Dept of Transport working on guidelines to help councils progress Active Travel projects

Guidelines are being developed to help councils progress walking and cycling project quickly, the Department of Transport has confirmed to this website.

It is understood that a number of councils have looked for guidelines on how to use Section 38 of the Roads Act 1994. Until recent years, a process called Part 8 was the main way to progress projects, but the more streamlined Section 38 process has become more common for councils to use.

Section 38 of the Roads Act 1994 as amended by the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 is designed to allow for a wide range of changes under the banner of ‘traffic calming’. This includes the ability to “prevent, restrict or control access” for motorists to roads including to “facilitate the safe use of public roads by different classes of traffic (including pedestrians and cyclists),” and to “enhance the provision of public bus services”.

The named measures covered include “traffic signs, road markings, bollards, posts, poles, chicanes, rumble areas, raised, lowered or modified road surfaces, ramps, speed cushions, speed tables or other similar works or devices, islands or central reservations, roundabouts, modified junctions, works to reduce or modify the width of the roadway and landscaping, planting or other similar works.”

The legislation outlines how the “Minister may issue general guidelines to road authorities relating to traffic calming measures”, but this has not happened to date.

The issue of the use of Section 38 over Part 8 for cycling projects was first raised in 2014 by Cllr Mannix Flynn and came to a head in 2021 when a successful High Court challenge involving Cllr Flynn was taken against the Strand Road cycle route trial. That judgment is still under appeal, awaiting for the Court of Appeal judges to issue their judgment.

As reported two weeks ago, documents released under FOI showed that a lack of clear guidance from the Department of Transport was noted as a project risk for the planned Dublin City Centre ‘Pathfinder’ project, which aims to include faster reallocation of street space from cars to sustainable transport and public space in the next three year.

In the Pathfinder applications, councils were asked to “identify the nature of any required support from the [Pathfinder] Leadership Group in bringing the initiative to fruition”. In reply to this, Dublin City Council wrote: “Clear guidelines to be issued for how Section 38 of the Roads Act 1994 should be used by Local Authorities and especially where space within city centres is to [be] reclaimed from Traffic. This would assist greatly in meeting any challenges that may arise from third parties.”

Late last week, a Department of Transport spokesperson told the website that: “Action 58 of the Sustainable Mobility Policy sets out the Government’s commitment to ‘Prepare and issue guidelines, under Section 38 (6) of the Road Traffic Act 1994, to road authorities relating to traffic calming measures.'”

The spokesperson added: “The development of these guidelines is currently underway, and the Department of Transport will continue to engage with local authorities in relation to their pathfinder projects and any support or advice which may be provided by the Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) Leadership Group.”

ALSO READ: Strand Road Cycle Route on Trial: Parts of judgment reads like a transcript of Newstalk show

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