Why do motorists keep claiming that safer street design is “dangerous”?

Comment & Analysis: Laoistoday.ie has an article with the headline: “New ramp/pedestrian crossing in Portlaoise estate causing ‘serious and extremely dangerous’ health and safety concerns”, so, I was expecting to find something terribly wrong with the design of the ramp.

The newspaper quotes a local councillor, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald (Fianna Fail), as saying: “Residents now consider the junction to have become extremely dangerous and a constant risk to the health and safety of its users, especially pedestrians, cyclists and scooter drivers.”

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The ramp/crossing point is at the entrence to the small Beechfield housing estate in the town. It has been in place since early in 2023, at least since April. So, thankfully, Google Street View has some before and after images.

Here is the view looking out of the estate — the junction has been tightened which is safer:

A wide view looking in:

And another view:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-34-640x290.png

Red colouring has also been added to highlight the ramps (see the Laoistoday.ie article for an image of that).

The councillor told the local news website that drivers exiting onto the main road must now drive onto the new ramp to see if it’s safe to pull out onto the Mountmellick Road. This is the situation everywhere when there’s a raised crossing or raised table at a crossing at a junction like this — and this design is fairly common.

It’s also said that the view isn’t clear “due to the presence of a high wall and high trees on both sides of this junction” — first, the old design brought motorists far closer to the wall on their left side (meaning that visibility would be lower than now). Street View shows how motorists taking advantage of the former wider junction radius were closer to the wall/trees:

And secondly, on the motorist’s right side the visibility envelope or sight line is far wider than when exiting most side roads onto an urban main road:

Nothing in this looks more dangerous than before. Especially for pedestrians and cyclists, it looks safer.

So, why do motorists claim safer street design is “dangerous”? The saying “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” comes to mind. Safer street and road design requires councillors acting with a little bit of leadership.

5 comments

  1. If you can’t see why it’s more dangerous you shouldn’t be on the road. I’m increasingly disillusioned with Irish cycle, it used to be something to read

    Reply
    • Hi Philip, thank you, as such a long-term reader for your feedback.

      I hope you stay off the road as this is a common design feature in many places around Ireland. If you cannot see that, you shouldn’t be on the road.

      Reply
    • Yes, it was much safer for pedestrians crossing the road when cars could make two lanes of traffic exiting, could coast through the STOP line to merge with traffic as turning left. Much safer for people on bikes or scooters as well with motorists able to pass them on a wider junction to coast left.

      As for a ramp at a minor to major road junction, every single junction of this type in Copenhagen, and many other pedestrian-focused cities, have the footpath as a continuous raised footpath or zebra where motorists respect it by stopping behind it and looking left and right before proceeding. Pedestrians ALWAYS have priority at such junctions and would rightly slap their hand on the bonnet of any vehicle that had the ignorance to mount the crossing with people on it.

      As has already been noted in responses, Irish motorists are just too used to being able to coast out, eye to the right on whether cars approaching, and a disregard for bike users and people walking. Decades of “flow-focused” road design has led to this. If you care to read the updated cycle design manual you will see that the use of this existing kind of junction is to be removed, tightened junction etc.

      Reply

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