Are two-way cycle paths better where space is limited like on the Ranelagh Road?

Comment and Analisis: For routes like the Ranelagh Road, would a two-way path like Cycleway 9 in London (see videos below) be better than narrower and unidirectional cycle tracks with more conflicts?

Dublin City Council has started consultation on the Ranelagh Road project, which is now named the Sandyford Clonskeagh to Charlemont Street Pedestrian and Cyclist Improvement Scheme or SC2C for short.

The council said that the first phase will be “an Interim Scheme delivered in 2023”, and the second phase a “permanent scheme which will be delivered between 2024 and 2026”. The combined consultation for both can be responded to via consultation.dublincity.ie, or the SC2C project page where reports and drawings can be found.

IMAGE: The options report outlines how the planned much of the route as planned will “Most likely can only achieve width suitable for single file cycling.”

One of those reports is the SC2C Options Selection Report. It found the three options are feasible — (A) One-way raised cycle tracks on both sides of the carriageway, (B) One-way protected cycle lanes on both sides of the carriageway and (C) Two-way cycle track on one side of the carriageway.

But comparing the options report for the SC2C project to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s Taney Road to N11 Active Travel Route there are some very different outlooks taken from the start and which seem to give different outcomes.


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The report for the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) ranks its two-way cycle path as safer and more integrated, while the report for the Dublin City Report outlines the opposite.

The safety issues can be a toss-up between more protection at junctions vs the issues of people walking and driving not expecting the cycle path to be two-way.

The Dublin City options report outlines how the planned much of the route as planned will “Most likely can only achieve width suitable for single file cycling.” The DLRCC report however goes into more detail of how two-way paths allow for more flexible space including for a parent being able to cycle beside their child going to school, for overtaking, and are generally space-saving.

Two-way paths also can squeeze more out of a street — it means buffer space, cycle track kerbs, bus stops etc are just needed on one side of the street. As a general example, a two-way path with a width of 3 metres is more effective than unidirectional cycle tracks with 1.5 metres each.

Although it should also be said that 3 metres should not be the target width, the aim should be ~4 metres where the space is available. Just like the aim for unidirectional cycle tracks should be 2.2+ metres, not the 2 metres which is often talked about. This needs to be looked at in the context of aiming for higher usage and the increasing use of cargo bikes, cargo trikes, adapted cycles, wheelchairs, mobility devices and more future users like scooters.

IMAGE: The city centre end of the permanent SC2C scheme.

On integration, the current SC2C isn’t integrated with the city centre. It will end at Harcourt Road with the traffic gyratory, a cycling-unfriendly one-way system around the block of buildings which includes the Bleeding Horse pub and the Camden Court Hotel. A two-way cycle path previously proposed alongside the Harcourt Luas stop is not part of the new project, and a planned with-flow connection towards Camden Street is dependent on BusConnects which is many years away.

Two of the main routes to which the SC2C will link are the Grand Canal Cycleway and the Dodder Greenway, both do/will include two-way paths.

There is also the regularly mentioned issue that two-way cycle paths are harder to get to/from side streets or other locations — but this issue also exists for unidirectional cycle tracks where there aren’t enough crossings to the opposite side of the street.

I don’t have all of the answers, but there are big differences between the Dublin City and DLRCC reports.

The Clonskeagh scheme might be a bit more of a toss-up between which option to go with. But seems like Dublin City Council will have to grasp the design tool of two-way cycle paths if it wants to deliver more continuous cycle paths on routes like the North Circular Road.

What do readers think? Does Ireland still have too many hangups about using two-way cycle paths on one side of the road? Do the examples from London or Paris show this to be wrong?

4 comments

  1. There’s a short interim part bollard-protected two way cycle lane between Memorial Road and the Co-op in Kilmainham. Even with drivers sometimes veering into it, it feels miles safer than a one-way would. Having the space to overtake, swerve to avoid glass/bumps if needed and to say hello to an oncoming fellow-cyclist makes for a psychologically nice-feeling route. It also acts as a stronger separator somehow between people cycling and drivers. I’ll check out the consultation as I regularly cycle through Ranelagh. It’s hard to see what side it could/should go on.

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  2. Bi-directional should be considered for the reasons you have outlined. There are a number of examples in Limerick where I think a single bi-directional cycle path on one side would have been a better option that the substandard (narrow) single direction paths implemented at either side of the road. On the other hand, Cork city (centre at least) seems to have defaulted to bi-directional paths everywhere and they make cycling as envisaged by the designers unsafe, unattractive and completely impractical.

    Reply

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