— “Generally speaking” cyclists don’t use cycle paths claimed one councillor.
— Another spreads misinformation about a “Green policy” to “push everyone onto bikes”.
LONG READ: Being unable to have “three babies strapped onto the back of a bike”, the weather, how motorists will not be able to drive into a cycle lane on a dual carriageway anymore, and the loss of informal parking were some of the issues raised against a planned rapid build cycle route by a mix of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, Solidarity, and independent councillors.
Out of the local councillors who spoke, only a Green Party councillor clearly supported the Tallaght to Clondalkin Cycle Scheme when it was raised at the January meeting of the Tallaght Area Committee 2024 on Monday, January 22th.
The route will be mainly via the Belgard Road. North of the junction with the N7 officials are not yet sure will the route will stay on the Fonthill Road or use the New Road.
In the short term, South Dublin County Council plans to develop a 1.2km section of the route on Belgard Road from the Old Blessington Road and the Cookstown Road, with an around 800-metre cycle route link on Airton Road between Belgard Road and Greenhills Road.
The plan is to use rapid-build methods. The Belgard Road, which is an urban dual carriageway, would retain two general traffic lanes in each direction. Space for wider, segregated cycle tracks would be provided by a mix of slightly narrowing the traffic lanes and reducing the grass margins. Airton Road would lose its informal parking but retain traffic in both directions.
Mbakure Johnson, an executive engineer with South Dublin County Council, said that motorists sometimes enter the current cycle track on Belgard Road — “It’s unsafe for cyclists, so what we’re trying to do is to put a physical separation”
...This is not a paywall. Keep scrolling if you want, but IrishCycle.com needs readers like you to keep it that way. It only requires a small percentage of readers to give a bit each month or every year to keep IrishCycle.com's journalism open to all. Thank you.
He also said that the current cycle lane “width is substandard, it’s about maybe 1.5 metres, sometimes 1.2 metres. So the plan is to make 2 metres on both sides of the road and the way we’re going to do that we’re going to put a concrete kerb and then move into the grass margin to create that space.”
Johnson said: “At the moment we want to start the consultation… our plan is to go for Section 38 in the next month or so and construction of that scheme we expect to start at quarter 3 of this year and finish maybe quarter one of 2025.”
Cllr Cathal King (Sinn Féin) said: “In theory, I welcome this. But with the detail of it, I did a few answers, particularly given the abuse we’ve gone through and also the absolute frustration people have gone through in living in Aylesbury and Killinarden with the new scheme in those areas which has created absolute havoc.”
He said: “I welcome the opportunity to give safe spaces for cyclists to travel around the county, but I just think that the current scheme that has been built particularly up there in around Aylesbury and Killinarden Heights is madness you can fit a bus in the cycle lane and you can barely fit a car within the lanes where the cars are supposed to [be] and particularly at junctions where people are trying to turn, people are having to go out onto the other side of the road to get around corners, particularly at Killinarden, turning towards Killinarden Heights.”
“I would propose that none of the roadway is taken away for this [the new project],” said Cllr King. “There are cycle lanes on Belgard Road but you’re saying not wide enough and you’re saying you can go into the verge, I would propose that you go into the verge and not take it away from the [road], because it’s one of the main roads in Tallaght. That and the N8 one of the two main arteries for motor vehicles.”
Despite there being a clear link between reducing the widths of roads and road safety, Cllr King claimed that reducing the widths of roads would increase the possibility of “crashes and claims and all sorts of hopefully not, injuries and deaths”.
He added that there were “a lot of very very unhappy people” in Aylesbury, Killinarden, and Oldbawn.
Cllr Patrick Holohan (independent) said the plan was “extremism” before implying that transport Minister Eamon Ryan wanted everybody to cycle everywhere — which is not something the Minister has ever said.
Cllr Holohan said: “Let’s be real here, my partner and myself when we leave the house to do the creche run and stuff like that if Eamon Ryan had his way we’d have to put them on the bike. We can’t. So we have three children we have to go to the creche, then we have to make it to our jobs and then we have to go and collect those children and then bring them back to to to whether they are going.”
“The reality is that men, women and children need their cars and the older population, they need their cars. If people want to go on bikes, fair play. I’m with them. Yeah, sometimes I get on my bike as well but, in reality, I can’t live on a bike. I can’t bring my children on a bike and newborns, the weather that we live in as well.”
He added that cycle paths “pits people against each other”, but cycle paths are one of the main means of making cycling safe for current users and attractive to more people. The weather in Dublin is similar to that of Amsterdam where people of a wide range of ages cycle all year around.
Cllr Kieran Mahon (Solidarity) said a previous scheme worked well but that this is “a different matter though it’s obviously much more on a main artery.”
He said that there was some merit to narrow roads before going on to give more reasons why he thought cycle routes should not be built on some of the roads involved.
He said one of his main issues would be cycle paths on Airton Road “for practical reasons more than reasons against cycling” because there will be a “huge amount of construction traffic in the area” related to planned apartment buildings and “the cycle lane is going to get smashed up”.
Cllr Teresa Costello (Fianna Fáil) said she has a “huge difficulty with Section 38” because she thinks councillors should have “a vote on what’s going on because this is not small works and this rapid works it’s a disaster”.
She said: “And in Aylesbury again you know I looked at that video [in the presentation] and I can see where corners of secondary roads are going to be tightened with this and that causes huge problems because in Dale Park at the moment where the road I was assured it wasn’t being narrowed but when everything is taken into consideration the curbs are being squared off which means it’s narrowed and it kind of makes me look like I lied to my constituents.”
She added: “This thing of people being pushed out of their cars, I think everybody has a right to decide what way they want to travel. You know we’re paying our road tax and we’re working hard and as councillor Holohan said about his circumstances, you couldn’t expect to have three babies strapped onto the back of a bike, it’s ridiculous carry-on and this is unrealistic.”
“See from the impact that it’s had on the people in Aylesbury who never give out about anything. I’ve never seen them so angry and similarly, the people up in Killinarden who are experiencing huge real difficulties that is unsafe,” she said.
Cllr Vanessa Mulhall (Green Party), said: “I think this is a fantastic plan and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Green, I’m saying that because I cycle everywhere and I cycle this stretch like probably maybe twice three times a day and I do it weekly.”
“When I’m on the road cycling I feel like I’m absolutely in competition with cars… sometimes I feel like the car [drivers] are just going to run me down because they don’t want me there,” she said.
She said: “Schemes like this are just so important for us to get around. A lot of councillors are actually mentioning that like this is a main kind of main road, and it is. But like cyclists need to get from A to B as well and we need to use the main roads.”
She added: “I think we do need to bring the public along with us as well so it’ll be interesting to see what the public consultation is going to be like but I really do welcome this and I think that we are transforming the way we travel around the county and I think it’s it’s important…. I don’t even think it’s about telling people to get out of their cars.”
Cllr Charlie O’Connor (Fianna Fáil) said that cycle route schemes have caused “chaos” and the plan presented to them “some challenges” and likely result in objections.
“I happen to go to a funeral in Aylesbury on I think Friday and the effect of the absence of spaces was very obvious where there was traffic chaos. I know as other colleagues maybe Vanessa will tell me that you have to walk through these things but we also have to be aware of the challenge that that it brings and I suspect that the presentation before us is going to throw up a huge amount of challenges,” he said.
Cllr O’Connor said “We’d all like to be sympathetic to the cyclist”, but that more time and consultation was needed.
He added: “And by the way, you know we have to hope that when all these works are done, and I’ve said this in relation to Firhouse Road West and Killinarden, I hope to see cyclists using it because generally speaking, I’m sorry you don’t.”
Cllr Mick Duff (independent) asked if people using informal parking would be told that their parking would be taken away, and asked when businesses are to be consulted.
The informal parking he said was needed for businesses along Airton Road including Mr Price, Harvey Norman, Home Store and More and car showrooms without “any of the new residents moving in along” the road.
Cllr Duff said: “I mean two two-metre wide cycle tracks which will basically be like deserted towns because nobody will be in them or very few people in them. Councilor Mulhall will certainly use them, I would accept that, but I don’t see any or very very few people cycling up and down there so I’m sceptical on that as well.”
Cllr Louise Dunne (Sinn Féin) also said that she had concerns including parking for businesses along Airton Road.
Cllr Dunne also falsely claimed that it was “Green policy” to “push everyone onto bikes and take away our choice to drive.” She continued: “Like Paddy said there, a lot of us… have to drive for various different reasons we haven’t got the luxury of having to go up in the morning and go out on a bike.”
She also asked if the Dublin Fire Brigade were consulted about the plans for Belgard Road.
She asked if traffic counts are done before and after schemes to count the numbers of people cycling “because like that there is a push to get rid of us all over our cars and into bikes but is that actually happening so I I’d love to know if some sort of survey or count has been done in that regard because there’s huge Investments going into cycle lanes right across the county and it is putting out a lot of people, a lot of car users.”
She added: “Absolutely I do agree that if someone wants to go out and cycle their bike they should have a safe space but not at the cost of those who have no choice but to drive.”
Johnson, the council’s engineer, said that there will not be a capacity reduction on the Belgard Road and the plan does not include removing trees. It will include reducing the width of traffic lanes to three meters wide and using a bit of grass verge.
The junctions will take into account of the longest HGV truck and it is not like traffic schemes around housing estate roads, he said.
Johnson said: “The roundabout that enters into Tallaght from [the Belgard Road], there’s no pedestrian facilities on that roundabout, it’s a nightmare — there are a lot of kids who come from Clondalkin going to college there, there’s no pedestrian facilities.”
The project is to include zebra crossing on the side road and pedestrian lights across the main road.
He said that the parking on Airton Road is unsafe for people cycling as it pushes them further into the road and there’s a risk of car doors being opened. He said that apartment developments shouldn’t be relying on on-road parking.
Johnson said: “The number of cars that we have on our roads are increasing and they are going to continue to increase and the road space that we have if we continue the way we are doing at the moment is at one time is not going to be enough so we need to think about other ways that are sustainable and this means if we have safe facilities for cyclist and for walking some people will leave their car at home… but what we need to do is to provide facilities for them if they are not there, the people are not going to change.”
He added: “We have to start somewhere I know people are going to be inconvenienced but it’s a process that we are starting, it takes time and there are going to be challenges along the way but we can’t stop because we need to do something about [the issue].”
Cllr King said that if traffic lanes are reduced and cycle lanes are segregated so that motorists cannot drive on them, this risks slowing down ambulances and fire engines.
Johnson said that the Belgard Road is a dual-carriageway and motorists should giveaway to emergency vehicles by moving into one lane. A councillor off camera said that there was a “hard shoulder” on the road, but Johnson said the “hard shoulder at the moment is a cycle track” and the current cycle lane is “way too unsafe”.
He said that the council would consult with the Dublin Fire Brigade and councillors will be able to give more feedback when the Section 38 proposals go to consultation and it will be brought back to the council.