In Ireland, it seems to be accepted now that we need segregated cycle lanes if we want to enable people to cycle more in urban areas which is a positive step – I suppose. My only problem with this constantly repeated message is that it has become the only message – segregated cycle lanes, segregated cycle lanes, segregated cycle lanes. What’s wrong with that I hear you say? Well the first thing is that segregating cycle traffic from motor traffic is only necessary where motor traffic volumes and/or speeds are high enough to make cycling unsafe. The second thing is that road space needs to be taken from motor traffic and given over to cycle traffic in order to facilitate segregation. Despite all the positive talk about the need to enable more cycling, the thought of taking any space from motor traffic fills local authorities and politicians with absolute fear so the building of any segregated cycle lane will take time. A long time. Just look at Fitzwilliam Square and the Liffey Cycle Route in Dublin as prime examples of how long these delays can be. So what can we do while we wait for local authorities to build segregated cycle lanes? Well the first thing we should and could do quite easily is connect neighbourhoods.
Take this example in Raheen. There are a number of housing estates bounded by 3 link roads – Fr. Russell Road to the north, St. Nessan’s Road to the east and the R510 to the west. All three roads have a 50kph speed limit. There is no cycle infrastructure on any of these roads apart from a single outbound, low cost, poor quality, unsafe, painted cycle lane on St. Nessan’s Road.
On this triangular route, there are a number of popular destinations such as University Hospital Limerick, Raheen Industrial Estate, schools, shops, restaurants, etc. Unfortunately, the road network within this triangle and these estates was designed primarily for motor traffic so access to many of these destinations is prohibitive by bike.
Each estate has a single access point for motor and cycle traffic. There is limited pedestrian permeability between some of the estates but due to the distances involved, many will find the convenience and comfort of the motor car too difficult to resist for local trips. There is no advantage to choosing a bicycle over a car as the distance is the same. The other problem is that nearly all these destinations are located at the far side of the roads bounding the triangle so busy crossings have to be negotiated which again will make the car feel like a safer option for many.
The illustrations below show the extent of each neighbourhood’s cycleable network. The good thing about these neighbourhoods is that there are no through roads so they have very low motor traffic volumes and speeds.
There are a number of formal and informal pedestrian links between some of the neighbourhoods. These could be easily modified to allow cycle traffic connect from one neighbourhood network to the next.
There are also a number of dead-ends which could be modified to connect neighbourhoods that are currently isolated from each other, despite living next to each other.
So with a few modifications at key access points, we could quickly transform 5 disconnected neighbourhoods into a single safe connected mini cycle network.
By connecting these neighbourhoods through filtered permeability, we enable people to criss-cross this area quickly and safely by bike. We do of course need to build segregated cycle lanes on the three roads bounding these neighbourhoods but while we’re waiting for that to happen, which could take years, we should take steps now that will have to be taken anyway, even if segregated cycle lanes are delivered at some point in the future. And this is just one example – there are many more around the city I’m sure which I hope to cover in the coming months/years!