Danger for Cyclists: the Luas Tracks on James' Street

Cyclist Maeve Quinn says she always goes up onto the footpath next to the stretch of road just before the entrance to St James’ Hospital.

“I always take the sidewalk,” she said, on Monday. “The road is too dangerous. And I really don’t want to be surprised by the Luas behind me.”

She’s not the only one who feels unsafe on this part of the road, where the Luas tracks, cyclists, and car traffic are all crammed on top of each other.

There are two minor collisions marked on our cycle collision tracker map on this short straight stretch. (Four other incidents mention Luas lines elsewhere.)

Part of the problem on James’ Street is that the surface is uneven along the edge of the road, in the narrow strip between the Luas tracks and the footpath. Potholes and drains there make it difficult for a cyclist to stay steady.

Yes, cyclists should “always cycle between the tracks and ensure your bike wheels stay away from the grooves in the tracks” on shared tramways like this one, according to the Luas website. But obstructing the car traffic like that can take confidence during busy traffic hours.

On the stretch before St James’ Hospital, the cycle lane starts again after about 70 metres. It leaves the road, and crosses the curved Luas line. If you are cycling between the tracks, it is not easy to turn back onto the cycle lane, and cross them safely at 90 degrees.

Cyclists who opt for the footpath have to drop back down off it to join the path again. Many seem to choose to continue on the footpath instead.

Not everybody thinks the stretch is a problem. “I am used to it now, I take it every day,” said Bryan Brannigan, who was riding a fixie bike along the stretch on Monday.

“You really need to be careful with the cars following you, especially on a rainy day. But anyway, I am faster than the Luas,” he said, with a smile.

Other Luas Collisions

There are four incidents marked on our cycle collision map that mention Luas lines. One cyclist described his accident on Adelaide Road, where the Luas tracks turn to go over Charlemont Bridge.

“The front wheel got caught in the tracks,” he says. “I went over the top, landing on the handlebars, which proceeded to puncture my groin.”

Weather conditions can make Luas tracks more slippery. Another cyclist said they fell on the ground next to the Four Courts Luas stop during “a wet day”.

Another “slipped on ice on the Luas track and broke [his] arm badly after a dis-located shoulder”. The man, aged 47, added that “if the tracks were lined with rubber like in other cities where cyclists cross this would not have happened”.

That, as has been much debated, looks unlikely to happen. At least not anytime soon.

In Dublin, 9 percent of the Luas network is tramways shared with bikes and other vehicles.

Earlier this year, Dublin City Council wrote to the National Transport Authority (NTA) about the possibility of filling the Luas Cross City tracks with rubber to prevent accidents.

But the response from NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham said that trials in Germany and Switzerland have found that it wasn’t a good solution.

It “was not a satisfactory solution as the inserts were unable to withstand the loadings placed on them” and “required significant maintenance as the tram wheel wore down and ripped the material”, the letter said. (A report here outlines what they looked at.)

Right now, some portions of the Luas Cross City line – those under construction that run from College Green to O’Connell Street – are filled in with asphalt. But that’s just a temporary safety measure while construction continues.

For the Luas to become operational, the tracks will have to be emptied again. By then, cyclists should have a segregated cycle path that will run alongside Bank of Ireland and down Westmoreland Street.


Simon Auffret and Others: Simon Auffret is a journalism student at IUT Lannion who has also studied at Dublin Institute of Technology. He loves data and maps, and ideas for Dublin data and maps. So send them his way: [email protected]

Reader responses

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at 21 September 2016 at 13:49

If you’re cycling Harcourt street to Rathmines the city center bound Luas practically runs into the road- very dangerous, as there is no space for cycling with the 2 car lane on Harcourt Street.

at 8 December 2017 at 10:41

As a pedestrian I strongly object to cyclists on the foot-path. I live on James’ Street and am tired of having to negotiate bikes going both directions on that narrow pathway, acting like they have a right to be there. Plenty of cyclists manage it safely, there’s no reason why all of them can’t. And if you consider the roadway too dangerous to cycle, then get off your bloody bike and walk it.

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