Two major roads, and a couple of smaller ones, spider off from Portobello Bridge, and it’s a spot where one collision and two near misses have been flagged on our cycle collision tracker map. All of the cyclists had slightly different stories.
Heading south over the bridge from Richmond Street South and north from Rathmines Road Lower, heavy traffic, including buses, crosses the bridge each day. Cyclists contend with vehicles heading onto the bridge from Grove Road, Canal Road, Charlemont Hall, and Richmond Row, and find themselves at a swollen junction with competing traffic flows.
Two of the three readers who marked near misses on our map said they almost had collided with cars turning near the bridge.
As one cyclist told it, a car “taking a left turn onto Portobello Bridge without indicating” caused him to hit the passenger door of the vehicle as he was coming alongside.
Cyclists turning onto the bridge are forced to slug slowly up onto it in order to gain any momentum, as the bridge itself is on a slope. The slope itself causes something of a blind spot, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic, which only complicates matters further.
Although cycle lanes are clearly defined running along each side of the canal, only one side of the bridge – the side going in the direction of Rathmines Road Lower – has a cycle lane at all, so cyclists on the other side, are squeezed near to the footpath. Some cyclists on Friday morning simply walked their bike over the bridge instead of risking it.
Another cyclist who wrote in recalled his experience while waiting at the traffic lights on the bridge heading north into the city. When the lights turned green “a driver, who was heading south on Richmond Street South attempted a quick turn right onto Richmond Row”. Had the driver not seen him “at the last second”, he says, “he would have ploughed straight into me”.
Mieke O’ Brien, who was heading down Grove Road on Tuesday morning, cycles that way towards Portobello Bridge each day for work. In the early mornings, she says, it’s navigable enough – but when traffic picks up, she dismounts and uses the pedestrian crossings. O’Brien hasn’t had any serious incidents yet, but due to the congested nature of the spot, she says she “doesn’t know why” and counts herself lucky.
The major roads leading off the bridge have also proved tricky for some cyclists. One cyclist wrote in to tell us that, while cycling his daughter to work up Rathmines Road Lower, they were “squeezed up against the kerb by a bus that overtook us and moved from right to left towards the kerb”.
Heading south on Rathmines Road Lower, the first bus stop on the left (where this incident occurred) is only a short distance past the bridge, meaning buses and cyclists are competing for the space running alongside the footpath.
It might help to relocate the bus stop further up Rathmines Road Lower, ensuring that larger vehicles such as buses are not forced to stop quite so soon after exiting the bridge.
Also, a clearly defined cycle lane on the bridge, heading north towards Richmond Street South, might urge motorists turning onto the bridge to proceed with more caution.
Brian Reddy often cycles near Portobello Bridge and it can be, he says, a scary spot for cyclists. Yet he praises the cycle lane which now runs up Richmond Street South after the bridge.
“It’s dangerous but I think it is getting better,” he says.
As a cyclist and health economist, Reddy thinks there’s still a lot to be done with this particular spot, but that by getting people cycling “you’re just saving lives, left, right and centre”.
He’d like to see more contraflow lanes in Dublin. “Little things like that are going to make a huge difference,” he said.
And O’Brien? She would like to see traffic lights at Canal Road, which she reaches from Grove Road, making it a little clearer when it’s safe to straddle the bridge.
This is the third story in our series zooming in on intersections where city cyclists have had collisions or near misses. If you’ve had – or nearly had – an accident, let us know by marking it on our cycle collision tracker map and filling in the questions. You can read about other intersections we’ve looked at here and here.