Subscriber OnlyDublin

‘Cyclists are just lumped in with general traffic’: Change is coming for Dublin’s dangerous junctions

One in four cycling fatalities occur at junctions. Can changes to traffic design make cycling in the city safer?

In 2011 the Dublin Cycling Campaign highlighted what it considered to be the most dangerous junctions in Dublin. These were places where cyclists were left unprotected from vehicles and particularly vulnerable to collision with cars, buses or lorries.

Several involved crossings over the river Liffey, such as Grattan Bridge at Capel Street or Talbot Memorial Bridge near the Custom House. Others involved exceptionally wide roads with several traffic lanes, but no cycle lanes, such as D’Olier Street or Tara Street. Some were just where cyclists were heading straight, but left-turning motorists were reluctant to yield.

That same year, the National Cycle Manual was produced by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to guide infrastructure design for a “safe traffic environment for all road users including cyclists” and “to incorporate cycling within transport networks more proactively than before”.

While it acknowledged the need to consider cyclists in road design, it still relied heavily on road markings for protection, rather than physical segregation from traffic.


Road Safety Authority (RSA) research published last year found more than half of collisions where cyclists were seriously injured when they were hit by vehicles occurred at a junction.

Almost two-thirds of fatalities occurred on higher-speed rural roads, but one in five were in Dublin. A quarter of fatalities occurred at a junction, mostly in Dublin.

A new Cycle Design Manual was issued by the NTA late last year. It now acknowledges paint isn’t protection and recommends road designers increase “emphasis on segregation of facilities from motor traffic” with a “growing body of evidence which shows that the provision of segregated, safe cycle infrastructure is crucial to attract people to switch to cycling as a regular mode of transport”.

However, physical barriers cannot continue through crossroads, with junctions still presenting safety and design challenges.

“This all comes down to design, and how we can allocate space and time at junctions,” says Kevin Baker of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, speaking ahead of the start of Bike Week, which runs from today until next weekend and celebrates the benefits of cycling.

“For years Dublin City Council tried to optimise junctions to fit as many cars through as possible. That policy has been changing over the years, with pedestrians getting more time, and there’s more wraparound crossings so pedestrians can cross diagonally. The same approach needs to be taken for cyclists,” he says.

“Currently cyclists are just lumped in with general traffic. You may be safe and protected up to the junction but if you want to do any movement that isn’t left or straight – say you want to go right – you are exposed to traffic again.”

If we want to get much more people cycling, we need an option for bikes to move through the junction all by themselves

—  Kevin Baker of the Dublin Cycling Campaign

The Dutch have already redesigned their junctions to tackle this, and their system is being implemented in other countries, including in the UK, he says.

“Particularly at bigger junctions, cyclists have their own sets of traffic lights – their own space and their own time to move through the junction where there isn’t other traffic moving around.”

A type of bicycle light has been introduced at some junctions in Dublin; several have been installed on the quays. These go green for a few seconds before the main green light, giving cyclists a small head start on general traffic, rather than giving them a full light sequence to themselves.

“It is a bit of a compromise that works for the much more confident cyclist, who can move quickly through a junction, but if we want to get much more people cycling, we need an option for bikes to move through the junction all by themselves, where there are not also big trucks and cars moving at the same time, or quickly after,” says Baker.

Similarly, yellow flashing left-turn arrows are being introduced to remind motorists to check the cycle lane before turning. One is now in place outside the Criminal Courts of Justice on Conyngham Road near Phoenix Park.

The council says it will begin a campaign this summer “to inform drivers to give priority to cyclists and pedestrians when making turning movements”.

“Again it’s a halfway house,” says Baker. “We are saying that there’s conflict but the way of dealing with it is by giving cyclists a bit of a head start, or giving motorists more of a warning but it’s still not systematically safe. It’s still not safe enough for a lot of people to consider cycling.”

The downside of a fully separate traffic light sequence for cyclists is that they may have to wait considerable time for that light. A small number of these lights have been introduced in Dublin, such as at the top of O’Connell Street for cyclists heading to the contraflow lane on Parnell Square East.

“The way the Dutch have solved this problem is to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the junctions at the same time but without conflicting with each other,” says Baker.

This system involves cyclists giving way to pedestrians at mini zebra crossings when the cyclist is making a turn.

“We need to be willing to try things and see if they work, and if they don’t work, change them,” he says.

Dublin City Council is also eliminating left slip roads. An easier safety win, which still allows motorists to turn left, but at the junction, rather than sweeping across the cycle lane before the junction. The council has recently removed the left slip at Burgh Quay to D’Olier Street.

Reviewing the dangerous junctions identified by the campaign back in 2011, Baker says he is surprised at how many have changed for the better.

“The ones where there aren’t improvements, are either stuck with An Bord Pleanála as part of BusConnects, or Dublin City Council have in the last year or two announced they want to do something at those locations.”

Many of the places where the council will be making interventions are part of the City Centre Transport Plan, which takes effect from August.

“This will significantly reduce the traffic on Tara Street, for example, and when they do that they’re going to have the space to start cycle lanes.”

People will start to see construction work – diggers on the ground early next year. It has taken a while to get here but we’re now moving from paper to shovel

—  Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive of the NTA, on the construction of BusConnects corridors

Reductions in traffic have already made improvements to cycle safety at some junctions in the city.

“If you look at the junction of Grattan bridge at Capel Street, it’s very easy now to move through that junction in all directions as a pedestrian and cyclist, because there is just way less traffic,” says Baker.

“You only need separate lights for everyone where there are lots of different types of vehicles and people trying to move around. If the junction has very low traffic, you don’t need all that expense and heavy engineering. It’s a balance of building good, proper junctions where there’s lots of traffic, and in other areas reducing the traffic so we don’t need all this complexity.”

Hugh Creegan, deputy chief executive of the NTA, says BusConnects will make a “radical difference to cycling safety on the key routes across Dublin”.

Of its 12 core bus corridors, which will provide segregated spaces for bicycles and buses, four have so far been approved by An Bord Pleanála. There are “several hundred junctions” across the 12 corridors, and “different solutions are required for different places”, says Creegan.

“There are places where we will have separate traffic lights for cyclists, where there is the space available to do it, but a lot of Dublin streets are too narrow at the junctions to provide the layouts to fully facilitate that.”

In those tighter areas, cyclists may have a “waiting area on your cycle track for you to turn right”.

The NTA is in a few places using larger “Dutch-style” junctions also known as “cyclops roundabouts”, he says, “but that kind of a layout needs a lot of space”.

Construction on the first of the corridors is to start early next year, he says, with the first completed in 2027.

“The intention is to have at least two of the schemes under construction at the start of next year, with the next two schemes to follow quite quickly after that,” says Creegan. “Then, as they get finished, replace them with another scheme.”

The corridors will be completed on an incremental basis, so cyclists will be able to use sections as they are finished, he says.

“People will start to see construction work – diggers on the ground early next year. It has taken a while to get here but we’re now moving from paper to shovel.”

The BusConnects cycle infrastructure will work in tandem with the council’s Active Travel and cycle network development, says Creegan.

“We are getting a really connected network to the point that there’ll be a safe route connecting all of the significant places around the city, to the point that anyone between eight and 80 is going to be safe on that route when they go out cycling.”