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Central section of Blanchardstown BusConnects route is maybe the worst

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: This is the last — and very much so delayed — article on the BusConnects Blanchardstown to city centre route. The poor detail on this is painful for a project which has been sent to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission.

The first section of this route, around the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, is desperately poorly designed, and the second section, from Castleknock to Ashtown, is a continuation of Ireland’s disregard for best practices, and this website then covered how the provision for cycling on Navan Road is blah, blah, blah.

There’s a fantastic willingness shown in these drawings to transfer space and priority from motoring to sustainable transport, but the details on walking and cycling are lacking to the extent of being depressing at this stage. Basics, such as planning for cycle paths of a decent width, just isn’t happening.

I might sound flippant with those descriptions but it needs stressing how poor these designs are compared to where we need to be if we really want to promote walking, cycling and bus use in a combined way.

This is the planned junction between the Navan Road and the Old Cabra Road:

It’s an improvement from the previous design but still too low quality in terms of walking and cycling. The following three images are:

(1) A previous BusConnects design for the Navan Road and Old Cabra Road junction.
(2) The revised official design.
(3) A very rough alternative design of what it would look like if BusConnects was providing for cycling in all directions:

Instead of giving walking and cycling the space they deserve, the BusConnects team mixes walking and cycling — all the crossings are shared and the darker grey areas signify shared footpaths:

Some NTA officials have made some rather strange claims about cycling infrastructure and pedestrians, when their designs are baking in cycling and pedestrian conflicts. It doesn’t make much sense. The principles which are tying the hands of engineers with faults when it comes to designs in reality.

The green line here is the route people cycling are expected to take when cycling straight on from the Navan Road to the Cabra Road and Phibsborough.

Does it speak for itself how poor this junction is? It feels like a needlessly poorly design.

Too many people who know that the BusConnects designs are not good enough are holding out for some unspecified date in the future when it will be fixed before it’s built. Experience shows things don’t work out that way.

These are design choices.

Much like the idea to try to narrow cycle tracks as some kind of weird traffic calming when it will most impact vulnerable cyclists and is more likely to be conflicting-inducing.

There’s no space issue here, highlighted by the painted buffered between the traffic lane and the bus lanes:

Most of the Old Cabra Road is fairly confined but some alternatives might want to be looked at here to improve the width of the cycle track on one side.

And the thing to stress is that it gets narrower and BusConnects is wrong to mark these cycle paths as 2 metres and 1.5 metres — a high kerb would never be counted as the width of a traffic lane, then why would be counted as part of a cycle track?

Throughout the route, the so-called 2 metre sections are too narrow and the so-called 1.5 metre sections are way too narrow.

At this location, here are some possible alternatives:

  • adjust/balance the widths of the cycle paths and footpaths to allow a general width of 2m for all the cycle paths and footpaths.
  • combining the cycle paths into one two-way path on one side.
  • keeping as is but making the kerb width more cyclable when needed — ie cycle path and top of the kerb the same height.
  • make the cycle paths level with the carriageway with solid permanent kerbs/bollards.
  • non-segregated cycle lanes.

Regardless, trying to fit a protected junction into these confines seems overly optimistic:

The access arrangements here combined with those at the Navan Road junction means there should be much lower volumes of traffic as it will be no through traffic the full length of the road.

As with many cases on the route, the bus stops here are unacceptably narrow and not good for bus passengers or cycling — these should be relocated or CPOs should be used.

This is another Dublin-style “protected” junction:

And here’s a video example of why we shouldn’t be building these designs — make special note of the second video:

Here’s the traffic light sequence for the junction showing how it will be

There’s only an uphill cycle track along here…

There’s quite a hill from Manor Street to the Tesco at Prussia Street — once you cycle up the hill, forget about cycling right into Tesco:

At the next side street, the restrictions say “except cyclists”, which is great, but the drawing and the line markings don’t really indicate such is really designed for:

There’s a long section where there isn’t even an uphill cycle track:

The design narrows the carriageway by removing the existing narrow uphill cycle lane — normally I’d agree with removing such cycle lanes… but even uphill here? Even with traffic reduced to buses and taxis? I think many people would prefer the cycle lane:

Getting uphill on a bike will be even harder given the need to yield in an awkward location:

This is the traffic light sequence:

Given that the main route is poor for cycling along here, it’s surprising that this design also makes it harder to cycle in and out of Aughrim Street — this is a long traffic light-controlled area with buses coming from the left to the right:

The general standard of the design along Manor Street is high compared to the rest of the route.

The only broad comment here is the cycle tracks

These toucan crossings are not required — there should be and is space for separate crossings for walking and cycling here:

From a pedestrian, cycling and maybe also bus priority point of view signalising the side streets seems like a downgrade… these are already low-traffic streets and should be less so after the BusConnects changes… why is it needed then?

In busier traffic, the pedestrian crossing here (the lower one), gives motorists time to pull out:

But while the general quality of the cycling infrastructure on Manor Street is high, the ending is some of the worst BusConnects designs I’ve seen to date:

This design is astonishing in such a busy city-centre urban village:

The shared footpath (dark grey in the last image) is right outside the door of a pub:

Unlike one of the previous examples, signalisation of the exit from Arbor Hill is needed, it can get messy there now. But the plan shows everything but that exit is signalised.

The approach of having the main bus route on one road and the main cycle route on the other is a solid approach for the mid-term but some changes are needed:

First off, cycling will still be allowed on Blackhall Place and the bus lanes should be marked with bicycle logos.

The signs showing traffic restrictions should also allow bicycles — currently the drawings show some will and others won’t:

The cycle tracks here on North Brunswick Street are just not wide enough in terms of accessibility or capacity for cycling — to solve those issues and also given the junctions at both ends this might be better as a two-way cycle path. Still, the cycle path width should be closer to 4 metres, not 3 metres.

We’ve known 1.5 metre cycle tracks shouldn’t be a thing since at least when the National Cycle Manual was published. It’s so disappointing to see the NTA include so many sub-standard width cycle tracks.

This is very messy and far from what you’d expect to try to attract people cycling onto another street:

On the right, this is an unrealistic amount of space to be waiting for it:

These are overly complex designs which result in convoluted routes for cyclists to move through meaning there will likely be low compliance with the traffic signals when they make such little sense — to get from A to B in each of these examples you must go via 1, 2, 3:

This kind of cycle path should be 4+ metres wide but it seems to be around 3 metres wide — it’s not good enough for a cross-city-centre cycle route.

There are also desire lines for pedestrians (red) and cycling (blue) that aren’t being facilitated:

It’s better to take a step back here — North Kings Street or North Brunswick Street or both need to have space reallocated to cycling. Given their one-way, two-lane design, the most logical way to transform them is to change one lane into a two-cycle path.

Once this is carried done, plus the BusConnects changes are implemented, there will be way more cycling in the area — BusConnects is to date is designed for people cycling through the area. A common issue of designing along a route and not also designing for all the connects and the directions people will be travelling in by bike.

There’s no sense with the current design that the wider picture of more of a cycle network and a lower volume of motor traffic is being taken into account in terms of the designs of the junctions or links.

On Queen Street the cycle track is shown as 3.3 metres — again it should be closer to 4+ metres. Some people will think 3.3m plus a buffer is great for a two-way cycle path but, where there’s the space for better, it’s really below the standard of what will be needed in the city centre.

The other connections from Queen Street to Blackhall Place are also just too low quality.

For example, having all of this space but ending the connection with a big load of shared footpath space:

Or not providing for two-way cycling (without lanes) where it makes a lot of sense to do so on low-volume one-way streets:

That’s about it — as said before, there’s a fantastic willingness to transfer space and priority from motoring to sustainable transport, but the details on walking and cycling are lacking.

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1 comment

  1. Good points well made, Cian. Tracks too narrow; too much shared space; focus on through/ dormitory trips rather than neighbourhood/ local trips (Cyclist.ie pointed out the gendered effects of this in its last BusConnects submission) Also the hazards of the motorists’ flashing amber synced with cyclists’ green in your (reasonably frightening) video are important to point out https://twitter.com/IrishCycle/status/1560938957440831494.

    Thanks.

    Reply

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