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Editor’s Note: We asked you which of three readers’ queries we should follow up on. You voted for us to look into how plans to redevelop the Royal Canal were going. Here’s what we found out.
A little over a year ago, Dublin City Council announced that the Royal Canal would get a spruce-up, with a new 7.1-kilometre pedestrian and cycle track.
While the canal paths are in decent shape past CrossGuns Bridge towards Ashtown, there’s considerably less space to manoeuvre further down towards Croke Park. By the time you hit Newcomen Bridge, there’s no access leading towards Sheriff Street.
With several disused sites dotted along the route, along with litter and overgrown vegetation, the canal really could do with some attention.
A Slow Start
Once finished, the Royal Canal stretch will complete the Dublin leg of a national cycle route that leads to Galway. But it is looking like it may be some time before cyclists and pedestrians can use the new greenway, which will stretch from Sheriff Street to Ashtown.
The public consultation was done and dusted in July 2015 and planning permission has been granted. Of the four phases of the Royal Canal project, one is finished and three are yet to be done.
The first was a cycle route of 400 metres from Guild Street to Sheriff Street Upper. That bit was actually already done before the plans for the project were drawn up, which then included it as Phase 1.
Phase 2 will stretch over 520 metres from Sheriff Street Upper to the North Strand Road. The plan is to include space along the route to accommodate a playground and a skate park.
Phase 3 is longer. It’s 2.1 kilometres, to be exact, and continues on from North Strand Road up to Phibsborough Road at CrossGuns Bridge. Under the plans, the route will be resurfaced and there will be a new access ramp at Croke Park.
Phase 4, from CrossGuns Bridge to Ashtown, will be even longer: 4.3 kilometres.
On Monday, I walked with Colm Ryder of the Dublin Cycling Campaign along the canal from CrossGuns Bridge down to Binns Bridge in Drumcondra.
He said there are a few things he’ll be keeping his eye on as the project progresses. For a start, there’s the width of cycle paths.
Two firms were hired to suggest the best width. Civil engineers ROD/Aecom suggested 4.5 metres. OSCS said that for Phase 4, after CrossGuns Bridge, it should be a 5 metres.
“These are the kinds of things that need to be ironed out,” says Ryder. “There’s got to be consistency.”
There’s also the question of whether there will be a new pedestrian bridge to cross the canal between CrossGuns Bridge and Binns Bridge.
“We feel there’s no need for that extra bridge,” he says. “It’s a cost that doesn’t need to be incurred, that we could actually facilitate a cycle trail all the way up on the north side, up as far as CrossGuns bridge and then work on the crossing, transfer the cycle track to the north side going west.”
As we make our way along the route, a heron glides to the opposite bank. The ducks suddenly scatter. Dog walkers amble along as a gaggle of lads dip behind a disused metal shed, out of sight.
There are already many pedestrians on the north side of the canal, says Ryder. Mixing bicycles with loads of people walking is a mistake, he thinks, and it could backfire if the design doesn’t make it comfortable for cyclists and pedestrians.
“People are using it, but not as widely as is likely to be in the future,” says Ryder. “Certainly below Binns Bridge, as you’re heading towards Croke Park, they’ll have to widen the paths.”
If the Royal Canal is to get this costly facelift, Ryder thinks it should be properly maintained and monitored. CCTV and passive policing only go so far, he says.
“This issue arose big-time in relation to the first major canal route that was built between Inchicore, along by Bluebell, out to Adamstown,” says Ryder. “There were huge antisocial issues.”
If the route is busy and maintained, this will limit any antisocial issues though, he said.
Although the next phase, which starts at Sheriff Street, has yet to get off the ground, the main point of contention is about how easy it will be for people to join the route at different points.
At the moment, the plan would see the removal of “kissing gates”, which slow down cyclists, and the other gates put in to stop vehicles from getting onto the greenway.
Ryder thinks that access onto the route from outside for cyclists and pedestrians is something the design and engineering teams must prioritise.
Dara Carroll of MCO, a project-management firm, said the group talked to locals in Sheriff Street and the area over several months. Among residents’ worries were access points from Oriel Street and Ferrymans Crossing, said Carroll.
Policing and antisocial behaviour, particularly at Bellmans Walk, which is often used as a dumping ground, were also raised.
It’s hard to gauge how these suggestions will impact on the final design.
The Next Step
It’s a grand plan that could give the Royal Canal the amenities it deserves. With increased surveillance, health centres and added landscaping, the old route would be transformed.
Later this year, the second phase will proceed to design stage, said Sara Morris at the National Transport Authority.
In 2017, they’ll put out a tender for the contract, and that segment is due to be done in 2018. But that depends on whether the funding is there, she says.
Phases 3 and 4 are also due to be designed in detail at some point this year, but it will be some time before works begin. And there’s no completion date yet.
Although funding has been allocated for the design process in 2016, the overall delivery of the revamp, says the NTA, is dependent on “budgetary constraints”.
The project is expected to cost between €10 million and €12 million.
Hi, I’m a daily cyclist in the city and all in favour of cycle lanes, but I’m also someone who walks our dog along the Canal from CrossGuns to Binns Bridge every evening. I think the addition of a dedicated cycle path along here simply will not work without having to remove much of the grass area currently there. I fear the cycle way will detract from the park like quality of this stretch. It’s very hard to see how this is a “greening” of the Canal between Drumcondra and Phisborough – quite the opposite in fact.
We really need people to think beyond their own local wants. Yes, perhaps an uptake in cycling along the canal will interfere with your evening jaunts with your dog, but by promoting cycling in general it will have multiple knock-on effects all over the city. So in the long-run, you may may have to be willing to share your evening walks with cyclists, but in return you get an overall more liveable city.
Look, think of it like this: what makes your walk along the canal pleasant? I’ll bet that it’s because it’s quiet. What’s the biggest negative impact on noise levels and safety in the city? Cars, trucks, lorries, motorbikes etc. So, instead of focusing on the bikes that might cause a slight decrease in you enjoyment of ONE side of the canal, how about focusing on how we can all tackle the much MUCH bigger problem the general liveablity of our whole city. Allowing access routes for bikes helps to achieve that ultimate aim.
I walk the canal every morning from cross guns to ashtown and cyclists speed along with no regard to people walking. It seems that cyclists rule on footpaths we pedestrians have to step aside for them they dont see traffic lights and on the canal beyond broombridge tgey come flying from under a bridge. Their behaviour takes the enjoyment out of my lovely peaceful walk. Please cyclists show some consideration for walkers afterall its a tow path not a race track.
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