A Post About Fishes, Bulls & Buses

According to the National Cycle Manual, there are 7 link types to choose from when planning new cycle infrastructure;

  1. Mixed/Shared Street
  2. Standard Cycle Lanes
  3. Cycling and Bus Lanes
  4. Standard Cycle Tracks
  5. Contra Flow Cycle Lanes and Tracks
  6. Cycle Trails
  7. Cycle Ways

Number 3 on that list has always amused me. The guidance from the manual is also quite entertaining:

There are two options for cycling with buses. Cyclists can cycle with the buses in the bus lane, or a Mandatory Cycle Lane can be provided alongside the bus lane. Advisory Cycle Lanes with a bus lane are not recommended other than in the vicinity of bus stops.

Cycling with the buses. Sounds like it could have been lifted from The Godfather. Where’s Luca Brasi? “He sleeps with the fishes“. Perhaps it could be adopted by local criminals when they want to send a message to their enemies – they could deliver a Corgi bus wrapped in a high-vis jacket. “Where’s <insert name>? He cycles with the buses”

bulls-of-pamplona
The Bulls of Pamplona

It could also just be an adrenaline rush. If you fancy cycling with buses you could try running with the bulls in Pamplona sometime. Conceptually, they are not that dissimilar. I have run with the bulls in Pamplona on more than one occasion and even though it was great fun, it never really struck me as ‘safe’ and not something I would encourage anyone to do if they were somewhat risk averse. The typical bull running through the streets of Pamplona weighs between 500kg and 600kg. A typical bus, with no passengers inside, will weigh anything from 15,000kg to 20,000kg. Buses can also travel at speeds in excess of 60kmh. With that in mind, why would anyone want to cycle with a bus and what urban street designer thinks this is an acceptable design solution to any problem? The typical, and only, argument for this type of link is that there is not enough room to cater for dedicated bus and cycle lanes so they need to share the same space. I don’t believe a lack of space is a good enough reason to put people in mortal danger but obviously not everyone agrees with that.

When designers and engineers slavishly follow their road design manuals, we end up with cyclists and buses sharing the same lane but policy 2.11 of the National Cycle Policy manual states;

We will provide support to carrying out “new experiments” in road design, traffic management and use of space in urban areas.

Unfortunately, Limerick CCC has never shown any interest in experimenting with road layouts.

shared-cycle-bus-lane-1
Ballinacurra Rd. 1 ‘shared’ bike & bus lane, 2 private vehicle lanes, 1 private vehicle parking lane, 0 dedicated bike lanes
shared-cycle-bus-lane-2
Dublin Rd. Castletroy. 1 ‘shared’ bike & bus lane, 2 private vehicle lanes, 0 dedicated bike lanes
shared-cycle-bus-lane-3
Ballysimon Rd. 1 ‘shared’ bike & bus lane, 2 private vehicle lanes, 1 private vehicle parking lane, 0 dedicated bike lanes

Commuter travel in Limerick follows a pretty simple pattern – it mostly heads towards the city centre in the morning (AM) and away from the city centre in the afternoon (PM). On a number of routes in and out of the city, the council have created road layouts that have two motor traffic lanes and one single direction ‘shared’ bus and cycle lane. If there is space, an additional lane is used for parking. Already you can see who is being prioritised with this layout – motor traffic. The bus lane is usually heading in the direction of the city centre so while it may offer some advantage to bus users in the morning, it offers none in the evening rush hour(s). As for the cyclists sharing the bus lane with 20 tonne vehicles, God help them.

The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets outlines the user hierarchy that promotes and prioritises sustainable forms of transportation;

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Public Transport
  4. Private Motor Vehicles

If we are going to accommodate all these modes of transport, we will have to ‘think outside the box’ (sometimes inane management speak is unavoidable, sorry). My redesigned road layout below gives pedestrians and cyclists safe and uninterrupted travel routes. If we only have space left for 3 lanes to fit buses and cars, why not put buses in the middle lane? The direction of travel in the bus lane could be split between AM (towards city centre) and PM (away from city centre). Now it could be argued that private motor traffic is being prioritised over public transport in this layout but I cannot see an alternative unless you remove cars completely which is not practical at this point in time.

shared-bus-cycle-lane-proposal
A design proposal that tries to improve public transport and remove cyclists from mortal danger

On street parking has been removed to allow for wider footpaths. I am also making the assumption that motor traffic will be significantly lighter travelling against the ‘rush hour’ traffic so public transport can share the same lane as private motor traffic during this time period. This grants buses the use of a bus lane during both morning and evening time when traffic volumes are greatest. And finally, cyclists are no longer required to risk their lives by being asked to cycle with the buses. This updated design offers cyclists a safe and uninterrupted travel route 24 hours a day. Are there legal reasons why something like this can’t be done? I have no idea, but it’s up to the council to be original and experiment with new ideas so that solutions are found to our abysmal and dangerous urban transport infrastructure.

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