Bus Connects - What Does It Mean for Cyclists?

The BusConnects Core Bus Corridors is a once in a lifetime opportunity for cyclists in Dublin. BusConnects is the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) masterplan for bus travel in Dublin. One of the key initiatives is the Core Bus Corridors, in which the NTA proposes to build 230km of bus lanes and 200km of segregated cycle track on 16 key routes into the city. This would make BusConnects the largest cycling infrastructure project in the history of the state. We need to ensure that BusConnects delivers to its full potential.

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

The potential for the Core Bus Corridors (CBCs) is huge. Imagine the possibilities of re-designing 230 kilometres of road. The CBCs could deliver many of the primary cycle routes of the GDA Cycle Network Plan, which would open up cycling in Dublin to people of all ages and abilities.

The €750M budget of BusConnects could be transformational. The proposed Swords to City Centre route alone is estimated to cost €55M. It would take decades to build all the corridors if we solely used the national cycling budget, which is €110M for the next three years.

The Risks

However, the Core Bus Corridors come with serious risks for the cycling community.

BusConnects, despite the promises, could treat cycling as an afterthought. Cyclists could be sidelined, just like on the Luas Cross City project. The clarity of what the NTA are proposing at this early stage, leaves many questions unanswered and there is still the potential for some of the poor-quality cycling infrastructure that we have seen in the past.

The NTA’s proposed road layout is a footpath, cycle track, bus lane and car lane in each direction. As you can imagine, achieving this ideal road layout on all 16 proposed CBCs will be challenging. There will have to be compromises, either by diverting general traffic, diverting cyclists, removing traffic lanes, or mixing buses and general traffic. Any proposed diversions for cyclists will need to be attractive and must not divert cyclists from key village and town centres.

However, the biggest risk for the cycling community is that the CBCs are never delivered. BusConnects is already four years in the making and will take another nine years to complete. If there is not the political will then we will fail to see any of the proposed benefits. Without the Core Bus Corridors many of these main cycle routes will see no improvement for the next 10+ years.

Proposals Thus Far

In mid-November the NTA published their proposals for four of the Core Bus Corridors (CBCs). This includes the Clongriffin, Swords, Blanchardstown and Lucan to City Centre routes.

The proposals thus far are mixed. Some of the proposed routes are better than others. Four different consultant engineering companies carried out the initial concept designs for the routes and it shows in the different quality design levels. Let’s look at the high-level positives first.

  • The Clongriffin and Swords CBCs deliver a segregated cycle route from end-to-end. This includes using compulsory purchase powers to achieve the space needed for segregated cycle tracks – a huge win.
  • At many junctions new pedestrian crossings are added. Road space has been reallocated from motor traffic to cyclists. For example, on Dorset Street a general traffic lane is removed to make space for cycle tracks and wider footpaths.
    *The Blanchardstown CBC is good in places and not in others. The entire Lucan CBC needs to be rethought.

Dublin Cycling Campaign has identified a number of high-level concerns amongst hundreds of detailed issues:

  1. The scheme objectives mention buses first and cyclists second and don’t even reference pedestrians. This ignores established City transport priorities
  2. The published maps are not detailed enough to analyse. There are almost no dimensions provided. Without detailed drawings it is extremely difficult to provide useful feedback
  3. The proposals in many locations do not meet the required design standards of the NTA’s National Cycle Manual or the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS). Nor are the proposals suitable for all ages and abilities.
  4. Most of the junction designs mix cyclists and motor traffic. Segregated cycle tracks must be provided through major junctions
  5. Many proposed junction designs require pedestrians to make multiple crossings to get across the junction.
  6. There are significant gaps in the proposed cycle routes on the Blanchardstown and Lucan routes
  7. There is a distinct lack of vision in relation to the potential for cycling as part of the CBCs. Opportunities like cycle underpasses or new bridges appear not to have been considered.

Attached to the top of this article is a photo from German cycle campaigners which demonstrates why some of the junction designs proposed by BusConnects are unsafe for cyclists.

Dublin has produced high-quality cycle route designs before, for example the on the soon to be constructed North Strand/Fairview route, which is why these proposed initial designs are disappointing and frustrating. Though it’s important to highlight the initial design for North Strand was poor and the current high-quality design came from detailed consultation with Dublin Cycling Campaign and local stakeholders. Change is possible if we engage with the NTA.

The NTA’s Response

Dublin Cycling Campaign has met with the NTA Bus Connects project in a group setting on three occasions: at two community forums; and the Dublin City Council Walking and Cycling Subcommittee. The NTA have also answered questions at the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

We’ve asked the NTA for a high-level meeting, and during the Oireachtas hearing Roisin Shortall TD (Social Democrats, Dublin North-West) pushed the NTA to meet with Dublin Cycling Campaign (video). The NTA say they cannot meet until after the public consultation has closed.

The NTA’s general response thus far has been that these are “concept designs” in the preliminary stages of design. They are an “early outline of what may be feasible within the constraints”. However, we are not raising trivial details. For example, the majority of proposed junction designs do not comply with the National Cycle Manual. This is not a details issue but a high-level concept issue on all core bus corridors.

What’s Next?

We, as cyclists, need to continue putting pressure on the NTA to provide the next-generation cycle lanes they are promising. Otherwise these “concept designs” could become the detailed designs.

We need to tell our local politicians that getting these Core Bus Corridors built right is important. We must ensure that the political will to build these Core Bus Corridors exists, otherwise we will see no improvements.

We must all engage with the BusConnects project to ensure it delivers for cyclists. At times we must champion the main elements of the project; at others we must demand changes or reject unworkable options. It will be impossible to take one single position on BusConnects. It is likely our position will vary from corridor to corridor.

Find out more about each of the four proposed routes and how you can help:

The remaining corridors will be released in two further phases.

If you want to be kept up-to-date on BusConnects subscribe to our BusConnects email newsletter. We’ll email you updates on the corridors your interested in.

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

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