South Dublin County Council could boast the best area in Ireland for cycling, but one thing is holding it back

Comment & Analysis: South Dublin County Council deserves a lot of credit for the fast rollout of cycle routes. If it continues at this rate, it might see itself pulling ahead of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which is widely seen as the front-runner.

The progress that is being made in the Tallaght and wider Dublin 24 area is so impressive that I want to highlight it positively and leave it at that. The speed and scale of some of the changes should be the envy of people living in most areas of the country.

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But it pains me to say that there’s a major issue — far more attention to detail is needed. It’d be a disservice to readers and the general public to just give what the council are doing a glowing review.

We need to be moving fast because of climate action, road safety, the inactivity crisis and pollution. So when I say attention to detail, I’m not saying every project has to be as polished-looking at the best Dutch cycle path. But a bit more attention to detail is needed.

Moving fast and continuing to move fast requires a level of detail so that councils don’t have to revisit projects in the next few years to address issues of safety, accessibility, and comfort for people cycling or walking. If you’re building faster, some level of tweaking of details will be needed, but this should be minimised.

For example, there needs to be a massive cutback on the use of shared footpath-like spaces at junctions and bus stops. There also needs to be a review of having shared greenways on main urban routes.

Please note: Work was still ongoing along some of these routes. So, while the final markings etc might not be in place, I’m trying to restrict my comments to issues which are clear. I will also revisit these routes in the future.

It really puts comments in context when you hear people complaining about a lack of people using the routes when you visit the sites and see how much work has still to be done on the parts of the projects which are under construction (there are even signs up saying cycle tracks not in use). Then you also think about the connections yet to be built and the kissing gates still to be removed. Many people won’t use routes until those connections and access points are open to them.

There’s some huge improvement, but it is still a bit too higgledy-piggledy, added onto some very higgledy-piggledy cycle track designs in the area. This is the route I cycled, plus some extra connections. This is a sample of the work in progress on the Killinarden Way/Whitestown Way/Firhouse Rd route:

For a bit of context, I cycled into the area using the Greenhills Road over the M50 (marked here in black because there’s nothing but painted lanes, mostly painted within lanes in a way where cars cannot keep out of the cycle lane) and went back to the city using the Luas. Don’t ask what the grey part of my route represents — it’s so higgledy-piggledy that I just cycled down the cycle lane on the N81.

There’s a huge traffic-calming effect on a lot of the SDCC quick-build routes — motorists are complaining because it feels uncomfortable because it was an overly wide road, but this likely has a huge safety advantage vs the old layout, which was just too wide and encouraged speeding (see Street View below):

In terms of junction treatment, for example, there’s no reason for this section of the Firhouse Road route to be a shared crossing, and it’s also just way too convoluted for cycling:

Detailing like this on the Castletymon Road on a generally good project is just unacceptable — the narrowing of the cycle track towards the road is bad enough, but then also having a drain grate right at the narrowing pushes up risk even further. The narrowing alone shouldn’t get past a road safety audit.

I’ve had a pedestrian walk out on me when they had a red man, and I was cycling by a green light; with this design, there’s no space to manoeuvre. It’s especially a problem for cycles designed for people with disabilities.

It’s unclear why this feature exists here, but it is a feature of BusConnects plans in locations ahead of bus stops. It’s sad to see somebody building it for whatever reason.

The design of this bus stop is preferable to a fully shared bus stop, and especially preferable to the examples where people cycling go right through the boarding area.

However, the tactical paving here is a bit of a box-ticking exercise. Somebody with full blindness or a high level of sight loss will not be able to tell the difference between the level cycling area and the pedestrian areas.

There’s also a surprising number of situations where the cycle path and footpath drop for private entrances — this shouldn’t be happening. This kind of detailing was advised against in the old Cycle Manual, so it’s nothing new.

Just to note: It is also something that’s not fully right in larger schemes too — even the Clontarf to City Centre route, which is now famed for its continuous side streets. At some locations, for example, on the Clontarf Road across from the train station, there are places where the cycle path and footpath dips for driveways. It might not be as extreme as some dips on older projects, but it shouldn’t be happening at all, especially when the driveways or entrances are above the roadway surface.

This is a great design with clear yield marking clearly placed for motorists — it’s fantastic to see. But the design just next that extra push and have the cycle path red asphalt continue through the crossing — remove the kerb and continue the same red asphalt:

The lack of red breaks the visual clarity of the continuation of the cycle path:

Some difficult decisions will be needed, including cutting down some trees so that there is separate space for bus users and people cycling at bus stops:

There seems to be a general tendency to paint yield markings across cycle paths where people might be crossing (as if cycle paths were mini-roads) but, at the same time, painting nothing at crossing points where motorists are:

In many cases, especially in Killinarden Heights, there’s no apparent reason why the cycle path was not routed behind bus stops rather than through the bus platform area, which is the worst of all worlds in terms of bus stop designs:

An interesting thing about some of the stops on the road is that if the cycle path were to be put behind the bus stop, bus users would still have to cross the road unaided but would have no interaction with cycle path users.

Still, it’s an improvement over crossing a wide road and an inaccessible bus stop. But why get it wrong twice? Why put extra concrete around the back of the stop when that could have been a cycle path?

My mental image of cycling in the area is switching from cycling on the N81 to the new higher-quality routes around Killinarden Heights:

Extra bonus photos

Including some very old cycle routes in the area for context:


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3 comments

  1. How ungrateful can you be, the road users in the Tallaght area are suffering because of all the restrictions and narrowing of roads and they’re the ones that pay for the roads and to live in the mention housing estates. It’s a disgrace that cyclists were put ahead of pedestrians and motorists who live in the areas. Where’s the cycling tax or insurance. Our whole estate has been taken over by this cycle track and no one is using it and no one will to the extent that could possibly justify the cost of it.

    Reply
    • Hi Mandy,

      “How ungrateful can you be?”, you say. I was about to say something like “right back at you” but it’s clear you have not really read the article or at least taken it in.

      You say I’m being ungrateful, and then you show concern for pedestrians, but if you read the article, you’d see a lot of what the article is about how the design could be better for pedestrians and both pedestrians and people cycling.

      Pedestrians are likely better off overall because one of the largest benefits from the changes is in terms of safety. Narrowing the roads is a huge safety benefit. Construction will, of course, cause disruption, and that will cause some suffering, but it will settle down, and safety benefits will remain. The safety benefits alone will be worth it. 

      Emission-based vehicle tax does not “pay for the roads”, and nor does the Carbon Tax. The costs of motoring and the external costs are not covered by motoring.

      For cycling: There’s a net economic benefit of €1.48 for each km people cycle instead of driving, and HSE saves €64.5 million for the people who already cycle and walk in Dublin, and it will save more when more people cycle (see: https://irishcycle.com/2024/03/05/cycling-instead-of-driving-has-e1-40-e1-52-per-km-economic-benefit-in-cities-on-island-of-ireland/). Why would you tax something which is a net benefit and which there is a clear gain from when more people do it?

      Motorists are required to have third-party insurance because of the scale of injuries, deaths and property damage caused by motorists. The risk from cycling is simular to the risk from walking.

      As for the idea that “Our whole estate has been taken over by this cycle track and no one is using it and no one will to the extent that could possibly justify the cost of it” — as far as I can see, no estate has been taken over by a cycle track. There have been road narrowing, but that’s a generally good thing; the roads were too wide before. It’s still possible to drive everywhere and the cycle tracks are not on every road in any estate.

      You might not want to cycle, but that option will be available for those who want to, and there are general safety benefits to most of the cycle tracks. As in the article, the design could have been better and even safer for all. But it’s a safety improvement.

      Reply
  2. Those against cycling infrastructure “as nobody is using it” fail to grasp, as time goes on , children who can cycle on their own to school or friends. Won’t be told they can’t, be cause it’s “dangerous” . It will take time, but it will come.

    Reply

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