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Saturday 22 September 2018

Paul Melia - Five years on and €360,000 spent, cycle plan in limbo

Cycling numbers have grown since the project was first proposed in 2012. Stock Image: GETTY
Cycling numbers have grown since the project was first proposed in 2012. Stock Image: GETTY
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

More than five years after first being mooted, and following endless deliberation and discussion, it's back to the drawing board for the Liffey Cycleway.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is to seek consultants to review existing options and suggest new routes for a 6km cycle path along the River Liffey, designed to cater for the upsurge in cyclists arriving into the city.

It's a disastrous reflection on both councillors and city management that despite spending €360,000 on the project to date, and engaging in endless discussions around eight possible routes, that nothing has happened. It compares with the relative speed with which traffic restrictions around O'Connell Street were introduced earlier this year.

Cycling numbers have grown since the project was first proposed in 2012 - from 8,000 then to some 12,000 last year. Nothing has happened to cater for that 50pc rise.

Suggested routes between Heuston Station and the Point Depot included a two-way cycle path along the north quays; construction of a boardwalk over the river, paths on the north and south quays, diverting cyclists to Benburb Street, moving the Croppy Acre Park and diverting cars from a stretch of the quays onto adjoining streets. All were rejected.

Among the concerns cited included the affect that developing a boardwalk along the river would have on protected structures, and the fact that cyclists would have to move from a dedicated cycle lane back onto the open road. There were safety concerns about cyclists travelling along Luas tracks.

Having one lane on the north and another on the south quays was considered bad practice. The motoring lobby baulked at losing road space, and city centre residents felt their quiet streets would be inundated with cars if the cycleway went ahead.

The chair of the council's Transportation Committee, Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe, said the project was bedevilled by scaremongering and a lack of meaningful consultation. "The space in the city is limited, and to make way for one form of transport we have to remove another. That's at the heart of the problem. There's a lot of scaremongering. I think we need to consult better, and listen to community voices."

He said traffic calming, tree planting and pedestrian crossings could be used to reduce the affect of cars on quieter streets, and the numbers could be contained using traffic signals. There's also a case, he says, to introduce a 'stop start' system on the quays, allowing buses to enter for two minutes at a time, then cars.

But it all points to a dysfunctional city council, which cannot make up its mind about something which should be relatively straightforward. There were objections to all options. How can councillors justify their positions?

If there are objections to whatever is proposed by the NTA, it's probably the end of the scheme.

This mess points to a failure of local government, that something which could be so good for the city is bogged down in procrastination and local politics of the worst kind.

Irish Independent

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