It looks grand, so, why won’t some cyclists use this cycling infrastructure?

Comment & Analysis: I know some people reading this will find it hard to accept, but the cycling infrastructure pictured above on the new link road, named Tara Road, between Laytown and Bettystown isn’t good. For most people who are cycling on the road for longer distances, it’s really rubbish, but rather irrelevant.

Some people might say it’s better than what they had before or something along those lines, but the quality is objectively poor compared to national or international best practices.

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Let’s put this in context first — all that is connected to this new road is 140 metres of even poorer quality cycle tracks.

The worse part is that not only is the Tara Road isolated infrastructure for cycling, but it’s also disjointed within its short length of 900 metres — the cycle tracks start and stop and start again. People cycling are mixed with pedestrians 7-8 times over the 900 metres.

And I should stress that this is isolated infrastructure — in Laytown and Bettystown the other sections of cycle tracks are more disjointed and shorter.

So, somebody cycling any distance locally or, say, the 10km or so into Drogheda, is mainly going to be mixing with cars on narrow enough roads. For somebody who is used to pottering around cycling on footpaths (aka adults who are cycling illegally on footpaths), the new road is likely a huge improvement for part of their trip. But, again, that’s not going to be the case for most people who are using the road for longer distances.

The devil is in the details

From the northern end, you cannot even access the cycle track without going over muck:

Metres later there’s a shared space footpath and a pedestrian priority roundabout.

There are different views on this between the NTA and the Department of Transport, but, legally, cyclists should be dismounting using the zebras even if they are on a cycle route:

On the west side of the roundabout, there are no exits or entry points for cycling:

If you’re cycling east, you’re dumped into a junction before the cycle track ends at a bus layby:

When you’re approaching the roundabout from the east, the cycle track, which starts without a way to get up to it is interrupted four times in quick succession:

To give an example of why the above is too much, Street View shows cars exiting two of those junctions at once and somebody walking on the cycle track — it’s worth saying that both the cycle track and footpath are also too narrow here and the cycle tracks aren’t really marked as such:

It’s at this point that some people are thinking something along the lines of “Well, we’ll never fit cycle paths and proper footpaths in many places in Ireland. This is where a bit of out-of-the-box thinking is needed.

A wider plan is needed. And, it’s not really a network plan that’s needed. Even more so not a cycle network plan, but rather a circulation plan.

With a theoretical circulation plan, a potential new section of street (just 160m, shown in red below) would allow for a one-way system for motorists on the parallel streets, wider footpaths and two-way cycle paths. No motorists would need to make any grand detours.

To stress this: This would not be done as part of a cycle route alone and it cannot even just be about transport alone. It would need to be part of a vision for a reimagined network of streets, roads, and paths that make Bettystown and Laytown a nicer and more attractive place to live and visit generally.

On the walking and cycling front, to make it work, it would need other interventions elsewhere, although I’m not going to develop a full plan for the towns here it would include cycle paths on other roads, cycle routes via traffic-calmed and traffic-reduced streets, and interventions such as creating links between housing estates etc.

But there’s nothing even close to this planned. The plans for the area outlined in the Laytown/Bettystown public realm plan don’t inspire at all.

As the time when the public realm plans were released for Laytown/Bettystown, Athboy and Oldcastle in 2021, the Navan Cycling Initiative said: “It’s notable that there doesn’t appear to be any cycling infrastructure built in to any of these plans. This is very concerning development in the future of our towns/villages.”

…Back to the roundabout, you cycle around the corner on the shared path and then…

After the roundabout, the first main section of the link road starts with no grass verge on the east side of the road. But, in fairness, the horizontal buffers are generally ok, but they quickly give up on them when space is wanted for something else.

For new roads like this, councils really should be CPOing a wider slice of land where that seems to be available.

But no sooner does it start than the cycle track bows down to the roadway twice in quick succession — at the moment to closed entrances but these are serious degradations of the cycle track just after it starts.

The yield symbols are just a joke and daftness like this is a reminder of how the Department of Transport needs to have rules that legally remove the ability of road designs to choose to abuse yield symbols like this.

The next roundabout is one of the largest examples where there’s a huge gap in the cycle tracks and people cycling are doing so on a shared footpath:

Right after this, there are bus stops (or future bus stops) where the cycle tracks again merge with the footpath — it’s too much to ask the buses to maybe block cars for a few seconds? Or for a wider profile to allow cycling and bus passengers to be separated?

Next up on both sides of the road, the cycle track is merged with the footpaths for no apparent reason just before minor junctions (some only farm access for now) — there’s no need for walking or cycling to cross paths here, so, there’s no need for shared space or most of the tactile paving here.

The excuse might be made it’s “for blind people” but there’s a larger potential for a person with less than full sight to go astray crossing the side road than there is where the cycle path ramps up to the level of the raised crossing. Nobody who really cares about blind people would dump cyclists onto footpaths as often as is done on this scheme.

Next up there’s a limited access T-junction for motorists with zebra for

Which include more massive areas where cycling is just legalised on what are effectively large footpaths:

As a side note: These are actually schools and not juvenile detention centres… the security fences and lack of greenery beside cut grass is depressing:

The new road was built through the middle of a cluster of three schools:

After this, there’s a token length of separate cycle track and footpath before the scheme ends at the third shared path roundabout in this direction:

After the roundabout they have the proper shared path ends signs but people were half cycling on footpaths for most of this scheme, so, many will just continue on…

On the east turn off the roundabout, north up the Coast Road, there’s just a wide shared path alongside one of the schools — this doesn’t go anywhere in any direction not south or north:

Nevertheless, this is a nice T-junction zebra:

(There’s a signalised crossing over the Coast Road in the background which shouldn’t be there, it’s not a good idea to mix signalised crossings and zebras like this)

And just north of this junction is the extent of the scheme — should the Coast Road stay like this now that the link road is in place bypassing it?

Note, this is also the only exit treatment for cyclists to rejoin the road in the full project as far as I can see:

So, that’s it. It might look ok if you’re pottering around or if you blink while driving by. But this isn’t good cycling infrastructure.

I should say if most of the problems listed were fixed, one of the main overriding points is that good cycling infrastructure needs to be connected — part of a cohesive network that is safe and attractive.

3 comments

  1. So why is such poor design happening so frequently across the country? Are we not hiring city planners?

    I have to imagine that those building the infrastructure are following a plan and not making it up, so how are the plans so incredibly flawed without someone with experience being consulted to catch the errors before public money is wasted.

    It just seems so baffling, like, what’s going on? How can so many mistakes be made so frequently? What can we do to stop such insanity from continuing elsewhere?

    Reply
  2. In the states, we have traffic engineers. They work in conjunction with city planners. There is also a public comment period prior to a project commencing.

    Reply
  3. Who ever is designing roads in this country needs to go out on a bike!
    And see the issues.

    Cycle lanes should be included in the road width like bus lanes.

    Having to constantly go up an down terrible paths with stone an glass rubbish thats are never cleaned, and the condition of them potholes deterioration is not great you would do more damage too the bike using them.

    Reply

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