Right to worship collides with the right to cycle

Plans to install bollards on segregated cycle lane ‘very distressing’, says church minister

Churchgoers at the Howth Presbyterian Church  say Fingal County Council’s plans to install bollards will prevent people attending the church. Photograph: Alan Betson

Churchgoers at the Howth Presbyterian Church say Fingal County Council’s plans to install bollards will prevent people attending the church. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

As churchgoers gathered inside Howth Presbyterian Church for Sunday Service, outside a cyclist moved towards the middle of the road as cars of congregation members were parked along the white-lined cycle lane.

Here in the north Dublin suburb the right to worship has collided with the right to cycle as plans to install a segregated cycle lane with bollards on the Howth Road have caused “distress”, according to minister Alastair Dunlop.

The installation of the bollards will prevent illegal on-street parking in the cycle lane which runs for several kilometres on the Howth Road.

Churchgoers say Fingal County Council’s plans to install bollards will prevent people attending the church, in particular the elderly, as no alternative parking has been provided and public transport is “not adequate”.

However, Fingal Cycling Group, which supports the segregated cycle lane, says it will prevent the illegal parking that has created “unacceptable danger” on the road.

Margaret McKenna, the church’s clerk of session, says there will be a “major problem” if parishioners cannot park outside the church as the majority cannot physically walk or cycle the distance from Howth.

Ms McKenna (74) says travelling by car is the “only alternative”, and a request for a 200m space without bollards was declined by the council.

“My husband had a stroke so he can’t come on the bus, he can’t cycle and he can’t walk. For us, the only alternative is the car.”

She says if bollards are installed she would no longer be able to attend services which goes against her right to worship.

“I have no problem with the cycle lane and I agree that they need to be facilitated and kept safe, but if we could just have a 200m space with no bollards for two hours on a Sunday, that would solve the problem,” she says.

Minister Alastair Dunlop says the insertion of bollards outside the church is “very distressing”.

“To think that they might not be able to get close to the church, especially if they have young kids with prams and older people.”

The minister says people travel from a wide area to attend the church and “our ability to grow and attract new people in the community will be hampered”.

Churchgoer Micheál Bolger, who travels from Finglas by car with two children, says if parking is unavailable they would have to consider “other [church] options”.

“I think there just needs to be a common sense approach... This is one hour on a Sunday morning, offpeak,” he says.

Mr Bolger, who commutes to work by bike, says walking from Howth to attend the church “with two young boys, that’s just very difficult”.

Dissatisfaction

However, other cyclists have expressed their dissatisfaction with a lack of segregated cycleways in the city. Alan Kelly from Oldtown in north Dublin, who frequently cycles on the Howth Road, says the cycle lane is “literally just painted on the road itself. It’s a white line and it’s basically ignored and used in every shape and form.”

Mr Kelly says “a white lane is not a barrier”, and cycle lanes in Dublin are “not fit for purpose” because they are largely unsegregated.

Vinnie Meyler, secretary of Dublin Cycling Campaign, says cyclists are “very much at the mercy of motor vehicles”. Mr Meyler says a lack of “properly constructed segregated cycleways” is preventing people from feeling safe.

In a statement last week, the council said the installation of bollards was “intended to improve road safety and create a safe environment for vulnerable road users and children to safely walk or cycle”.

It said parking was already prohibited along both sides of the Howth Road, as cycle lanes were in place, though not protected. “There is also car parking available within the church grounds.”