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Cycle lane branded a "s*** show" by local politician furious at reduced width of road

The width of the infrastructure is, Cllr Slattery claims, causing "chaos" and the road should be widened to ease "traffic delays"...

A segregated cycle lane in Limerick in Ireland has come under fire from a local councillor who called it a "shit show" and accused the segregated two-way infrastructure of causing "chaos" on the road that was narrowed to make way for it.

Councillor Catherine Slattery blamed the lane for traffic delays but the Limerick Urban Cycling Group has defended it, calling the road a "primary route for cycling that needs to be completed".

Cllr Slattery, a local politician for Fianna Fáil, encouraged residents to contact the active travel department with their complaints and said "we cannot put up with this traffic chaos any longer".

The cycle lane, segregated on one side of the route, was constructed by narrowing the previous two-lane road and is a link into a wider cycle network within the city.

Childers Road, Limerick, June 2018
Childers Road, Limerick, April 2022

However, IrishCycle.Com spotted Cllr Slattery's complaints last week as she called for the cycle lane to be "removed or reduced" and, she suggested, if not then a "section of footpath" should make way for the traffic lanes to be widened.

The comments came after the councillor had been "held up" behind a broken down car on the road, leaving "nowhere to pull in" and "cars cannot go around".

"Childers Road cycle lane [is] a shit show," she wrote. "We need something to be done we cannot put up with this traffic chaos any longer. I have contacted Active Travel. Maybe you should too.

"Something really needs to be done with the above. A car broke down this evening and the traffic was held up behind it, it's crazy that there is nowhere to pull in and cars cannot go around as there is traffic coming towards you. A mistake was made on designing this cycle lane and it needs to be rectified.

"I use this road a few times a day and no one uses the cycle lane. Can it be removed or reduced? If not can a section of footpath be used to move the cycle lane in and widen the road? It's chaos most days with traffic delays."

 In response to the above question from the Limerick Urban Cycling Group, Cllr Slattery replied: "Yes and I stand by what I say it has not been designed right and needs to be relooked at. I'm not against cycle lanes but if they are going to be done then do them right and do not try to shame me for having an opinion — I'm entitled to it."

Others joined the cycling campaign group in reporting positive experiences with the lane on Childers Road...

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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16 comments

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Shades | 1 year ago
2 likes

Looks like a good bike lane on a busy straight road that must have previously been risky to cycle on.  We've got some bike infrastructure going in and people against it are screaming their heads off on the Nextdoor ranting app.  I decided to engage (fool me), to make a point from a cyclists perspective, on a particular junction that had changed to slow traffic down.  It's like dealing with drug addicts; any reason to not have the bike infrastructure just to maintain the road as-is.  The justifications are always thinly-veiled and I wish they'd just say "I hate bikes and scooters; they shouldn't be on the road and I want to drive unrestricted and unhindered anywhere I like".  Even when there are jams they'll try and blame other people rather than admiting that some of them should realy make an effort to look for an alternative mode of transport.  If you ask them for a solution then trams are usually wheeled out; good luck with the funding and building of that.  Anyway, even if there were trams, they'd just get in their car.  The days of asking people politely to seek alternatives to the car, just some of the time, are long gone.

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chrisonabike replied to Shades | 1 year ago
1 like

The "addiction" metaphor is actually quite accurate, if not pushed too far.  Even the "how this all began" - everyone else was doing cars so I did too.  My parents got me my first car.  Cars seemed so intoxicating when I started, but now they're just really expensive and I don't even enjoy driving.

Shades wrote:

The days of asking people politely to seek alternatives to the car, just some of the time, are long gone.

They ought to be.  Unfortunately they are very much still here.  (As I discovered when browsing the outraged responses to the Covid-era smattering of additional footway area / wands and armadillos in Edinburgh).  It's not even the end of the beginning I think, never mind the beginning of the end.  So it'll be a fight every time.  With people who're horrified that "you're taking something away from me / getting in my way / stopping me living my life".  With those desperate for their next hit of automobility or in hard withdrawal from mass motoring.

Plus "cycling" is competing with other, often more profitable (for a few) alternatives e.g. e-cars, e-scooters, whatever e-lonmusk or his ilk cooks up next...

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leedorney | 1 year ago
5 likes

She's representative of that area, some sales job she's done of that 😁

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
11 likes

Basing your opinion of something on one incident where you have been personally inconvenienced is probably not a good method of assessing the value of anything.

Still, it's good to see this councillor presenting the very definition of "windscreen perspective" and the complete ignorance, wilfull or otherwise, about what the scheme does and who it does it for.  It must have had to go through many reviews, checks and analyses before it went in, and the councillor had plenty of time to make her views known at those stages; too late now.

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brooksby | 1 year ago
18 likes

I remember reading somewhere (sorry, can't provide a citation) that narrowing the main carriageway is actually a good way of controlling motor traffic. If a road is spacious enough then it doesn't really matter what speed limit you post on it: people will see a big wide road and drive faster because they think they can.

Broken down cars are a complete straw man: what happened before, because it doesn't look like the road was ever wide enough for a car to be parked up and two lanes of traffic still able to pass; you'd always have had to wait for a gap in oncoming traffic so as to overtake. Unless the real issue is that it's harder for someone to dump their car on the footway now?

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
0 likes

Like many of these arguments the "broken down car" / "emergency vehicle" argument isn't a complete straw man, I'd say.  Simply because it's a reality that even if some government enacted "make it the same as they do it in NL right now" legislation with funding to boot it would still be many years of changing everything.  Which includes "lots of traffic" in the mean time.  There are some other ways of addressing that of course but those also require "change".

I've just browsed some random Dutch roads which appear to be a similar class.  What's immediately apparent is a) lanes are narrower b) there is no "just pull off onto the footway / cycleway".  If roads need that treatment then there is (by law I think) some distance between carriageway and cycleway.  So here's our Irish example - it looks like a sort of "inner ring road" where development has grown out beyond it?

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.6494322,-8.6134031,3a,75y,240.35h,82.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTH2Ly3qh2sFPI9-TowYqoA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Dutch examples where lots of vehicles are expected all appear to be dualled with a median e.g. here:

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.0813014,5.0903694,3a,75y,147.95h,79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sCmypfidmB9IqlqQhpUgaAQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

So in the Dutch case if the road had this much traffic on it I imagine they either to dual it (with fully separated directions) or address "why is there so much traffic here in an urban location"?  And they certainly wouldn't just tack a 2 way cycle path on with minimum separation. 

Maybe another way of looking at our road would be a rural distributor?  I think the Irish example has too much traffic for that but let's see.  In NL these are very often single fairly narrow lane in both directions.  Note: there is no "overtaking"!  That's normally marked either by a "no go zone" in paint or some actual kerb / other divider.  Also note - no "hard shoulder" / "passing place" and no immediately adjacent footway. Again I suspect traffic is not meant to be as heavy on these - so you would presumably slow right down and then - very carefully - drive round a stopped vehicle.

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.2205208,4.9658244,3a,75y,292.22h,76.27t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sA5QhLlCteSU1rEQPvXRd-Q!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

This one - there are barriers physically stopping you e.g. pulling off the road!

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.6016564,5.3719289,3a,75y,247.05h,81.88t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1skDIjVYYPOWu5WCEG1bhE6w!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

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levestane | 1 year ago
11 likes

Maybe Cllr Slattery could cycle?

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eburtthebike replied to levestane | 1 year ago
0 likes

levestane wrote:

Maybe Cllr Slattery could cycle?

Maybe not.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

levestane wrote:

Maybe Cllr Slattery could cycle?

Maybe not.

We definitely want as many assholes to get out from behind a windscreen and get onto a bike. There's so much less damage they can do and maybe the exercise and blood flow to the brain will help them with their lack of thinking.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

Won't you think of the pedestrians!  Not this particular individual but in general if people are prepared to be so entitled / RLJ / close pass people in a car imagine the horrors they'd cause on a bike!

Also instead of becoming another statistic in the War on the Motorist by Other Motorists, Houses and Other Static Objects they might live longer.

I have no knowledge of the area but it looks from Streetview that this section of road is a fairly typical UK urban-mini-motorway-by-fiat.  The sensible ways to address that would be either: a) an area-wide complete traffic re-plan e.g. send most traffic out to the real ring road and traffic wanting access further along would then come back in again on the next major radial road. OR b) accept there is a "need" here and rebuild this appropriately.  So that would mean "dual lanes each direction, with median divider.  Plus suitable provision for vulnerable road users which isn't right next to a such a busy road.  Also adequate provision for people crossing to avoid this being a barrier - either via subways or bridges".

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

eburtthebike wrote:

levestane wrote:

Maybe Cllr Slattery could cycle?

Maybe not.

We definitely want as many assholes to get out from behind a windscreen and get onto a bike. There's so much less damage they can do and maybe the exercise and blood flow to the brain will help them with their lack of thinking.

Good luck trying to convince her!

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
4 likes

Well there's bingo by the politician ("Traffic chaos", "No-one uses the cycle lane", "can a section of footpath be used" ).  With some honesty though ("I'm entitled (to have an opinion)").

They're also clearly new to overtaking: "cars cannot go around as there is traffic coming towards you".

I'm a little surprised that they haven't called for restraint by drivers though.  If, you know, the problem is "road at or near capacity". "Maybe just don't all use this road at peak times, mkay?"

It's good that Ireland seems to be finally addressing some of the actually "difficult" places. Here it seems there's a need to provide for journeys by cycling.  These had to be made possible (for the many) because the road is far too unpleasant for cycling.  At the same time we've got a massive glut of vehicles there.

Could it be that there was too much road space before?

As for the "but but what if someone breaks down?" one objection is already covered, in a better way than before (ambulances).  Is the current change an optimal solution?  Clearly not - it looks a relatively cheap intervention and cycling is too close to traffic.  Depending on where people need to cycle to maybe the cycling could be made more direct and completely separate from traffic?  Or maybe the vehicles themselves should be moved elsewhere / take an indirect route?

It might interest the councillor that - for safety reasons - there are some places where overtaking on two way roads has been banned - and often physically prevented - entirely.

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chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
7 likes

A little more on "what happens when a car breaks down?" issue.  First - welcome to the bike lane, only instead of "breaking down" it's "I had to stop to take a call" or "just delivering, mate" or "we're doing maintenance".  And actually "I've broke down and had to get off the road" too - if you believe.  And it's not just a "regular", it's an "every other section of cycle lane / path" occurrence.

Now I don't want to die on this hill for me personally - Bike Snob NYC's article about "keep calm and carry on" is pertinent.  However normally the reason given for building infra is that most people otherwise won't cycle there.  They thus can't complete many journeys by bike.  So will be blocked from even trying.  I think that's fair.  In which case blocking the bike lane is equivalent to sticking cones and signs across a road, or closing a gate across the carriageway.  But drivers can just get out and open the gate, or move the obstructions to one side, so what's the problem?

Second - this illustrates the unstated "extra capacity" or "overspill" space requirement for vehicles.  Very many of the roads in the UK are actually wide enough that you can fit 3 (modern!) cars - or more - across two lanes.  Where there is a footway or cycle lane to the left, that is also treated as "occasional overspill".  Never mind bus and lorry companies lobbying for a certain minimum width.  And what happened in the road in the article before the change when a lorry broke down?  That wide lane's still pretty much filled...

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Simon E replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
5 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

normally the reason given for building infra is that most people otherwise won't cycle there.  They thus can't complete many journeys by bike.  So will be blocked from even trying.

As previously quoted, you can't justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river. [@fietsprofessor]

The councillor should have made their objection before the money was spent, not afterwards.

That Limerick cycle lane looks good. I'd use that. My wife would use that. I went for a short ride with her yesterday. She is not a confident cyclist, doesn't like riding on roads above 30mph* and will not attempt things like riding in primary before turning right, regardless of how few vehicles there are. She is like many people who would cycle more often if it felt safer i.e. if separate infrastructure was available. As it is, she has to avoid busier streets, even though this makes her journey longer and she may have to get off her bike and walk. Why should she not have a safe route to work, shops or the park?

* unfortunately the way many people drive puts her off the 30mph roads that surround our estate too.

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chrisonabike replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
0 likes

Simon E wrote:

As previously quoted, you can't justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river. [@fietsprofessor]

Quite.  And yet this argument comes up every time - "nobody's cycling there though"!

Simon E wrote:

The councillor should have made their objection before the money was spent, not afterwards.

That Limerick cycle lane looks good. I'd use that. My wife would use that. [...]

Agree with all of that.  Plus the cycle lane is adequate indeed "good for the UK".  Just a bit close to the main road.  "Best in class" in the picture below - first option (in Groningen) for a busy location (but note low 30kmh speed!), single direction cycling but wide separation from vehicles, 2nd example looks a bit more like the Irish example but likely a much less busy road - note narrow lanes for vehicles and no "overspill" onto e.g. footway / cycle path.

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chrisonabike replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
4 likes

Simon E wrote:

Why should [my wife] not have a safe route to work, shops or the park?

Here's the nub - over the last 100 or so years we repeatedly chose a path which was inherently biased and unfair.  Initially cars were not for the common man - and they mostly weren't for the woman either.  Now we're in a position where this is baked in to the system* only we've corrected things somewhat with mass automobility.

I'd say cycling and walking are inherently "more democratic".  Minimal or low costs, no licences or registration needed, no age restrictions, no having to regularly go get your fuel from the man (well, maybe electricity) etc.

However changes to facilitate this are framed as exactly the opposite - "anti-democratic", "nanny state", "surveillance culture" ... If I was more suspicious I'd be following the money and having a look at where these narratives are coming from and who's promoting them.  (Same as what happened with the invention of "jaywalking" I suspect.)

* independent mobility for children is history, it costs you a chunk of cash if you want to "participate in society" and that's not just a one-off, if you add in disability good luck getting about...

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