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Sunday 22 September 2019

Bus Connects' dedicated lanes aim to boost safety for cyclists

Campaigners want bike option for more than just 'brave and experienced'

The biggest shake-up of Dublin’s bus network in decades is being planned
The biggest shake-up of Dublin’s bus network in decades is being planned
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The population is growing, and traffic jams and gridlock are on the increase.

Figures now show Dublin is the sixth most gridlocked city in Europe and drivers are spending an average of 45pc more time travelling in traffic than they should have to under more normal circumstances.

It is for this reason that the National Transport Authority (NTA) wants to introduce 230km of continuous bus lanes and 200km of dedicated cycle lanes in its ambitious €2bn plan.

The NTA says commuting to work by bicycle has increased 43pc since 2011, and the feeling is that if it is made safer, then more people will consider cycling as an option.

The controversial Bus Connects project aims to make bus travel a more efficient and attractive option, in the hope of persuading more drivers out of their cars and on to public transport.

The NTA wants to tip the balance of road use in the favour of sustainability, public transport, bicycles and walking, instead of private cars. But it's not as simple as it seems. Widening roads for bus and cycle lanes means cutting down trees and taking away a portion of some people's gardens.

While the plans published so far show lots of new cycle lanes, how will they work in practice, and will they make cycling safer?

Another question is whether Bus Connects is being planned alongside the proposed high-capacity, high-frequency Metro rail line, running from Swords to Charlemont.

Much of the Metro route will run underground, cutting journey times from Swords to the city centre to 25 minutes.

They are both ambitious and expensive projects. Do we need them both where one might suffice?

"You will always need a bus and safe cycling. Luas and Metro is a massive scale of works," said Gráinne Mackin from the NTA.

"People will always use buses and need to use buses. It's the most agile and responsive mode of transport, in that when new housing or industrial/commercial areas are built, you can add a bus route easily, whereas a Metro or Luas takes much longer planning. Metro stations can be 400 or 500 metres apart, too, whereas you can have bus stops at regular intervals so people don't have to walk too far to or from them."

Currently, 67pc of public transport journeys each day are made by bus. The NTA says that up to four times the number of commuters travel on bus than do on Luas, Dart or commuter rail.

If cycling is on the increase, do the Bus Connects plans work for that growing cohort? They are among the most vulnerable of road users - evidenced by the sad number that have been killed on the capital's roads in recent years.

"We are broadly supportive of Bus Connects. Of course, it's very early in the design process. There are details we could fix," spokesman of the Dublin Cycling Campaign Kevin Baker said.

The three key issues the cycling group wants to see addressed by the NTA in its plans are discontinuous cycle lanes, bus stops in the cycle lanes and shared space.

Discontinuous cycle lanes are when there are breaks in the lanes, and Mr Baker said the more continuity the better.

"To enable more than just the brave and experienced to cycle, the lanes need to be as safe as possible," he said.

Ideally, the cycling group wants to see the use of protected junctions, parking-protected cycle tracks, buffer spaces, priority over side roads, and bus stop bypasses.

Irish Independent

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