Clontarf cycle route will be better than previous Dublin City projects, but new routes need to be even better, and built faster

Comment & Analysis: There’s a good bit of interest in the Clontarf to City Centre bus and cycle route… so, here’s an outline of the updated drawings…

Notwithstanding anything said below, the route will be the best in Dublin City. It’ll definitely be one of the most connected — it will enable people, for example, to cycle from Sutton in Fingal to Rathmines Road on nearly fully segregated routes.

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Many of the issues outlined below are if you deviate from cycling the full length of the route, for example, making some local trips or turns that the designers haven’t accounted. But there are others such as the width of the cycle track which are basics which continue to be wrong on newer projects. IrishCycle.com is highlighting this because these mistakes cannot keep being made.

One thing that really needs to change is the speed of the process. Dublin City Council and NTA seem to be making progress on trying to do things faster, but everybody involved needs to accept this. Too many councillors, including people who are generally supportive of cycling, seem all too willing to delay projects.

Speed generally will need to go hand-in-hand with the process of getting the details right, faster. This part of this is learning that doing things behind closed doors and talking to people who are single-minded isn’t fast or productive for getting the detail right.

In the article last week, it was covered how the draft Clontarf to City Centre plan includes traffic lights over cycle paths at 12 bus stops, mostly x2 at each stop with a limited number of stops reduced to one crossing. This issue can be largely fixed by changing the crossings into just painted zebra crossings, although, as outlined below, the location of the crossings and bus stop shelters blocking visibility will also need addressing.

Here is the legend for the drawings in this article:

The route starts on Amiens Street outside Connolly Station and the junction with Tablot Street:

Here’s the start of the route and the turn into Tablot Street, this cycling crossing is a far better idea than most of the crossings along the route which are shared between people walking and cycling:

The small taxi rank has been put inside the cycle track at this location — in locations like this, we already know taxi drivers overspill into the cycle track.

This wasn’t in the original plan and is one of a number of changes made after councillors approved the project.

At the junction with Sheriff Street Lower, there’s existing cycle tracks the avoid the cobblestones…

These are in some state of disrepair and seem to have been cut into the allow for bus/coach holding areas.

The cycle track looks like it will be revamped at part of Ballymore’s Dublin Arch / Connolly Quarter development:

But Dublin City Council has chosen not to link the C2CC with the cycle tracks which are to be revamped:

The ending point looks very precarious — half on/off the ramp up to the continuous footpath:

On the other side, the cycle track comes out before the ramp — it’s not clear what the black line respondents:

Back to Amiens Street… maybe some engineering magic of lining up the approaches but I’m not sure how two bus lanes and two general lanes will fit under the railway bridge:

On the station side, the footpath is to be cantilevered into the current outdoor area which is CIE station property, allowing space for the cycle track into the bridge support.

While on the opposite side the cycle track will narrow over a section of footpath space:

After this, the cycle track will use current parking/loading spaces. It will be interesting to see if a high enough kerb has been chosen to ward off illegal parking:

This is the junction with Foley Street and Buckingham Street.

The issues here are so frustrating, and there are quite a few…

I keep asking: Please stop mixing walking and cycling like this, especially when there’s other options: — disability campaigners don’t want it, cycling campaigners don’t want it and most councillors claim not to want it…

But here we go, cycling and walking mixed at a crossing, and this is sadly a common design on the project even where there were alternative options:

Even if they wanted to keep it as a shared crossing it makes little sense to locate it where the existing crossing was (yellow arrow) rather than one side or the other of the vehicle entrance to the building here (orange or green), where the footpath is much wider:

The Foley Street and Buckingham Street. side of the street looks narrow on the drawings given the carriageway narrowing and all the different textures on the drawing.

The reality is that it’s really wide:

There was ample space here for separate crossings…

Despite the massive amount of available space, there’s no provision to cycle from A to B here:

Or course, from A to B here without using the shared crossing:

Or A to B here without cycling over the footpath to get to the shared crossing:

And the design makes it harder to provide contra-flow on Buckingham Street at any stage in the future:

There’s a DublinBikes station just north of the junction and it will be the closest DublinBikes station to the new Dart+ entrance to Connolly:

The cycle track could have also been raised more and set back by 0.3-0.5m to help slow cars turning, and help avoid left hooks:

This is generally a decent enough section but there’s nothing too tricky here…

Just before the Five Lamps, there’s the first two bus stops.

The BusConnects design at Liffey Valley proves that it is silliness to put traffic lights over cycle tracks at bus stops like this.

The council still could cut out the silliness by simply using painted zebras:

For anyone who missed the Liffey Valley design:

https://twitter.com/GavButler16/status/1625624743498874880

The Five Lamps junction will use the Dublin-style ‘protected’ junction design — the lack of right-hand turns for motorists might help make it safer, but this is still a design which we know motorists, cyclists and pedestrians don’t use like the designers of it think they will:

For more on Dublin-style junctions see here.

This section is generally good — the outbound cycle track here (top of drawing) should much improve cycling uphill towards the canal rather than sharing the bus lane as is the current situation:

But the bus shelter and crossing are too close to each other here — the bus shelter has a high chance of blocking the view between cyclists and pedestrians crossing:

Regarding the planned traffic lights at bus stops, the idea that at location 1 there’s a need for traffic lights but at location 2 cyclists can mix with pedestrians is a striking contrast:

This is a better view of location 2 from the last image — this is where the #C2CC crosses the Royal Canal Greenway:

This section will be better for most people cycling than mixing it with buses but it was mainly achieved by narrowing footpaths:

This section is fairly straightforward:

Like other issues, this has been mentioned before:

The left turn into Annesley Place seems to be a serious left hook risk:

While a turn like this back at Buckingham Street is a bad idea, a turn like this used by buses adds even extra risk:

Following this, the road gets wider and this space is still being used for extra outbound general traffic lane, which the majority of the time is a “go faster lane” which encourages speeding.

A lot of the decisions being made around Irish cycle path design generally but especially in Dublin City and with BusConnects are based around the idea that Dublin is more pedestrian friendly.

How does that fit with forcing pedestrians to cross x6 lanes + 2 cycle tracks at once? We know there’s significant issues with asking older people who walk more slowly and others with mobility impairments to cross this many lanes at once.

Why was there such a post-approval focus on bus stops but no post-approval attention on these types of issues?

Making this type of area (circled) into formalised waiting areas for pedestrians would mean that the number of lanes pedestrians would have to cross would drop to five lanes… not ideal but it would be better than 7+ lanes.

There’s also no crossing on the other side of the junction…. Does this seem pedestrian friendly?

Is this how people are likely to walk from the bus stop to cross the road? Is this pedestrian-friendly?

And will there be an extra traffic signal push button to get from the disabled parking space to the footpath? Or how will someone legally cross without waiting for a green light they cannot push? Of course, this is why signalising the crossing of cycle tracks makes little sense in most cases:

Back to cycling, this stop line and the shape of the cycle paths within the protected areas also makes little sense.

People stopping at the stop line would block the cycle path for those going straight on:

There’s also no reason why the corner at the bottom left of at such a right angle, this should be at least somewhat rounded off — if this is mixed with a high kerb, it’s a really bad combination.

The shape and type of kerb used are the kind of issues which result in people being injured in bicycle-only collisions. Some expensive fixes might be needed.

If the space used for the additional outbound lane was reallocated and reworked here, it could be used for a dedicated left-hand lane here for motorists, which would allow for extra cycling safety and extra bus priority:

At Fairview Park, we get more examples of contradictory design — being unable to have pedestrians cross to a bus stop or waiting area without a signalised crossing, but then pedestrians and cyclists are mixed on crossings and on the greenway route and shared paths in the park:

But then why is there a pedestrian-only road making painted on the route to the shared greenway along the river which is part of the C2CC project?

Is this cycling access to the shared crossing wide enough for a trike? And will there be tactile paving to indicate that the footpath becomes a shared area?

Again this will be better than most routes in the city, but with so much space and 5 lanes of traffic, a bit of a buffer between the outbound bus lane and cycle track would have been nice here:

Along this section, the extra lane, aka go faster lane, in the outbound direction could have been put to better use.

There’s no doubt that north of Fairview Strand to around the Malahide Road junction, there’s extra traffic on the route. But between Annesley Place and Fairview Strand? Not really…

The space could have been used for a mix of extra cycle path width and footpath width, better buffer widths, and more greenery on the side opposite the park to protect residents from the road:

At the junction with Fairview Strand, despite ample space, walking and cycling are again mixed at crossings.

And there are other issues which might be somewhat forgiven on North Strand Road due to lack of space, but these issues here aren’t done to that.

The three access ramps up to the footpath level to access the shared crossings are also quite narrow.

Not depicted here are the traffic signal poles which will further narrow the spaces:

It’s worth saying that a previous draft design of the junction was so close to getting it right…

But rather than making a few tweaks to this design so that pedestrians and cycling interactions are removed from the traffic signals, the council have opted to go with fully mixing people as per the last images. This design was so close to being right:

Just north of the junction with Strand Road is this car parking area:

On the opposite side of the road we already know that the reinstated railings for the park have been installed too close to the cycle path — this reduces the usable width of the path and caused a safety issue, ie making a minor fall much more.

The cycle path surface narrows alongside the car parking to allow for a bit of a buffer for car doors opening.

It’s not actually clear if that buffer is wide enough, but then these bicycle parking stands are also placed opposite the car doors and close to the cycle path — these really should not be installed at this location:

The current footpath is somewhere roughly around the yellow line here, so, there’s a good deal of extra public space here, why squeeze the bicycle in right beside the cycle path?

The continuous footpath design looks great in the drawings and, hopefully, they will be when implemented.

But the rumble strip ahead of the bus stop is a confusing design element to have right at the side street location:

Going back to this image — at this location, there will be no buffer between the cycle lane and buffer… will cars or SUVs be able to mount it to park? It’s not clear.

Illegal parking at the park was an issue previously, especially when events were on.

There’s quite a long area where the cycle path inbound is right beside the bus lane:

At this bus stop, the idea that signalised pedestrian crossings are needed across a <2m cycle track starts to fall apart again here….

A signalised cross at the other side of the bus stop (see left of last image), another here between the bus stop and overpass steps (left of this image).

But at the end of the ramp where prams users etc will want to cross into the park? No signalised crossing. Wouldn’t 2-3 raised, painted zebras be better here?

This crossing with dedicated cycling waiting areas is a bit better than cyclists waiting on footpaths, but it’s still a shared crossing… the contradiction of doing this while apparently needing a signalised crossing across a cycle track is — again — stark:

There will also be a shared area to get to/from the side street here, which is part of Marino Mart:

Along the main road section of Marino Mart, the cycle path is narrowed again for parking this time for a significant distance.

This is marked as 1.7m when this type of cycle path should be 2.2m+.

Even the park side is kept at 2m when there was scope to have most or all of it at 2.2m. Some will of course think this is pedantic, but extra breathing room would help it be a bit more comfortable at busy times.

In this section we again have the mistake of having a bus shelter too close to the pedestrian crossing point, blocking the line of sight.

This really indicates that those involved in the bus stop weren’t paying much attention to international best practices, as this is a common issue internationally when members of the people who are unaware of the cycle path walk closely around the bus stop.

After the bus stop there’s another set of parking where the cycle track narrows to 1.7m — combined it’s quite a long section where the cycle path is a sub-standard width.

This is the junction with the Malahide Road…

As with other large crossings, pedestrians will have to cross around the width of 7 traffic lanes at once with no refuge at any point.

As previously, this would be reduced to at least 5 lanes if they could cross the cycle paths separately but this design is somehow more pedestrian-friendly?

But just meters away in two directions pedestrians are expected to cross the main way to drive from the lower end of the Malahide Road towards Clontarf etc with no signals or even no raised crossings:

The contrast of approaches couldn’t be stronger here… (1) a 2m cycle track to a bus stop needs a signalised crossing, but (2) a place 4-5 times wider where through traffic will be crossing doesn’t even need a raised crossing?

Also, the pedestrian crossing points shown in the last two images were downgraded, these were supposed to be raised continuous footpath crossings to give pedestrians great safety and visual priority:

This is the route a new BusConnects orbital route… Does anybody really think it’s a good idea to have buses cross over cycle paths and what should have been be continuous footpaths like this?

But they’ll at least put a raised crossing over the rat run at Marino Crescent?… right?

Nope, not even a dropped kerb to get over to the park.

This is what happens when pedestrian-friendliness is mainly focused on cycle tracks. This is in the project area and was an opportunity to make it a bit safer and more accessible… why did nobody focus on this?

To cycle from A to B here you have to mount the footpath and use shared crossings:

Again this is sadly a design which was previously spot-on. Maybe a few adjustments could have been made, but the whole design was torpedoed:

Next up is the Howth Road junction:

Normally I wouldn’t advocate for an advance stop box/line but why remove it when it was already there when nothing better is being put in place?

And heading eastbound, why put a stop line back at the location circled and not closer to the protected island? Having people cycling in an advanced position setting off is safer:

And again if you want to go from A to B you have to use the shared crossings:

It is recommended in the National Cycle Manual that cycle tracks are extra wide outside schools but here we have the cycle track narrowing outside one:

There’s a dedicated turning lane into the West Wood but no way for people on bicycles to cross without using the shared crossings and then dismounting or going contra-flow on the cycle track:

If you zoom out and look across a whole two drawing sheets, there’s still no crossing:

Correction, in the last two drawing sheets there were three crossings, one to cross a 2m cycle track to a bus stop:

And two more to cross from a footpath across a cycle track to a bus stop:

If your apparent pedestrian friendliness only applies to cycle tracks… maybe your focus is a bit messed up?

In these four drawing sheets, the only crossing across the road are mid-way on the first and last sheets — this is a 400m gap in an urban area where there’s crossing demand:

At the northern/eastern end of the project, people crossing would still have to use two crossings just to get to the other side.

There’s a school on one side and a train station and sports pitches on the other:

At the end of the route, this is much better solution than the bicycle-only roundabout which had been planned planned. Strangely there’s no signalised crossing here:


This is mostly built, and the desire line here isn’t catered for, so people are cycling in this direction on the path.

The last time I visited there were shared path signs at both ends, so, it’s not legally an issue but there’s probably a perception cyclists are doing wrong.

There’s no reference to the scale here but I’ve been here and I can safely say that the cycle paths along here are already uncomfortably narrow at peak times. It will get busier when it’s more connected. The S2S should and could be easily upgraded between this junction and Bull Island.

The importance of the width of cycle tracks needs to be better understood.

One important point again: The route should be better than anything we have, but we need to do better in the future.

PS: I know some will see this as nitpicking but I first wrote about this 12 years ago. Loads of adjustments made since approval but not to improve walking or cycling, and some downgrades. So, that is frustrating.

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