Getting deliveries has been tough recently, said Assad Malik, a till operator from Star Asia Foods on Parnell Street, on a recent Thursday.
The store doesn’t have a back alleyway or entrance, so all deliveries come through the front door, he says.
A cycle lane went in last summer, under the council’s Covid Mobility Measures, which aimed to roll out more walking and cycling facilities in the city centre.
Now they get parking tickets when they unload deliveries, says Malik. “We need some sort of loading bay where people can park.”
Difficulties for businesses in reorganising how they get their deliveries after the introduction of new cycle lanes has become a bit of a flashpoint for conflict, at locations around the city like the South Circular Road, Parnell Street, and Manor Street.
Ray McAdam, a Fine Gael councillor, says the council needs to be swifter in dealing with the conflict between deliveries and cycle lanes where there is not an obvious solution.
“There does appear to be a genuine issue there. There’s no alternative to how they receive their deliveries, well then there is a need for the city council to be willing to engage,” he says.
Dublin City Council did not respond to queries sent Friday as to whether they have spoken to Star Asia Foods about the delivery issues with the cycle lane.
When and What to Ask
Cat O’Driscoll, a Social Democrats councillor, says the council doesn’t usually put in cycle lanes without contacting locals.
However, McAdam says there wasn’t consultation with businesses when cycle lanes were installed last year as part of Covid Mobility measures .
“There is a need for local authorities to engage with businesses where there are potential issues,” he says.
Malik says he’s contacted the council about the cycle lane in front of Star Asia Foods, but they haven’t responded.
Says Joe Costello, a Labour councillor: “Unless someone comes through a councillor, there normally isn’t any consultation between DCC and the various businesses.”
McAdam says the council needs to work with businesses to come to solutions when issues with new infrastructure arise. “I would be very disappointed if the city council has not engaged or has not been willing to come up with even a temporary solution.”
However, there’s a possibility that with too much consultation, there could be unnecessary resistance to safe cycle lanes, he says.
Úna Morrison, spokesperson for the Dublin Cycling Campaign, says the problem with consulting on stuff, is that people always want the status quo.
“It needs a bit of bravery, a trial for a couple of weeks, and see what works,” she says. “Let’s adapt, rather than wondering about something in theory.”
“Cycling is one of the easiest ways to decarbonize transport,” she says.
In 2020, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council installed new cycle lanes, pedestrianisation and one-way vehicle routing on Blackrock’s Main Street.
According to a study by Technological University Dublin, these changes were popular. Survey responses from 72 business owners and employees in the area found that 71.8 percent thought the changes had been positive.
Some 37.5 percent of respondents said the changes had been helpful to their business, and another 37.5 percent said they were neutra.
The remaining 25 percent said the changes were unhelpful. Difficulties with deliveries was one of the reasons they gave.
Before, delivery vans parked ad hoc on the street, says the study. As part of the changes, two new delivery bays were added at the end of main street, it says.
“Short-term set-down and delivery areas should be considered as part of any major road space reallocation system, as well as hybrid car-parking bays that double as additional loading bays before 10/11am, for example,” it says.
Are Loading Bays a Solution?
Outside Star Asia Foods, Malik stands on the footpath, near the two lanes of traffic and a cycle lane running west. The cycle lane is flanked by a row of bollards on either side. It’s not directly beside the curb of the footpath - there’s road space between the curb and the bollards.
“That second row of bollards is actually to designate a difference between pedestrian use and cycling use,” says O’Driscoll, the Social Democrats councillor. “The engineers have to have a reason to put in that second row of bollards.”
Star Asia Foods’ delivery drivers now park on the double-yellow-lined footpath a few metres from the shop, where the bollards end. They’re getting tickets for that, said Malik, pointing.
“We need a small space to park,” Malik says. “Gardas are stopping them saying they can’t park there. If we had a loading bay, then they could park and go.”
As Malik sees it, the best solution is to remove the second lane of bollards, and make a space across the cycle lane to allow delivery trucks to drive in and out, without parking in the cycle lane or removing it altogether. “They can park, deliver and go.”
Star Asia Foods is a big shop with lots of products – from fresh produce, to tinned food, to bulk bags of rice, so Malik says they need a place close by to haul the boxes in
Really they need the loading bay in front of the shop, he says. “It’s heavy, heavy things. All the boxes average more than 15–20 kilos a box. We get like 20–30 boxes.”
Costello, the Labour councillor, says this issue was raised on Manor Street in Stoneybatter. So, the council installed a loading bay.
Morrison, of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, says loading bays should be considered as a solution on Parnell Street. “Can they go around the corner?”
McAdam says temporarily, the cycle bollards on Parnell Street could be replaced by shorter stubbed bollards, which delivery vans can easily drive over.
But this isn’t safe for cyclists, he says, so the council will need to find a more permanent solution.
Next Moves on Deliveries
The council is going to have to look harder at the idea of delivery hubs, says McAdam, the Fine Gael councillor.
The council’s development plan, the planning rulebook for the city, will include provisions for delivery hubs, he says.
“There’s talk or there’s discussion in respect of a number of motions that went in, that we would create provision for delivery hubs in the public realm,” he says.
Back in 2017 the council ran a pilot project with UPS, setting up a delivery hub on Wolfe Tone Square where bicycle couriers could take over city-centre deliveries for trucks and vans. The next year, councillors voted through bye-laws allowing for more such delivery hubs.
At the moment, there are two delivery hubs (UPS eco-hubs) in the city centre – one at Loftus Lane, and one at Leinster Lane, says Luke Binns, project coordinator for Smart Dublin.
“The council is always looking to ways it can support sustainable deliveries and we will seek to facilitate the delivery hubs model going forwards,” he says.
McAdam says he’s not sure why more delivery hubs haven’t been put in. Tucked away corners, or large areas of unused footpath space around the city are perfect for them, he says.
“The trial has proven to be successful,” he says. “Where else in the city can this be done?”
The council used to have a deliveries working group, but Covid Mobility measures took over that work, says Binns. The deliveries working group will resume in early 2022.
Although the council has not yet responded to a query on whether Star Asia Foods could use the delivery hub on Loftus Lane, Malik says he doesn’t think it would work for them anyway.
He does think it might work for small deliveries. But for big deliveries – bags of heavy dried produce and liquids – he’s sceptical.
“We get, like, bulks of stuff so it would be impossible on a bike. It’s a big store, you can see lots of products. Bikes won’t be possible,” he says.