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Cyclists have made 24 legal claims against Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) for accidents related to Luas Cross City tracks since construction started on the project, figures from the agency show.
In a 21 March response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for information about such legal claims, TII said it had not settled any of these claims.
However, more recently, on 29 March, a spokesperson for TII said three of the claims had been settled, and the remaining 21 were still open.
Of the settled claims, the spokesperson said, the body “has not paid any settlements for these claims”.
Construction of the Luas Cross City began in June 2013, and services started in December 2017.
Four of the incidents happened at College Green, according to a list provided by TII.
That’s a part of the city that cyclists have highlighted in the past as a dangerous to navigate.
Four others happened in that area, too – one at the intersection of College Street and Dame Street, one at the intersection of College Street and Pearse Street, one around Trinity College and Bank of Ireland, and one at Westmoreland Street.
There were also two incidents on Dawson Street, one on Townsend Street, and one much further south at the Cowper Luas stop.
The rest of the claims related to collisions on north-side tracks.
Four of the incidents were near Constitution Hill, while there were three claims for collisions on Parnell Street, two on O’Connell Street, and another at Parnell Square.
There was one incident at Marlborough Street and one at Broadstone, the figures show.
The Tracks, Still
According to the information released by TII, all of the legal claims were made between March 2014 and October 2017. It is unclear why TII received no claims after October 2017.
Sudden changes in road layout – particularly on College Green and O’Connell Street – during the construction of the Luas Cross City did create problems for cyclists, says Dr Paul Corcoran, chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign.
Literally overnight, roads changed, he says. “And people were forced onto the Luas lines in the morning with no warning. There were a few incidents like that.”
Corcoran says he doesn’t think things have gotten any safer for cyclists, though, since the Luas Cross City was completed.
Anecdotally, he knows of people who have stopped cycling through College Green altogether because of it – which limits travel options.
“You have to do a circuitous route to get to the south side of the city, if you’re coming from the north side,” he says.
Just three months ago, Mags Mulvey’s bike slipped on the Luas tracks at College Green, just outside TCD, on a drizzly day, she says.
She was waiting for traffic lights to change, and when they did, she got up on her bike to cycle across the tracks. She was going over them diagonally, and her tyres slipped.
“My wheel just flipped onto them, my handlebars went into my ribs … I fell right in front of the traffic lights,” she says. Some “amazing heroes” grabbed her off the road “because the traffic wasn’t stopping”.
They put her in an ambulance, and she went to St James’s Hospital. She had fractured front and back ribs, a chipped elbow, bruises on her face, and the sides of her legs were “bruised and banjaxed”.
Mulvey hasn’t made a legal claim. She’s a freelancer and was out of work for three months, she says.
She only just went back to work, but she hasn’t gotten back on her bike. “It’s definitely given me some sort of strange fear.”
A spokesperson for TII said, by email, that the Luas Cross City scheme “was undertaken by an experienced and competent team of professional technical staff”.
Design plans were reviewed by “TII’s internal technical experts and by the relevant technical sections within Dublin City Council”, they said.
The scheme went through road-safety audits, too, they said. (Where road-safety audits in 2015 and 2016 mentioned cyclists, they mostly just recommended signage.)
Since before the Luas line was put in, ideas for how to make awkward and dangerous places where cyclists meet tram tracks safer have been kicked around.
A 2012 report by engineering consultants Jacobs said that separate lanes for cyclists and trams are “universally preferred” and “bicycles must be integrated into tramway planning processes from the earliest stages”.
Corcoran of the Dublin Cycling Campaign says “that wasn’t done”.
A spokesperson for TII said its design consultants followed relevant guidance documents and that segregation is the “optimum and safest solution”, but “clearly this is not feasible in most city centre areas” where space is limited.
Later suggestions for safety improvements have included signposting alternative routes for cyclists, the unpopular “cyclists dismount” signs, and filling the tracks with rubber to prevent accidents.
In response to that last suggestion, NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said trials in Germany and Switzerland found the rubber fillings weren’t durable enough, and needed considerable maintenance.
When TII gets a claim, or a cyclist reports an incident, the agency undertakes a review to see if any improvements are needed, the spokesperson said.
“As stated above, the scope for significant changes are minimal,” they said.
TII is looking at putting in road markings called “sharrows” in places where tramways make it difficult for cyclists to negotiate, though, they said – naming College Green and Parnell Street.
Sharrows guide cyclists across tram tracks at the right place and at the right angle, they said. They’re also meant to “remind other road users of the possible presence of cyclists in the vicinity”.
Says Mulvey: “Traffic’s gotten mental, so I don’t know how [sharrows] would work that, especially when it comes to the green. It’s so squashed.”
“Road markings are better than nothing, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” she says.
Giving cyclists a “filter light” to allow them to cross junctions before the fast-moving traffic behind them would help, says Corcoran.
But he thinks sharrows will do “very little” to improve safety in places like College Green.
The problem with crossing the Luas lines here is not getting the right angle, it’s needing to slow down with fast-moving traffic behind you, he says. “They really have to go ahead with College Green Plaza to make that area safer.”