Liffey Valley BusConnects project is wake-up call for better design for walking and cycling

— Issues with the Liffey Valley BusConnects project aren’t confined to bus stops.
— Project has dangerous road crossings with a lack of priority for walking and cycling.

Comment & Analysis: Late on Wednesday afternoon I tweeted a video of a new cycle path in Dublin and included the text “my head hurts”, others must have shared the feeling as it gained 120k+ views.

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The new cycle path and bus stop are part of the National Transport Authority’s BusConnects interchange project at Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.

The video (below) shows a narrow cycle path at a bus stop and traffic lights to get from the bus stop to the footpath behind it. But here’s the kicker…

Just after the raised traffic light crossing — which is wrongly marked as a zebra crossing — is a shared footpath where pedestrians and people cycling mix. Using the crossing pedestrian means you likely have to go out of your way.

The shared area is hard to remove as it links to a shared surface walking and cycling bridge across the N4. But the cycle path and pedestrian areas should have merged earlier with a more direct and accessible pedestrian link from the bus stop to the shared area.

The cause of all of this is scaremongering about cyclists. Anti-cycling infrastructure campaigners in the UK have influenced a few groups, including disability groups, here and they have pushed that UK-sourced misinformation and scaremongering.

The reaction to this “design by committee” where an attempt is made to design things by asking some people what they want without looking at the real-world practicality of implementing the requests.

Then the contradiction is to try to highly segregate pedestrian areas and cycling areas with traffic lights while also having shared crossings and shared areas all over the projects — and this is a recurring issue with BusConnects, and other cycling projects where there are alternatives and enough space to provide them.

It has been said by more than one person in the last few days that we should be happy that the BusConnects interchange project at Liffey Valley was built in advance of the main BusConnects routes — it might serve as a wake-up call. Similar traffic lights are planned to be installed along other routes, including the Clontarf to City Centre (provision for traffic light poles is in place at each of the bus stops built so-far).

I was aware of the crossing and that’s why I was visiting the location, I wasn’t ready for how silly it all looked and even less so ready for how poor the project was overall.

Some replies on Twitter said that the designers seem like they have never cycled. The sad thing is most engineers have cycled and do so regularly in some form. While some of these still stand over poor designs, others are trying their best to improve things at different levels while being told to design things like this. Blaming engineers alone is missing the point.

Walking from the bus stop to a shared area or to a crossing etc, should be done without having to cross a cycle track:

Even for pedestrians, it makes little sense to walk in the direction of the crossing. This reply on Twitter — which later featured in the Irish Independent newspaper— captures it well:

Here is an example at a bus stop outside the Ibis hotel in Utrecht where if you’re walking from the bus stop and crossing the main road, you don’t have to cross the cycle track at all — this is missing out in most BusConnects designs, which don’t account for human behaviour.

In Ireland, projects seem to be still designed around fitting elements in, rather than looking at it in a systematic way which includes how both pedestrians and cyclists use our streets and roads.

The issues with the Liffey Valley BusConnects project isn’t confined to bus stops.

I cannot believe this roundabout crossing design was implemented in 2023 — it’s probably the largest safety hazard in the Liffey Valley BusConnects project.

As you’re cycling into the crossing area, you have to make an awkward shoulder check to see if any motorists are turning:

This is on the shopping centre side of the road:

  • Unsafe 90-degree turns with no horizontal buffer between the cycle track and general traffic lanes, leading to poor vision when turning/crossing.
  • Lack of priority for walking and cycling.
  • Crossing two lanes at once unaided without even a raised crossing.
  • Shared areas between walking and cycling.
  • Two-way cycle track marked in the wrong direction.

The only way I could see for anybody to cycle to the bicycle parking at Liffey Valley is on footpath-like surfaces or joining motorists on the road… but there’s plenty of roads into it.

…this cyclist was going the wrong way on a unidirectional cycle track, but it makes little sense to have unidirectional path at this location between a toucan crossing and a two-way cycle path on road with so few crossings:

At the main junction into the main section of Liffey Valley, this confusing mess was put in place rather than using Dutch design with the addition of raised crossings.

This was done at least partly to avoid pedestrians to have to cross cycle paths but the design pushes cyclists to use shared sections of footpaths to use the toucan crossings — in this case, that area across the footpath is also used as a bypass of the cycle track:

As well as the more obvious, photogenic flaws, the cycle routes just don’t make sense for many local trips, including into the shopping centre:

Below is an example of a typical junction and crossing design where the footpath and cycle track are at the same level — note the yellow tactile paving indicating to blind people the start of the shared surface area. It makes little sense to claim you need traffic lights across cycle tracks due to a concern for vulnerable pedestrians but then to also implement this kind of design.

Just remember, in a large part this is all to avoid following Dutch-style best practices.

This is one of the more typical BusConnects designs for cycle paths at bus stops — cyclists are so scary that people are standing in the cycle path.

Note: The services have been installed to put in traffic lights at this bus stop too:

And finally, the people who — rightly — don’t like excessive traffic signs won’t like this one:

It’s a wake-up call but is anybody listioning?

7 comments

  1. Wow! Where to start? It’s very worrying to see so many issues. If these measures are trials, I hope someone from NTA is reviewing to see how effective they are.

    Reply
  2. Who actually designs these? County Council engineer? Who gives the go ahead to this crap? Ridiculous and another waist of tax payers money. Anyone with half a brain would just follow the Dutch way of doing it.

    Reply
    • All of this Bus Connects infrastructure should have a road safety audit performed by an outside consultant who actually cycles as a commuter on a regular basis.
      A desk-top safety audit won’t pass muster for me.
      The audit should be done under a variety of pedestrian/cycling/motors flows and the auditor must be accompanied by a child/children, as appropriate.
      We have to put safe provision for active travel at the top of the mobility pyramid. Children cycling to school must be the design aim.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for flagging this, Cian. It reminds me on a bigger scale of the terrible segregated roundabout at Rialto which I never use.

    Reply
  4. Is all this sh1te due to certain people (let’s keep it anonymous and call him Gary for convenience) who claim to represent people with disabilities and who have an inordinate influence on designs overseen by the NTA….?

    Reply

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