A High Court ruling stopping the installation of a cyclepath on Strand Road in Sandymount could have "devastating consequences" for the development of cycling infrastructure, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has said.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Friday ruled in favour of a challenge by Sandymount resident Peter Carvill and Independent councillor Mannix Flynn to the council's plans to install the cyclepath without seeking planning permission.
The council had proposed replacing a lane of traffic on the coastal road with a cyclepath for a six-month trial. Traffic would be southbound only, from Sean Moore Road to the Merrion Gates.
The council argued it did not need to submit the Strand Road plan to An Board Pleanála and could undertake the work using its own traffic-calming powers.
Mr Justice Meenan determined this exemption did not apply because, he found, the project required an environmental impact assessment (EIA). “Thus, if the proposed cycleway is to proceed it will have to go through the planning process,” he said in a judgment on Friday.
The council will appeal the decision, Mr Keegan said.
“We are extremely disappointed by the immediate implications for Strand Road, but we are also deeply concerned about the potentially devastating consequences for our capacity to deliver future cycling projects.”
The possibility that any infrastructure to protect cyclists on the roads would require a planning application would be “an enormous hurdle” and have “significant implications for the rest of our cycling programme”, Mr Keegan said, with every “modest” interventions incurring significant costs, delays and workload.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Meenan noted consultants had advised the council the project did not meet the threshold for an EIA, which triggers the requirement for a planning application. However, the judge said the consultant’s report “has not properly addressed ‘the nature of the impact’ of the proposed cycleway to a considerable extent”.
The judge said he did not accept the cycle lane was a temporary scheme because five months into the trial the council planned to hold public consultation on whether the project should continue.
He also referred to evidence from Brendan O’Brien of the council’s traffic department who said those wishing to travel northwards on Strand Road, would have to do so “by other modes of transport, namely walking, cycling or other modes of transport allowed on a cycleway”.
Mr Justice Meenan said this statement would “seem to suggest that residents and other persons in the affected roads should they wish to go to Dublin Airport would have to either walk or cycle. I am sure that this is not what was intended by the city council but it does seem to show a level of indifference to those affected”.
The Dublin Commuter Coalition, which campaigns for sustainable travel infrastructure, said it was deeply disappointed by the ruling.
"This judgment has the potential to make delivery of cycling projects even more time consuming and difficult in the future," its chairman, Kevin Carter said.
Dublin Cycling Campaign chairman Kevin Baker said the judgment was a “lost opportunity to trial an amenity which would have enabled people of all ages and abilities to safely and comfortably cycle along the seafront on Strand Road”.
However, the Serpentine Avenue, Tritonville and Claremont Roads group, which Mr Carvill represented, welcomed the decision saying the scheme would have resulted in “major changes to traffic patterns in the Sandymount and wider areas” with “serious implications for residents, businesses, schools and sports clubs in the Dublin 4 vicinity”.