Finn Murray says many of his staff at the Hopsack in the Swan Shopping Centre in Rathmines cycle in and out of Rathmines each day.
As he does himself, he says. “Bikes are huge in Rathmines, which is great. […] Our lost and found is full of bike helmets, all the time.”
Future changes to Dublin’s bus network, still on the drawing board, may have implications for those who get about this part of town on two peddled wheels, though.
The proposal for BusConnects in Rathmines published by the National Transport Authority (NTA) in June shows a detour that cyclists may be encouraged to take around, rather than through, the main hustle and bustle of Rathmines.
Cian Ginty, editor of Irishcycle.com and an advocate for better cycling infrastructure, has suggested a bus gate – a stretch of road which only buses, bikes, and taxis can take – could be a better option. That would reduce traffic, but still allow cyclists and buses to use Rathmines Road as they do now.
Some councillors want to look more deeply at the idea.
The NTA’s Rathfarnam-to-city-centre proposal for BusConnects includes either narrowing the footpaths and having one bus and one traffic lane each way through Rathmines, or making Rathmines’ main street one-way inbound for general traffic, and diverting outbound traffic through Ranelagh.
In either case, the proposal includes a diversion for cyclists, cutting down the canal near Grove Road and rejoining the main street just past Leinster Road.
The “Indicative Cycle Route” in the BusConnects proposal shows a straight line, glossing over the actual streets available, which in real life cyclists would need to weave along and through.
“The NTA’s idea is to allow cyclists to use the bus lanes, but all the cycle lanes will be removed, and then have the very convoluted detour,” says Ginty.
“While they’re not saying they’re going to ban cyclists from the main street in Rathmines, they are going to provide a very messy, unattractive detour,” he said.
Said an NTA spokesperson: “Details of the bus and cycle infrastructure on the Rathfarnham to city centre corridor will be announced in January.”
A Bus Gate?
A bus gate would be a way to prioritise cycling and fit in buses, says Ginty. “It would bar cars from using the Rathmines’ main street during certain times, to leave room for just buses and cyclists.”
“In the UK a lot of the time it’s implemented with bollards,” Ginty says. But it could just be a big sign that tells drivers what can travel through, when. “It could be 24 hours, it could be peak times.”
College Green has had a bus gate for roughly the last 10 years, restricting car traffic at peak times on a stretch between College Street and Westmoreland Street.
In Rathmines, “there could be a compromise there on when exactly the bus gates are open and when they’re not”, Ginty says.
He favours a 24-hour approach. “It keeps buses moving even outside peak hours”, and gives people a black-and-white situation.
So what happens to the cars? It’s a mix of modal change – people jumping on buses and bikes, when they might have taken a car, for example – and traffic evaporation, Ginty says.
Ciarán Ferrie, a cyclist and member of the campaign group I Bike Dublin, says, “Rathmines itself has to find the balance between being a commuter route, and being an urban centre in its own right.”
His concern is that the proposals – while not formally published – “seem to prioritise public transport and private car transport over other modes, including walking and cycling”.
There’s limited road space, so we need to look at creative solutions, Ferrie says. And to give “priority in the hierarchy that is set out in the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS)”, which is walking, cycling, public transport, and then private cars.
Could It Work?
At last week’s meeting of the council’s South East Area Committee, Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello and Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey put in motions for a feasibility study on a bus gate in Rathmines, following a post from Ginty on Irishcycle.com.
“It seems to be on the face of it to be a good idea, and good ideas should be discussed,” says Lacey.
“The problem is there are too many bodies designing road proposals to meet their own particular areas of interest,” he says. “But there’s nobody designing a ‘Dublin Transport Route’,” he says.
“There’s no one to answer for traffic problems. If you do have a bus gate, where does all the traffic go?” says Costello, who doesn’t want to come down on either side, but wants a feasibility study.
At the same time, he is concerned that it could lead to a reduction in “spontaneous shopping”, in Rathmines, from people hopping off their bikes.
“The commercial centre of Rathmines depends very much on people being able to access it by foot and by bike,” Ferrie says. It’s not all about car access.
However, some past research by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has suggested that retailers can underestimate the number of shoppers who travel by public transport or on foot, and overestimate the number who come by car. (Dublin Inquirer columnist David O’Connor was one of those behind the research.)
Anthony Nardone, the owner of Kafka restaurant on Rathmines’ main street, says most of their customers are locals who walk in. But he notices people sitting by the window, watching the screens that show the expected arrival times for buses, too.
“I think diverting cycle [traffic] would be a good idea,” he says. Bikes parked all over the place makes it hard for his delivery drivers to access the paths, he said.
Says Murray of Hopsack: “From a business point of view, if you push anyone out of Rathmines it’s going to affect our business.”
Banning any kind of access would push the traffic problem elsewhere, he says, but suggests rush-hour restriction would allow people to plan their day, rather than banning some kinds of traffic completely, all day.