Dublinâ€™s new Samuel Beckett bridge, which will form part of the governmentâ€™s â‚¬10m cross-city cycle route, has been described as â€œdangerous, unusable and unacceptableâ€ by a cycling lobby group.
The landmark â‚¬60m piece of infrastructure, which opened last week, is an integral part of a circuit that will link Rathmines and Fairview Park. When launching the 7km route in September, Noel Dempsey, the transport minister, said it would â€œopen up the cityâ€ to cyclists and show that â€œcycling can be safe for everyoneâ€.
However, the Dublin Cycling Campaign said after testing the course that the cycle lanes are of insufficient width and in some cases put cyclists in danger. The group also claims that many lanes stop without warning and much of the signage appears to be illegal.
â€œItâ€™s just not usable,â€ said James Leahy, who tested the route for the cycling body. â€œYou cannot use it safely or without breaking the law. This is meant to be a new flagship phase in cycle routes for the next generation, but in this case they have just repeated all the same mistakes of the past.â€
Mike McKillen, chairman of Cyclist.ie, an umbrella group for Irish cycling campaigns, said the design of the facilities suggests they were an afterthought. â€œI suspect that when the bridge was designed it had no cycle lanes, and then last year Dempsey gave the city council â‚¬10m for the cycle route across the city,â€ he said.
â€œAt that point it was too late. They couldnâ€™t make the bridge wider, so they just put lanes in willy nilly wherever they could find the space. It really makes us despair. The engineers in Dublin city council just donâ€™t get things right for cyclists.â€
Leahy claimed the cycle lane on the east side of the bridge leads directly into oncoming traffic. The one on the west side has a â€œa very narrow cycle track on the footpathâ€ which turns sharply on to the road, he added.
â€œThese particular instances are actually quite dangerous,â€ Leahy said. â€œIt would have been much better for the council not to draw out any cycle lanes and leave cyclists on the road.â€
In a number of instances, the council has erected signs directing cyclists on to the footpath, which Leahy believes may be against the law.
â€œIt is illegal to cycle on footpaths unless there is a designated cycle lane, and on one side of the bridge, thereâ€™s no cycle lane,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s meant to be a â€˜shared spaceâ€™ but that only works in an area where pedestrians and cyclists are taking their time. This is a commuter route where cyclists are likely to be going at high speed. This signage also is not in the Traffic Signs Regulations, so I would question its legality.â€
Leahy said that even if the design does not break the rules, it is still unsuitable for cyclists to be on the pavement. â€œWeâ€™re constantly hearing calls from pedestrian groups to get us off the path, and we agree,â€ he said. â€œFor elderly people itâ€™s disconcerting to have cyclists zipping past in a blur, and itâ€™s also been a big issue for the blind.â€
Fionnuala Murphy, communications officer for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, said the group is opposed to having cyclists on the pavement. â€œIf youâ€™re trying to navigate the city with a guide dog or a cane, it already takes a lot of concentration,â€ she said. â€œTrying to be aware of people flying past you at high speed just adds to the difficulty.â€
A spokesman for Dublin city council said there was no case of a cycle track leading into oncoming traffic on the bridge and that the sign indicating shared pedestrian and cycle use was â€œbeing incorporated within the new Traffic Signs Manualâ€. The plan had always been to have cycle lanes on the bridge, he added.
â€œWe would not accept the accuracy of all the points raised in relation to the bridge,â€ he said. â€œThe cycle lanes have been designed in accordance with accepted national standards.â€
Dempsey said he could not comment on the situation on the bridge but admitted there were substandard cycling facilities in urban areas. â€œOne of the reasons I published Irelandâ€™s first national cycle policy in April was because I recognised there were so many problems to be addressed before we could have a cycling culture,â€ he said.
Leahy and McKillen praised the principles set out in the policy, but said they were not in evidence on the bridge. â€œThe policy has a hierarchy of what facilities should be put in place, and the introduction of cycle lanes is right down the bottom of the list,â€ Leahy said.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article6962775.ece