which is shared on a narrow road with buses?

Cycling out of the city, there’s no provision for a link to what is the desire line for many people cycling to/from the Old Dublin Road:

And, of course, further along, the lake-side path:

The junction of College Road and the Old Dublin Road is a mess — hardly much improved for pedestrians and even the removal of advance stop boxes for people brave enough to cycle in these conditions:

At the start of the Old Dublin Road, we have a classic BusConnects contradiction — bit massive shared footpath area on one side and then substandard narrowing as a cycling-calming attempt on the other side:

The cycling-calming will hinder disabled cyclists and trike users the most, apparently famed for their high speed?

But even where there isn’t misguide cycling-calming, the cycle tracks are sub-2-metres wide because the kerb cannot be counted as part of the usable space:

This is the current access point to/from the lake path, with no formal crossing:

This is how off-set the NTA and the council want to place the crossing from the lake path coming from the city centre side on the lake path, you’d have to circle around the retaining wall (shown here in black with a red line through it) and then onto a narrowed footpath:

And what fresh hell is this?

For context of how narrow the cycling access turn to the crossing is: The red surface of the cycle path here is less than 2 metres.

This project ends a short distance away on the Old Dublin Road with another bus stop with cycling-calming… I cannot wait to see the NTA apply even half as stringent as this kind of traffic calming to main roads…

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