Comment & Analysis: As IrishCycle.com has covered, there has been a huge volume of scaremongering around the designs of the combination of bus stops and cycle paths, at the same time that
This scaremongering has spread from individuals and groups in the UK who can easily be described as anti-cycle path — that’s distinct from being anti-cycling or anti-cyclists, which are more subjective.
This scaremongering includes the use of highly edited videos of bus stops in London showing chaotic scenes which strangely isn’t reproducible when others film non-stop at bus stops.
But why can these people be called anti-cycle paths with a high level of confidence? It’s because they are arguing against key elements of segregated cycle routes. Much like in Ireland, most people don’t want to outright say they are against segregated cycle routes because they will make little progress with that argument.
A large part of the problem stems from some senior National Transport Authority staff trashing out designs with people within disability advocacy without thinking about checking with anybody else, including disabled people who cycle or who might use cycle paths.
At least some of the disability advocates involved who have spread scaremongering to others are well-documented as having bad-faith views on the subject of cycling, with another calling children seeking safe cycle lanes a “tiered of ableism hiding behind other policy”.
Back in February, I wrote that the Liffey Valley BusConnects interchange project is a wake-up call for better design for walking and cycling design. But it seems nobody wants to challenge the confusion, counter-productive and over-engineered bus stop designs which started as part of BusConnects and have made it into the draft National Cycle Manual.
This was the Liffey Valley BusConnects design:
The combination of traffic lights with green and red lights and zebra crossing markings is confusing as this is not a combination ever used in Ireland. Zebra marking means yielding rules apply, while green lights imply a contradictory mode.
This is the watered-down version which has reached the draft National Cycle Manual — but the use of a red light here is equally incorrect and confusing:
The Department of Transport needs to intervene in this confusing cycle track and bus stop design with both zebra markings and traffic lights. The Department also needs to be very weary of claims that such designs are “exceptional circumstances” or that other designs are only for “constrained locations”.
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We know from BusConnects drawings that designs which are marked in the BusConnects and draft National Cycle Manual as to be used in “exceptional circumstances” or only at “constrained locations” are being overused by the designers of routes as an easy way to get out of design choices rather than impacting on parking or traffic lanes or just moving a bus stop a few metres away where there’s more space etc.
We also know that Dublin City Council plans to use traffic signals over the cycle path at each of the 12 bus stops along the Clontarf to City Centre project — at most of these crossings there are 2 crossings, so, that means there’ll be four traffic light signals at those crossings.
A signal traffic light head which changes colour is also clearly not disability-proofed as it takes no account of colour-blind cyclists.
As if these measures are not overkill enough, Dublin City Council has already started to include rumble strips and proposes to include flashing lights in the surface of the cycle track as used at Luas road crossing. This is adopted by the National Cycle Manual, which states: “Flashing studs (activated by approaching bicycle) may be installed just in advance of pedestrian crossing, to further alert cyclists to pedestrian crossing.”
Notes in the draft National Cycle Manual states: “Traffic signals are not generally recommended for the regulation of movements between pedestrians and cyclists, as there is significant likelihood of disregard to the red signal by both modes.”
And this is where some people pipe up ranting about cyclists — I’ve spent a silly amount of time observing cycle paths at bus stops in different cities and, besides it being like watching wet paint dry, pedestrians generally pay little attention to the formal crossing points. Designing everything around the idea they do is looking for poor outcomes.
The version of this design both with and without traffic lights includes the text “Narrowed cycle track to encourage ‘single file’ cycling and to improve visibility” — the BusConnects drawings show that this is really an attempt to add traffic calming to cycle paths where no similar traffic calming is being applied to roadway crossings where pedestrians are injured and killed.
Experts in London say that bus stop designs with narrower cycle paths are conflict-inducing because they funnel the cycling and walking interaction into a smaller space with no space or forgiving design if things go wrong.
Similarly to traffic calming measures only being applied to cycle paths, on both the Clontarf route and BusConencts projects, there are plans for traffic lights across 2-metre wide cycle paths, but not even raised crossings on some busy side streets when motorists are far more likely to injure or kill somebody walking or cycling.
BusConnects is doing this while making many roads wider — so making streets into four-lane roads but using fewer warnings and less traffic calming than what is planned for cycle paths… how does that make any sense?
The designers of these routes also mix walking and cycling together when it is convenient for them to do so. These contradictions put into question if pedestrian safety is really being looked at or if officials are pandering to people who are overall focused on cycle paths at bus stops because they follow some UK-based twitter accounts who have tried to make it into a culture war issue over there.
This cannot be said to be an evidence-led approach.
It is scaremongering-led design while ignoring some real danger.
Worse than maybe all of the above is that the National Cycle Manual is to be used to endorse the planned use of what it calls “Shared Bus Stop Landing Zone” and “Bus Boarder” (see the images below).
These are claimed to be used for more confined locations but we know from the BusConnects design drawings that when reality hits, designers of schemes often place more importance on retaining traffic lanes and parking bays than providing space for cycling. The result is that these are easy options rather than making a harder space choice.
Anybody concerned with cycling and pedestrian conflict should be concerned about the likely wide use of these designs which give bus users little or no space when exiting or boarding buses without going onto the cycle tracks.