Comment & Analysis: Earlier this week it was reported that an Active Travel project in Naas was removed from the Pathfinder programme by Minister Eamon Ryan because of delays in delivery. Low-quality projects should also be at risk and a prime example is a project in Minister Eamon Ryan’s own constituency.
Pathfinder projects are supposed to be transformative and highlight what’s possible in terms of decarbonisation by showing firm results — the planned Donnybrook Road to Clonskeagh Road Scheme which includes Beaver Row and Beech Hill Road, definitely does not fit that bill.
It mainly includes a shared path which mixes walking and cycling when it could be segregated,
The public consultation ends today (Friday, December 8) but if the council are unwilling to change its current course, the project needs ministerial intervention because (1) as proposed it is not good enough to be a Pathfinder project, and (2) funding should be withdrawn because it does not follow basic standards in the Cycle Design Manual (or the previous manual).
If there was the will for something better, it could be quickly improved and built.
IrishCycle.com was one of, if not the first to suggest making Beaver Row one-way for cars to provide a two-way cycle path — Dublin City Council’s proposal however twists the original idea on its head and it really shouldn’t go ahead as planned.
Beaver Row runs along the south bank of the River Dodder and, on the north bank, there is a narrow path which people mainly use for walking. It’s one of those lovely areas of greenery that you can sometimes find within a city. The council’s plan as part of the long-delayed Dodder Greenway project was to widen the path into a shared path, destroying some of the nature and uniqueness of it.
Sometimes there’s little other choice if you want to provide for both walking and cycling in a safe way and there’s not enough space to keep both separate. But shared paths should be avoided in cities where there’s likely to be high volumes of people walking and cycling.
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What’s wrong with the current plan for Beaver Row? And how can the plan be fixed?
At its most basic, the plan is to have most of the route designed as little more than a footpath where cycling is allowed. The alternative is the pragmatic approach — to have a cycle path on one side of the street and a continuous footpath on the other side.
There are very few access points on the riverside. The opposite side of the river is more attractive for walking. And the footpath on the other side of the street is where the offices etc are for commuters walking directly or walking to/from buses on the main roads.
One of the things about the current project is that even if somebody wants to walk on the opposite side of the street to avoid the shared path, it’s not possible the whole way as the footpath is not continuous under the current plan. That should be changed and can be changed.
The people supporting the current project could claim to be the pragmatic ones. After all the cross-sections and photomontages don’t look too bad. But this is an all too common issue of cross-section drawings not showing where it’s narrower along a route. This is the cross second for the western side:
The drawings show that these narrow sections could hardly be called pinch points in any way for example at the western end of the project from the Clonskeagh Road to well past the Beach Hill Office Campus entrance the shared path is little more than the width of the current footpath and small green area.
Does anybody involved with this plan honestly think chopping down the trees, removing the grass area and adding a few centimetres that a footpath-like area would be wide enough for two-way cycling and pedestrians? With a wall on one side and cars on the other?
That’s a key difference between a shared path along a road and a shared path with, say, just grass or shrubs on both sides — the unpredictability of mixing walking and cycling is one thing if people end up in a grassed area, but a shared path beside cars flying by adds a bit of an edge to things.
Beyond the first two entrances to business parks, the road will be one-way. So how is retaining the current layout of turning lanes justified? If this is the level of ambition in a Pathfinder, I think Minister Ryan should be answering for false advertising by saying the projects will need to be transformative.
But while the current plan retains all turning lanes for motorists it includes bunching people walking and cycling onto the footpath not just along the road but also along the main road to get to/from the existing Dodder Greenway (which DLRCC is to upgrade, hopefully with segregated paths for walking and cycling).
The plan will have people on bicycles waiting on the footpaths on both sides of the Clonskeagh Road — note the man in orange high-vis:
Pictured below is the same guy. There is no vision in this plan — it is at best designed for low use and at worse designed for cyclists to take over footpaths:
Let’s look at the route somebody living along the greenway west of the project would cycle if they were going to the first set of offices — at least 6-7 near-90-degree turns in a very short distance, wobble around pedestrians, and then do what at the roundabout in the business park? Cycle along the narrower footpaths in there? Is this route not for the people working in these offices?
This brings us to the start of the one-way section:
At the entrance to Smurfit Kappa’s HQ and the (former?) UCD Beach Hill Offices, there’s no crossing for people on foot or bicycle who want to enter the offices:
A bit north/east of Smurfit Kappa, the footpath ends on the office side of the road and there’s just drop kerbs to get across the road. No formal crossing and not even a raised unsignalised crossing:
From the drawings, you might think that there’s no way the footpath could continue along this section and still have a cycle path on the other side. It doesn’t look like there’s the space:
Except, as Street View confirms, there’s loads of space for a two-way cycle path on the riverside, a single traffic lane, and a footpath.
And that’s even the case if, for whatever reason, the green embankment cannot be touched — be it private property, viewed as not part of the road so it would need a slower planning process or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Once you make this section one-way for motorists, there’s still space for a footpath and a cycle path as good as DLRCC’s Coastal Mobility Route.
Usually, this is where I say something about Dublin City Council’s strange obsession with keeping wide traffic lanes which are speed-inducing. But this time it makes even less sense than usual — the traffic lane at point A in the image below is far wider than the traffic lane at point B.
A layout something like this can fit:
To make the riverside area a cycle path, very little would differ in most of this section:
The main difference maybe would be to give a little extra space to widen the existing footpath on the right here — although it is already much improved by formalising the parking (cars usually park with one wheel on the path here).
The northern end of the route needs more changes:
The project just ends with no link to the new section of the greenway about to be opened and no safe route to Ailesbury Road or to turn right towards the N11:
This is the junction at Anglesea Bridge:
And the space on the bridge where the cycle lane is often driven in both by buses and cars turning:
And directly across from Beaver Row is this madness which splits between Ailesbury Road to the right and Anglesea Road to the top of the image:
Below is the plan under BusConnects for the junctions around Anglesea Bridge — it’s still fairly rubbish for cycling with the Ailesbury Road / Anglesea Road side road still amazingly left with no space for cycling and most turns not very safe with a reliance on shared toucan crossings for those who don’t want the trill of crossing with motorists.
If there was a little less space for motorists and a bit of a redesign of other element, there could be safer and more attractive cycling added to this design. Now, that would be some Pathfinder project with bus and cycling priority…
…But even if that’s too much to ask for, could the council at least get Beaver Row right and improve the connections somewhat at each end? That shouldn’t be too much to ask for.