What if there was a two-way cycle path along the North Circular Road in Dublin?

Comment & Analysis: Dublin City Council has a plan for a quick-build 1km section of the total North Circular Road route which totals 5km, back in December IrishCycle.com covered how the interim scheme is good but not long enough. It suffers from a common issue — only putting in cycle routes where there’s space without reconfiguring much else.

The previous article — North Circular Road interim walking and cycling scheme good but not long enough — outlined the idea of a two-way cycle path. How would this look?

This is the current layout at the junction of Infirmary Road (the start of what is the NCR half-ring) with Parkgate Street as shown on Google Street View — It’s 12m with the worst type of cycle lanes, just painted dashed lanes on one side, and, on the other side, a painted cycle lane that is within one of the turning lanes.

Here’s the satellite view:

And this is what it could look like linked with a revised Liffey Cycle Route:

Similarly, here’s the junction with the Phibsborough Road on satellite view:

And here’s what could fit if there was the will to make our streets safer, more attractive and more fit for climate action and getting people of all ages and abilities cycling — this also includes a previously suggested two-way cycle route from Ballymun to the city centre.

It would not be required to build both together. But as said in the article suggesting the Ballymun to city centre route: It’s what a quick-build cycle route could look like if Dublin was ready for serious climate action. The blue lanes here are bus only and other bus priority measures would be needed along this route.


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This is not just about cycling, it’s about an alternative approach to bus priority. The current BusConnects plans for Phibsborough include removing cycle lanes and reducing footpath widths in one of the most high-density areas in the country which is only set to grow in population size.

There would be the opportunity with this kind of layout to have more green space — I didn’t include that level of detail as this is a higher-level suggestion — much of the added-in areas of light grey (ie footpath and island space) could fit greenery as well as seating etc.

Different sections of the North Circular Road could fit different alignments but a two-way cycle path with traffic route changes (as detailed in the previous article and repeated below) is really the only way to fit in a continuous high-quality route.

This would be a cross-section on a narrower section of just 9m — this represents a pinch point but still allows for continuous segregation of the cycle path.

10m sections are an improvement and anything above that is even better:

Why a two-way cycle path?

As covered in the previous article: Paris, London, Eindhoven, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Cork, and some other cities have various levels of success in using two-way cycle paths on one side to allow for continuous cycle routes. Dublin City has used it in one or two locations but overall seems to be avoiding this tool in its toolbox for some time.

There are long-running debates about the use of two-way cycle paths on one side of a street, especially when there’s cycling provision on the other side. The North Circular Road is an example however where two-way is needed if the city really wants to provide for cycling for all.

If we’re ruling out mass removal of trees and footpath reduction for the North Circular Road (and we should be), the two options are (1) narrow and stop-start infrastructure or (2) two-way cycle paths. This is the reality. It’s a narrow enough road and unlikely the southside, there’s no parallel road for most of its length.

This is the council’s map of the route and the interim:

Even with a two-way cycle path, some notable steps would need to be taken including (1) a one-way system to get past the pinch points at the Luas (formally railway) bridges in Phibsborough and (2) a short cycle route detour to get by the pinch-point where the North Circular meets Dorset Street:

I can understand why Dublin City Council might not be ready for a one-way system something like this quite yet… so…

With the use of two-way cycle paths, they could at least stretch the short-term project from Phibsborough to the Clontarf route (2km) or to the Docklands 2.7km.

This kind of larger connection would not just make it safer and more attractive for people cycling along the route, it would also connect more people to the Clontarf Route, the Royal Canal Route, and onto the quays and the Grand Canal Route etc. It would start a bit more of a network effect in the area.

The question is: When or if Dublin will ever be ready for something like this?

8 comments

  1. They still can’t even get a cycle lane on Westmoreland Street – the widest street in Dublin, and the main route to connect the north and southside of the capital city. Their priority list of cycle lane planning is a disaster. Don’t hold you breath.

    Reply
  2. As someone who lives along the NCR it’s current state is a large part of why I never cycle in this city (but would love to). It’s an awful road straight out of 1970s traffic design.

    Even discounting the safer cycling argument, removing some traffic lanes would go a long way to making places like Phibsborough and Drumcondra into actual charactered ‘town centres’ rather than the unpleasant car sewers they currently are

    Reply
  3. I’d love to see it but there are sections where I don’t see it happening. The only way to fit it will be to totally remove parking (like Infirmary Rd to Aughrim St) and that will result in the usual endless consultations/amendments.

    Upgrading the key conflict junctions is a good start but the points where there is parking are also big conflict points that deter people

    Reply
  4. North Circular Road eastbound from the NCR gate to Phibsboro is simply hell for cycling – cars parked all the way on the left hand side and single lane traffic means cars have to cross to the opposite side to pass you, Often it’s best use the path on the right if clear up to Blackhorse Avenue as it is impossible to cycle the road at busy times in the afternoon, I now use TUI Grangegorman as much as I can to avoid it

    Reply
    • In an ideal world you’d probably have a scheme to convert front garden space- (which fortunately there is a lot of on NCR) for their car parking- (or reduce their gardens by a metre, and give compensation)
      and remove the wasted space of all the on street parking- would never happen though. Or real Euro swanky planning of decent underground car parks.
      With the ever growing number or wide SUVs I’d say ultimately a big one-way street only master plan will be the only cheap solution to road space balance in Dublin in years to come.

      Funny the way a few years ago for cities – London, Rome, Paris etc the marketing talk was always of little runaround mini cars for city living- bizarrely going completely the opposite now. Bikes will never get bigger, but somehow it’s ok for cars to just keep getting bigger and bigger.

      Reply
      • Purchasing a corridor along the front gardens should definitely be considered, a good chunk of the housing from Phibsborough to Phoenix Park is presumably just rentals as hardly any have actual gardens, a lot are either just overgrown weeds or concreted over. You could do it on both sides and have a proper fully segregated cycleway and still keep all the trees.
        Though as always in this city there’s little chance of any out of the box thinking from the council

        Reply
  5. Doyle’s corner is horrible to cycle on. Even if they remove a lane and make place for cyclists to filter to the front would be very nice.

    Generally not a fan of dedicated 2way cycle lanes (they just don’t work given the long tail of scenarios that they don’t accommodate for), it’s safer to be able to mix with the traffic /bus lanes

    Reply

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