Big Slice of Walking and Cycling Grants to be Spent on Road Resurfacing

When the National Transport Agency (NTA) doled out €55 million in July to 11 councils to fund cycling and pedestrian projects, it gave them a November deadline to spend it.

The money was to be funnelled to projects that helped local authorities to manage traffic and reallocate road space to make travel safer, and make more room for pedestrians and cyclists.

The four Dublin councils got roughly half of the pot. Dublin City Council bagged €12 million.

While its projects do include some interventions targeted just at pedestrians and cyclists, critics have pointed to the big chunk that Dublin City Council is using to resurface roads.

Why there are so many road resurfacing projects is hard to understand, says Feljin Jose, a spokesperson for the Dublin Commuters Coalition. “I don’t see the point.”

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council didn’t respond to queries about why they had done this.

In the City

Of the €12 million that Dublin City Council got, it set aside €6.7 million for “carriageway resurfacing”. In other words, to resurface a lengthy list of roads across the city.

Those projects include “renewing” cycling infrastructure, according to a breakdown of the spend. But it’s unclear exactly what that means.

Jose says that some of the roads that are included in the budget don’t need resurfacing work.

“They have the Swords Road that runs just outside of the Omni [shopping centre]. I was walking down there the other day and it looks fine,” he says.

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said she thinks the approach is wrong. “I don’t think that resurfacing should qualify for walking and cycling spending.”

Other councillors said it made sense to them. “I wouldn’t disagree with what they are doing,” says Fianna Fáil Councillor Keith Connolly.

“To have a segregated cycleway is obviously great but if the roads need a repair it would benefit motorists, cyclists and sometimes pedestrians as well,” he said.

Dublin City Council didn’t respond to queries as to why it had spent so much on resurfacing roads, and how they selected which projects to include in the budget.

But a recent report to the council’s finance committee sets out the challenges that the council faces in funding road maintenance.

Dublin City Council is one of four local authorities that doesn’t get money from the Department of Transport to maintain and improve roads, the report from June says.

The council planned to spend €12.5 million on road repairs in 2020, it said, which would allow for repair of 14km of road, and 11km of footpaths. Dublin City Council’s road network is 1,239km.

The report said that 27km of the regional roads and 196km of local roads needed repair.

Just for Cycling and Walking

Other projects in the Dublin City Council area include €2.1 million to do up footpaths on streets across the city, and €600,000 to make pedestrian-crossing buttons contactless.

Cycling projects include plans for a new segregated cycle track at Griffith Avenue for €250,000.

Cycle tracks at Westland Row, Nassau Street and on the Howth Road, are set to be resurfaced, too.

There’s also €100,000 listed for bike bunkers around the city to provide safer bike parking.

It also includes €250,000 for village improvements at Sandymount Green, a long-awaited project that threatened to suck up all the local area funding in that part of the city.

But despite those more targeted interventions, Jose of the Dublin Commuter Coalition says that Dublin City Council’s approach is poor when compared with that of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

(Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council got €9 million. Meanwhile, Fingal County Council got €3.9 million and South Dublin County Council got €2.4 million.)

“All of their stuff is very progressive, generally,” said Jose, of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is spending €3.5 million of its €9 million allocation to create segregated cycle lanes. Segregated cycle lanes are planned for Kill Lane, Clonkeen Road and Enniskerry Road.

It also used €500,000 to prioritise cyclists at some junctions by removing left-turn traffic lanes.

The most expensive project is for a protected lane divider for cycle paths on Glenageary Road Upper at €680,000.

Jose questions the quality of some of the Dublin City Council schemes, too: “The Griffith Avenue cycle route itself looked fantastic but now the plans have come out and it is really not that great.”

Plans show car parking next to strips of cycle lane, so people would open their car doors onto the cycle lane, he says.

Designs for this cycle route have yet to be finalised. Public consultation for the project ended on 5 October.

How to Spend It

Green Party’s Horner says there should have been more opportunity to suggest ways the money should be spent – and more detail aired, now, about how it is being spent.

Council officials told her they’re considering building segregated cycle lanes at some of the road resurfacing projects, she says. But that was only after asking.

Documents only mention “”cycle infrastructure renewal” with the road resurfacing, but doesn’t spell out what that means. “That’s not transparent and it is not in the public domain,” she says.

Councillors weren’t involved in suggesting projects, she says. “And that is something that I am frustrated about as well.”

Horner wants more signage for cyclists, more tactile paving, and raised curbs at bus stops for people with disabilities, she says.

“If you look at that spreadsheet and compare it to the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and see what they have put in by way of detail, it is much more significant,” says Horner.

Last year Horner was told by the council that they could not repair footpaths around Arbour Hill because cobblestones had to be taken up in the process which would cost more money.

That project wasn’t included, Horner says. “This was an opportunity for us to look back on projects that we have not delivered on because of a lack of funds.”

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Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers transport, and the southside. To get in contact with him, you can email him on [email protected]

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