Irish cyclists urge government to halt scheme to turn hard shoulders into cycle lanes

Cyclist.ie says works under €4 million job creation scheme could make matters worse for cyclists

by Simon_MacMichael   August 25, 2011  

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Cyclists in the Republic of Ireland have asked the government to halt a €4 million programme of cycling and walking paths and instead address what they see as the more urgent issue of repairing existing rural roads and cycle paths.

The call to action has come from the national cycling lobby group, Cyclist.ie, which has also highlighted that it believes that money spent on cycling infrastructure in the past has often resulted in misguided, poorly-maintained facilities.

In a press release published on its website, Cyclist.ie Chairman, Dr Mike McKillen said: “The construction of roadside cycle facilities should cease until a proper framework is in place to ensure their appropriate design, construction, application and subsequent maintenance.”

Cyclist.ie also reinforced its earlier call for a “moratorium” on the installation of new cycling infrastructure in the country, including the planned conversion of hard shoulders in rural roads into cycle paths under a €4 million job creation initiative, saying that “the inappropriate use of cycle facilities can actually end up making cycling conditions worse, rather than better.”

Outlining its opinion that hard shoulders are actually preferable to the cycle lanes that would replace them “since they are effectively self cleaning and avoid false expectations of safety among the users,” Cyclist.ie calls the initiative “nothing more than a make-work scheme that simply ignores cyclists' real need for safer interaction between motorised vehicles and riders on our public roads".

It adds that it has “offered to provide the Government with a range of alternative schemes that would represent a better use of the Smarter Travel money.”

The government scheme was announced last month as part of a wider Jobs Initiative, should create 330 jobs, along with details of some of the works proposed, including cycle lanes and cycle parking in various towns in the country, as well as conversion of hard shoulder to cycle path on a 54 kilometre stretch of the R448 in Limerick and North Tipperary.

At the time, Alan Kelly, Minister for Public and Commuter Transport, said: “Based on the local authorities’ estimates, delivery of these projects will provide the equivalent of some 25 person-years employment.

“Given that all these projects – which are spread throughout the country – must be delivered before the end of the year, this will represent a real and tangible boost to local economies in 2011.

“The benefits from the projects will, however, extend well into the future,” he added.

“Depending on the particular project, among these benefits will be increased safety for children going to and from schools; a chance to take to the bike or to your feet for commuting, fun or regular exercise; opportunities to grow the local tourism product or, quite simply, nicer places in which to live.”

Responding to Cyclist.ie calls to suspend work, a spokesman for the Department of Transport, quoted in the Irish Times, said: “This investment recognises the overriding need for employment generation given the current economic situation and it is not solely for cycling projects.

“Acting on Cyclist.ie’s call in full would not only deny employment opportunities but also mean not progressing a large range of footpath and pedestrian-focused works… including safe crossings, improvements for people with disabilities [and] traffic calming projects.”

It added that Cyclist.ie would be likely to support other features of the initiative such as improved cycle parking and, presumably to head off any potential criticism of infrastructure not being fit for purpose, reminded local authorities to use the National Transport Authority’s online design manual, Cyclemanual.ie.
 

6 user comments

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hard shoulders are self-cleaning? What planet is that muppet on? Everyone know that's where the puncture fairy lives and it's best to avoid hard-shoulder cycle lanes like the A5 in England.

posted by a.jumper [613 posts]
25th August 2011 - 12:41

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Struggling to understand what he means about self-cleaning - I think he might be saying that, because they arent segregated, they get cleaned by the rain washing off the road, whereas if you put in a curb to segregate them then the water doesnt flow through... That obviously totally ignores the fact that the traffic on the road is what pushes all the debris and dirt out of the way - usually on to the hard shoulder, as a.jumper rightly points out!

Seems like someone complaining for the sake of being visible, rather than for a valid reason, to be honest - the plans seem very high level and dont seem to say how the lanes will be set up, whether they will be segregated or not etc.

posted by step-hent [620 posts]
25th August 2011 - 13:13

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I agree, I live in northern Ireland, Lurgan to be precise and our council has loads of cyclpaths that you could hardly ride a tractor over never mind a bike, they stop every couple of hundred yards for every junction, cars park on them and they're covered in glass, not exactly cycling friendly.

posted by Phaedrus [13 posts]
25th August 2011 - 13:34

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It is understandable to disbelieve the notion of hard shoulders being self-cleaning, but if you have driven much in the Republic you will understand why it is actually a sensible statement.

They are not "hard-shoulders" in the sense we understand them here, ie provided to permit broken down vehicles to clear the road. Over there, motorists still show a level of courtesy to each other which would be regarded as eccentric at least over here. When a driver sees someone aproaching him from behind at higher speed, he automatically pulls to the left to permit the overtaker to get past cleanly while he drives, at his full intended speed ie 40, 50 or so, on the "hard shoulder". I have done it myself many times, although it can sometimes be scary because overtakers are quite often slow to overtake, and hard shoulders have an irritating habit of ending suddenly without warning, before the guy has got safely past!

You can probably now see why a cyclist would demur at turning them into cycle lanes - they would give an entirely false sense of security to cyclists who might not anticipate that drivers will continue to behave as before, using the hard shoulders as a form of "crawler lane", but at higher speeds.

posted by Paul M [285 posts]
25th August 2011 - 16:26

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Converting hard shoulders is a waste of money, designated cycle lanes end up with far more debris on them, and they usually run in fits and starts, which means they are more suited for slow pedalling commuters than people out for exercise or fun.

Another problem is that you automatically loose the right of way at every turn off, as it is now if you are cycling along the main road and a car wants to take a left turn or join from the left, the cyclist has the right of way to continue straight on, barring a junction stop sign. Put in a cycle lane and the cyclist will loose this right of way and be expected/obliged to stop and check for traffic at each of these turns.

posted by martincashman [18 posts]
25th August 2011 - 16:37

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I think the important thing here is that they're challenging the wasting of money on supposedly cycle-friendly projects that always seem to end up as a useless waste of space. As many here point out, cycle lanes seem to begin and end seemingly at random and rarely offer any added safety.
The government does need to start managing this better and make sure that the money stops being wasted. More often than not it looks more like their trying to spend their alternative travel budget rather than make any real improvement. I would gladly swap all my towns crappy cycle lanes for a few filled in pot holes!

posted by roopy [18 posts]
27th August 2011 - 12:20

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