A senior Garda says you should “think about where you choose to cycle your bicycle”, while motorists are clocked at 126km/h on urban roads

Comment & Analysis: A senior Garda said this Bank Holiday weekend that you should wear high visibility clothing when walking and cycling and “think about where you choose to cycle your bicycle.” But what does that mean when motorists are clocked at 126km/h on urban roads?

“Pedestrians, when you’re out walking is the road suitable for where you’re out walking and are you wearing hi-vis? Cyclists, the same, helmets and high-visibility gear and think about where you choose to cycle your bicycle,” said Inspector Padraig Sutton from the Roads Policing Unit in Limerick.

He was speaking on RTÉ’s News at One yesterday, and his comments were further reported on RTE.ie today.

Inspector Sutton was speaking as part of the communications around the Easter Bank Holiday Road Safety Enforcement Operation.

Another part of the communications for that operation included a list of “Notable top speeds detected in each speed zone” as follows:

  • 126km/h in a 50km/h zone on the Tonglee [Tonlegee] Road in Dublin 5
  • 104km/h in a 60km/h zone on the R238 at Buncrana, Co. Donegal
  • 124km/h in an 80km/h zone on the R458 at Kilcolgan, Co. Galway
  • 136km/h in a 100km/h on the N25 at Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford
  • 193km/h in a 120km/h zone on the M1 at Bellewstown, Co. Meath.

Now, it’s at this point some readers are thinking, “Well, maybe those speed limits are too low”.

Tonlegee Road in Dublin is a very urban road with a large number of driveways and junctions. It has shops and community facilities along it, including a creche, a primary care health centre. We don’t know for sure, but there’s a good chance that the speeding was likely at night when it’s less busy.

The road is a common design that is too wide, and that width encourages and enables speed. There are no cycle lanes on Tonlegee Road, so cycling is mixed with heavy traffic and fast-moving traffic.

For anybody cycling from around Coolock to Kilbarrack beyond, there are slim pickings in the choices of routes.

Meanwhile, the 60km/h zone on the R238 in Buncrana is a bit more of a mixed bag in design terms, having both wider and narrower sections — as pictured below, the more modern narrower section is further out at the 60km/h transition area. It’s not a road suited to be over 60km/h, and maybe with some redesign, it should be lower.

The higher recorded speeds in non-urban areas highlight where design features cannot be placed, more enforcement measures are needed.

As a side issue: How could you improve Tonlegee Road?

It could be narrowed, but that would force people cycling to act as mobile traffic calming on a long, busy road (or, more likely, push a lot of people to cycle on the footpaths). The council could try to squeeze in segregated cycle tracks on both sides of the road here, and that would act as traffic calming, but the cycle tracks would be too narrow.

A quick solution for this road is to add a two-way cycle path on one side of the road — this type of solution is being used not just in London or Paris but also in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Limerick City, and South Dublin. It makes a lot of sense for a road like this and the Kilbarrack Road which it joins into.

Dublin City Council seems to have an institutional, ideological view against two-way cycle paths, except for limited cases (alongside rivers or canals, etc), so, it’s worth saying why a two-way path along a road like this is a bit of a tradeoff but likely better than unidirectional cycle lanes: The roadway width is around 9m. If you cut the space for motor vehicles down to ~6m, ~3m for cycling (including kerb space), and there’s likely some grassed space that could be used without affecting the trees too much.

The two options are: (1) to split that space into two unidirectional cycle tracks with ~1.5m usable space, which is too narrow for many bikes, for social cycling, and for overtaking etc; and (2) a two-way path of ~3m and in most cases making it easier to design safer junctions.


  1. Just for info: you’ve mis-spelled Tonlegee Road in the above article.

    I grew up within a couple of KMs of Tonlegee Rd and I’ve cycled it innumerable times. There’s enough room to have segregated cycle lanes on both sides of the road. Part of the grass verges would need to be repurposed, but it could be done. Having just one double cycle-lane on one side of the road wouldn’t work because of the multitude of side roads that people would potentially need to access if they cycle along there.

    • orgot to say, thanks re the error in one of the spelling of the road.
      It would not be impossible to deliver bidirectional cycle paths. But, based on past projects, my guess is that the green space isn’t continuously there to provide the width without affecting the trees, and there’ll be a low tolerance for removing trees.

      When there are too many high-level demands in place already (be it ‘don’t affect motorists too much’ or keep costs low, etc), the issue is really underestimated. The goal of protecting the trees resulted in the just about ok-ish widths on the Royal Canal Greenway the council is building to be narrowed — there will be a lot people disappointed in the spaces for both cycling and walking. There’s an argument to say that both are so narrow they’d be better shared. 

      There could be crossings to the side roads on the opposite side, there’s not that many of them. The same issue exists for bidirectional cycle tracks at least in one direction of travel and it is something that needs more focus on.

  2. But don’t build a two way cycle lane and then completely stop it half way across a very busy and dangerous route- Merrion Road in DL. It should be illegal to built that regardless of whether it crosses two council borders.

  3. Are the Gardai suggesting that it is my fault for cycling on roads made dangerous for me by law-breaking drivers?

    E.g. as it happens, one of the most dangerous spots in Dublin is if cycling on the aforementioned Tonlegee Rd, heading east towards the coast. You need to be ultra-vigilant when u get to a left-turn at Blunden Drive. If the lights are green for you, they are black (meaning red) for oncoming cars turning to your left (meaning their right). But they turn left recklessly right on top of you. I have been missed by literally millimeters on dozens of occasions (especially after dark, when their headlights blind u also).

    Car drivers do precisely the same thing further up just beyond Kilbarrack Fire Station. Again, if u are heading straight ahead, they turn illegally right on top of you, before their time to turn ( to head up towards Donameade Shopping Centre).

    The Gardai should be critical of and be prosecuting such law-breaking drivers instead of law-abiding cyclists.

  4. The comments by Inspector Padraig Sutton display ignorance and lack of concern.

    If he had done the merest research on how to improve the safety of vulnerable road users he would not have made such a blundering utterance.

    Simply hindering car drivers’ ability to drive fast reduces the danger of bicycle users and pedestrians being seriously injured or killed on roads.

    I would draw up a list for Inspector Sutton but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he will reflect and do some research.

  5. The other benefit of the 2 way track on one side is that the cycle lane could be routed around the back of the bus stop rather than needing to divert around the bus like on Griffith Avenue and other places.

  6. They did new roads around Dublin Airport to facilitate the new runway. There was a perfect opportunity to put cycle lanes both ways along St. Margaret,s Road. This road is a busy road. It has become very dangerous with factories along that road that have attracted numerous forty foot trucks up and down that road.

  7. There is a cycle path out to the airport from Santry but it goes through numerous bus-stops and is very bumpy and irregular. Pedestrians use it, stand loitering in it, so I never use it. A waste of money…as it was clearly not designed by a cyclist.

  8. Yes, Tom Mc, that “cycle path” (stripe on the footpath at the Crowne Plaza Northwood Park Hotel entrance) has been discussed a few times on this site previously. Specifically Firstly, if going uphill towards Dub Airport bus passengers stand on cycle path pushing us out into bus lane. But by far worse is the v-dangerous down hill problem, at bus stop directly across the road. If coming downhill (at speed, naturally) away from the Airport, groups of people stand on the cycle path ‘behind’ the bus shelter.

  9. Few points: 1)M1 is not of relevance here as cyclists among a list of other road users are not allowed on motorways. 2) why don’t the authorities involve cycling clubs and others in the design of cycleways- any of the cyclists I spoke with say that the designs are inadequate.

    • Cycling clubs as in roadies are the very worst people to ask about safe cycling infrastructure. Most (I won’t say all) of them are just interested in cycling for recreation and sport and don’t give a fk about anything or anyone else.
      You need to get the ordinary (?) cyclists who ride their bikes to school, work, shopping and everything else too dirty and impure for roadies to be interested in.
      I belong in the ordinary category and apart from Cian and a few others, I have no idea of a club that represents me.

      • +1 on that. To the extent that I know of several leisure (sport) cyclists who go for the Sunday morning spin locally who think bike lanes are a waste of time and that drive the other 6.5 days of the week. They won’t even support bike parking in our development! “waste of money, sur no-one would use it…”
        They are equally as likely to speed through the pedestrian red lights to keep their pace up for the Strava stats. Add to that the fact that as a group, they seem to be a particular target of motorist ire as to have a people on bikes tarred with the one brush.
        So in answer to the earlier point – cycling clubs would be the last group I’d ask about designing bike paths or bike lanes.
        Just follow the experts in the field – Dutch and Danish local authorities etc.


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