15 June, 2015

Improving cycling on the Liffey Quays

The Liffey Cycle Route is a 'must have' project for Dublin . It is strong on vision, and just like the Grand Canal Cycle Route it will attract increased numbers of cyclists once it is built. Currently cycles feel the squeeze at too many locations.

So why have I requested further information on the four options that were made available for consultation earlier this year? Let me explain. 

Four options were presented to the public as part of a non-statutory public consultation earlier this year. You can see them here. Actually they aren't that easy to see, as the detail drawings are large files that can take several minutes to download. What you can see though are images for each of the four options. As you can imagine most people went for the option showing a green park. The schemes could have been better presented, but that's not my main concern. I'll discuss the problems with the preferred route (Option 3) below.
1. It involves diverting buses and most traffic to the north of the Croppies' Acre Park. This involves running a ten metre-wide road through the mini park shown in the image above. This would effectively divide the park in front of the Aisling Hotel in two. It would also involve demolishing a large chunk of the red brick buildings that are part of the Civil Defence premises on Temple Street West. These have been used for homeless accommodation in recent winters and the buildings are of some merit in themselves. This small park will be bisected and become a busy road.

2.  All buses that currently use the north Quays will be diverted to Benburb Street and then on to a route just south of the Luas tracks as far East as Church Street. The problem is that there's an apartment block ('Smithfield Lofts') under construction (Ref. 2992/14) just west of Smithfield and this is a real obstacle to allowing this to go ahead. You can see a crane on site in this image. I'm not sure how this can be addressed other than by re-routing buses back down Queen Street. Incidentally Dublin Bus has expressed concern about their buses being re-routed from their current alignment.

3. This option also reroutes traffic around the larger Croppies' Acre park, effectively placing a two-lane 'chicane' in front of the Collins Barracks entrance at the eastern boundary to the park. The drawings show a wide curved road at this point. I'm sure this could be refined in detailed drawings, but for the moment it seems clumsy, not very-pedestrian friendly and more suited to cars than people..

4. The main advantage of the preferred option is that it takes vehicular traffic away from Wolfe Tone Quay leaving the cyclists with a pleasant quay-side cycle route. It also allows the park to stretch towards the quay walls. While this sounds good in principle I suspect that in practise it could be a bit intimidating to cyclists at night time.  No-one likes sharing road-space with lots of traffic but a few passing cars at night-time can increase passive security. I'm sure that the route would involve decent lighting, but the centre of the park is a long way from nearby homes. 

My preference if for Route 1 which places a two-way cycle route on the North Quays but doesn't divert vehicular traffic away from the river. At the narrowest point on Arran Quay a boardwalk (just like the one further downriver) may be required to facilitate pedestrian traffic and the narrow footpath on the right of this image would be removed and replaced by a three metre wide two-way cycle route.

None of the options presented to the public dealt with the mess of a junction that is Frank Sherwin Bridge. This is the road bridge closest to Heuston Station. Further work will be required to calm traffic and reduce the conflicts at this location for any of the four options.

At the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee which I chaired) on 10th June 2015 we agreed to note (NOT defer) the report. We also agreed to seek further information on all four options before we go through a formal Part VIII planning consultation. We're also going to arrange on on-site meeting to walk and cycle the route. We'll ask the Conservation officer,  the Parks Superintendent and the Planning Department for their views, and present the proposals to the Central Area Committee in July. That way when we meet again in September we'll be in a better position to decide on how best to pursue the project.