Photo by Simon Auffret

Good sense seems to have prevailed.

As tweeted out by Green Party Councillor Ciaran Cuffe, chairperson of Dublin City Council’s transportation committee, a new option – Option 7 – has been published by the council for the Liffey Quay Cycle Route. (There’s a map of it below.)

The route is sensible for one overriding reason: it prioritises bus travel and cycling along Dublin’s north quays.

There is one flaw in the proposed plan, which we’ll dwell on below, but it is easily remedied – in fact, it may automatically rectify itself.

The Liffey cycle scheme forms a part of the comprehensive and well thought-out NTA Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan. But the Liffey quays are a contested space with a massive over-emphasis on space for private vehicles.

A series of options and sub-options for the cycle route have been tabled, with some of them controversially diverting the proposed primary route off the quays altogether.

The newly released Option 7 has already received widespread support, according to Irish Cycle, the news resource for cycling in Ireland, and well it might.

The idea of Dublin’s quays (or at least part of them … the southern quays remain largely untouched by the proposals), being dedicated to bus and bike potentially yields huge returns for the city. And at little actual risk in spite of much media palaver.

First let’s look at the bare numbers.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland publishes daily traffic counts, picked up by loop detectors around the national road network.

A single inbound lane of car traffic coming into the city centre seldom carries more than 600 cars per hour. (There are no loops around the quays area, but in a congested area like this, probably far less).

With a typical occupancy of 1.35 people per vehicle, that’s a paltry 800 people per hour maximum. Door shut for any car-park lobby group thinking of forming in the next week or so.

The city council has said that the Liffey Quay Cycle Route will carry anything up to 1,500 cyclists per hour. That’s good, but hopefully in time, without any real capacity limits, it will be much higher than this. I believe it will.

The Luas, operating on a 4-minute frequency, will carry up to 4,200 people per hour. Anyone with their face pressed up against the pane of a tram window on a wet Wednesday morning will agree with this.

Now for bus, the so-called “humble workhorse”, but really the backbone of our transport system.

Published SCATS signal data (quoted in the proceedings of the Irish Transport Research Network 2013) confirms that “at Trinity College there are almost 400 buses in both directions during the peak hour (08:00-09:00)” – this snapshot was taken before the Luas Cross-City diversion set in – and that “O’Connell Bridge has around the same, except with competing movements”.

In actual fact, up to 110 services are scheduled down the quays in the morning peak, which is down from 130 during the boom years. That’s a potentially massive 13,000 or more people being moved down the quays in one hour.

This indicates both the potential of the city-centre bus network and the importance of bus in providing mobility in Dublin.

I’d like to add – and it’s a subject for another day’s discussion – that these on-street bus capacities significantly outstrip those of any of the metro schemes being proposed for Dublin at the moment.

And that’s in a highly unplanned environment with very little priority, traffic management or design for public transport going on. The Liffey Quay Cycle Route, as well as providing good priority for cyclists, will change things for bus travellers and pedestrians too.

All this is possible while enhancing, not damaging, the city-centre economy. This is because of one important nugget of information.

The city council, in public presentations around the Liffey Quay Cycle Route, estimate that 30 to 40 percent of vehicles travelling down the quays are “through-trips”, i.e. not bound for the city centre at all. (It’s a pity so little of such technical information is actually published about this and other projects.)

By diverting these through-trips away from the city centre, suddenly it is possible to start designing for a different future.

The Liffey corridor is the first thing most people think of when asked to describe the city.  A calmed cycle and bus corridor along much of its length promises to connect hundreds of thousands of people, from the western towns of Blanchardstown, Lucan, Clondalkin, Tallaght and beyond, reliably and comfortably to the centre.

It will also create spaces for people to dwell in. Croppies Acre, the gates of which have recently been opened, are a testament to this. On a sunny day, people are now using this space exactly as they should be: to relax and enjoy.

Even though the new Option 7 does not extend the Croppies Acre park down to the quay-side, like in popular earlier options, the historic and simply landscaped space will be enhanced by reduced noise and speed levels, as well as improved access, air-quality and health.

The council should consider engaging with the National Museum of Ireland, and seeing if the two walls separating the Croppies Acre from the fabulous Collins Barracks museum complex can be removed. It would transform the area.

Finally, the slight problem mentioned earlier. Option 7 envisages that through-trips and city-bound trips will divert northwards onto Blackhall Place. In reality, few city-bound trips will do this.

Most of them will follow the (less well-emphasised) southbound route over Watling Street Bridge. Following Ushers Island, Oliver Bond Street and Cook Street, this takes many vehicles down to Christ Church and off to the southside. But it can also take trips back onto the quays.

For those travellers who do need to take their car into the city, with the new Liffey Quay Cycle Route in place, this new Option 7 will make things easier for them too.

David O’Connor lectures at DIT and co-runs the MSc in Transport and Mobility, a new multi-disciplinary programme in transport planning. Follow him on:

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  1. Great to get a fully cogent and brilliantly supported article, supplying the REAL data that will make the latest proposal for Liffey Cycle Route and the diversion of vehicular traffic, work for the City! David’s article will hopefully be a real eye opener for those drivers who bemoan these necessary and far reaching proposals! Dublin needs to catch up in transport terms with what other great cities around the globe are doing!

    Dublin Cycling Campaign are also fully supportive of this latest proposal and were instrumental in bringing it about – see Lets hope that Dublin City Councillors get behind it, and that the major city centre retailers voicing opposition to this latest plan realise that there is a better future, even with less cars!

  2. Thanks for your comments Colm and well done to the Cycling Campaign for tirelessly pushing for this. A step in the right direction.

  3. David really good piece with supportive rationale, this is what needs to be heard rather than one-sided and emotive arguments. When I travel into the city I don’t go near the Quays at all, for exactly the reasons you outline (congestion etc.) and follow a route along Brunswick St pretty much along the route proposed, which is much less congested and much more predictable in travel terms. Like it or not, Dublin can’t currently cope effectively with the volume of cars passing through and it will be worse once the Luas cross city opens. It’s a pity this rationale isn’t used more often, rather than the regular car-haters or bike-haters debates that occur. This is an inevitable future which would be made much easier if everyone worked together towards very beneficial change to come.

  4. Wonderful as it is to have figures quoted, this article FAILS to address a number of factors-firstly the quays are unfortunately the only natural through vehicular route in the city-that remains the case and has not been addressed by this article. Diverting traffic off the quays up Brunswick St goes against the fact that Brunswick St, or any of the secondary streets around the Smithfield,Blackhall Place area are not able to cope with high volumes of vehicular traffic and have a scale FAR better suited to use by cyclists and pedestrians.

    Diverting -and you note yourself-through traffic which is directional to the port, the airport or just through the city WILL cause grid lock in the secondary streets shown,which as stated previously are FAAAAARRRR better suited to pedestrians and cyclists. The quays are not, we dont live in Amsterdam or Uttrecht or whatever the hell other Dutch city that is the de jour green party wet dream of what a city is (they have a massively different scale of street to dublin, they firstly dont have quays of the scale on the Liffey,but minor paths beside little canals-and as this ultimately is what every egjit in planning seems to imagine the city as being going on any of the talks I’ve been to about the city, or hinted at in a number of articles-it isnt a good model to follow. Secondly wind loads along the quays are vast,it IS a wind tunnel, and without traffic on it, the fact it has very few if any natural stop routes on it, pavements that are too narrow etc,no trees (ironically bar in the places where they should not be cus they obstruct a vista, such as the four courts) it means they will be a pretty grim, pretty dead space. Cyclists are only passing through too, what evidence is there that they will add to the local economies of the quays? they may in the secondary areas that should be cycle lanes,but not on the quays)

    Also for all the facts and figures spouted off, what will be the added travel time or estimated effect of traffic volumes on these secondary streets like the smithfield, blackhall place and usher island, Bridge St areas be? how long will it now take to pass through the city assuming the volume of traffic in narrow streets, can you give the answer in hours? AND HOW LONG will it be if this silly stupid proposal goes through will it be until it is decided these secondary streets are too narrow and we have an old style street widening, like in High St or the Coombe -which lets be honest rapped these urban zones and communites in a way they have never recovered.

    This is a bad idea!

  5. I think you’re missing an important part of the picture in all of these proposals/counter-proposals regarding the Quays project j. Improved transport infrastructure will encourage current road users to use the services on offer. At present, the commute into the City Centre is an absolute nightmare as a result of the congestion on the roads. By improving the network, buses (public and private) will have reduced journey times, thus making public transport a more attractive option than it currently is.

    Also your comments regarding “Green Party wet dreams” are ridiculous. Many of the people involved in the development of these plans are determined to make Dublin a city that is a pleasure to live in and navigate through. At the moment walking/cycling along either quay in peak hours is a complete and utter ordeal and detrimental to your physical and mental health. Were this plan to go through, and I personally hope that it does, then it would be an important first step on our way toward a city that we as a country can be truly proud of.

  6. The poor (non-existent) city planning situation in the City Center that has been allowed to fester over the decades was bound to reach a head. Piling cars into the center of ANY city makes no sense. But the problem as per usual with Dublin planning is… what is the alternative? and why is there never an alternative ring road route planned for first? It’s always a cobbled together cart before the horse scramble, and easily avoided media maelstrom.

    BTW It’s never mentioned but I’m surprised there hasn’t been air pollution studies of the air quality in the city center – especially for the people standing daily in fumes at the Spike on a trumped up motorway island breathing it in willingly, or the five one way lanes (and not one cycle lane) of Westmoreland Street, which must trap air pollution massively.

  7. This makes no sense at all. This is traffic engineers without consideration of people…

    It creates additional congestion, for 3 blocks of cycles and bus lane? The north inner city will become a congested roundabout for people and cycle movements that do not follow the quays…not everyone comes in from the west. There are currently limited circular or ‘hopper’ services that could work on inner circles within the city. This feels like lipstick on a gerilla rather than proper attempts to create new routes within the city.
    Where are these 1500 cycles an hour coming from or going too?

    This does not consider the volume of traffic movements going north to south and south to north.
    Double the buses into town and let the cars filter off naturally – don’t just give them a circuitous route around.

    There would be uproar if this was suggested on the south side of the city…

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