Dodder greenway construction plans divide pedestrians and cyclists

Locals along proposed Dodder Greenway seek accommodation between walkers, cyclists, drivers – and golfers

At a time when the State is pumping tens of millions of euro into the construction of greenways for cyclists and walkers, one of the most challenging projects is dividing opinion.

The Dodder Greenway, already many years in the planning, will run 17km from the Bohernabreena Reservoirs in the Dublin Mountains down to the Grand Canal docks in Dublin along the Dodder river on the southside of Dublin.

Of all the pedestrian and cycle routes being constructed in the country from a Government budget of almost €300 million for walking and cycling infrastructure, the €22 million Dodder Greenway passes through the largest population catchment area and is turning out to be one of the most complicated to plan.

Along one stretch of the greenway still to be built, running from Milltown to Donnybrook, the route has become a major talking point for cyclists, walkers and golfers as The Irish Times discovered on a walkabout of the area one afternoon last month.


Generating plenty of opinions are the plans to run the cycle way across property owned by Milltown Golf Club, the course’s practice ground, to connect the greenway between Dartry Park and Donnybrook and to create new one-way traffic systems on some busy South Dublin roads.

The current pathway is popular with walkers, cyclists and nature lovers enjoying the river and its resident ducks, otters and kingfishers.

The route has been the subject of heated discussion following a public meeting organised by Minister for Environment and Transport Eamon Ryan in a local Milltown pub last month.

“It could be a bit dangerous for both parties,” one golfer, concerned about walkers, told The Irish Times, shortly before teeing off at the course located close to the river.

Cyclists or walkers crossing the practice area over the greenway could be risky, he says.

“The golfers obviously are very careful about not hitting anyone. But when they have their head down hitting a shot and some of the people coming through the greenway won’t know their rules of golf and it can be dangerous,” he says.

Walkers don’t this see as an issue.

One local John Doherty, who walks his dog along the existing riverside path, says he doesn’t think locating the greenway near golfers should be a major concern.

“If there was sufficient guarantees to Milltown Golf Club, I think it would definitely represent an enhancement to the Dodder way,” he says.

Management at the golf club did not respond to a request for comment, though it has indicated support for a greenway in the area but not for the route as currently proposed.

The design of the greenway itself will create protections: the proposed route would see pedestrians kept on the northside of the river and cyclists on the southside path, where possible.

One cyclist said having “segregated traffic” would encourage his children to cycle more.

“When you’re with the kids the combined tracks are fine but when you’re commuting, trying to get somewhere quickly, if you are mixing with pedestrians and dogs, it can be awkward,” he says.

The cyclist is not concerned about the potential risk to biodiversity along the river, seeing the potential to get people out of cars and on to bicycles as being the bigger benefit.

“Something has got to give. So which is the lesser of the two evils? In my opinion, it’s getting more people on bikes,” he says. “You have got to get people out of cars; this is what it will take.”

Another local walker Patricia Daly feels the proposed greenway is a misuse of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

“The cycle route was working fine; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she says. “I don’t think the cycling plan for Dublin has really taken into account that probably more than 30 per cent of residents are over the age of 60.”

She doesn’t see the benefits, except for tourists maybe.

“I would rather see the money invested in better transport; there’s nothing really going east to west in Dublin. I would rather see it spent there,” she says.

One resident, who was walking the path with his wife and friends, went so far as to express alarm at the potential for antisocial behaviour along the new route. He raised concerns about the greenway being used by “people on electric scooters to transport drugs”.

In political circles, the greenway has resounding support.

Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council are working together on the interim stages to make the construction of the greenway a quicker process.

South Dublin County Council have completed the majority of the greenway route between Rathfarnham and Tallaght.

Emma Murphy, mayor of South Dublin, says the greenway is a “game-changer”.

As she sees it, the finished parts of the greenway are “the most used piece of infrastructure in the county where you won’t even meet a traffic light”.

Additional changes required for the greenway that are bothering some include changes to traffic and a new one-way system on Beaver Row between Clonskeagh and Donnybrook.

Local walker John Doherty thinks a trial period of two or three months for this system is a way to iron out differences.

“Local authorities really have to track the thing better in terms of seeing what the side effects are, in terms of other roads with other communities,” he says. “I think what really should be sought for is a sort of a balance between the interests of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.”