Cork Gardaí say policing Washington Street cycle lane is a "balancing act"

Cork Gardaí say policing Washington Street cycle lane is a "balancing act"
Taxis parking in Washington Street's cycle lane. Pic: Sam McCormack.

Gardaí in Cork say they understand the frustrations of cyclists over taxis using a cycle lane on Washington Street but said the matter was a "balancing act".

A section of the cycle lane on the outbound lane is regularly used by taxi drivers, particularly at night.

Inspector James Hallahan of the Anglesea Street's Roads Policing Unit said they have met a number of people from cycling groups who have raised concerns with people parking in cycle lanes across the city.

"I can understand their frustration with Washington Street. It's a unique area. It's one of the main arteries to UCC and CIT, there's a need for students to have a cycle lane.

"It's also heavily populated with licenced premises. There's a nighttime economy there. Taxis pull in to pick people up. If the rank is too far away, there are issues with pedestrian safety... and that creates its own problems."

Inspector Hallahan says the Gardaí use their discretion when asking cars to move from cycle lanes.

"We can use our discretion, we don't always have to issue tickets. We can explain to the driver that it's a safety issue and move them on."

He says the Gardaí have received complaints about cars parking in cycle lanes, as well as vans using cycle lanes as a loading bay. 

"These all create an obstruction for cyclists, which is dangerous... we have an obligation to ensure these cycle lanes are available."

Cork cyclists Sam McCormack said the cycle lane on Washington Street is being used as a taxi rank consistently.

He said that on Sunday, December 15 at around 11:45pm, the lane was completely blocked by taxis.

"I saw [cyclists] being pushed into traffic," says Sam. "This is dangerous for these vulnerable road users."

He rang the Gardaí to report the issue and he says two Gardaí arrived after an hour.

"They decided to move them on, not issuing a single ticket or fine. [This was] at least 10 taxis."

"Taxis do this every night. If there is no deterrent, they will continue to do so."

Bobby Lynch, Cork Taxi Council spokesperson, says there used to be a night-time taxi rank on Washington Street, which was not reinstated in the new road layout.

"Drivers are sick of the way Washington Street is. The closest taxi rank is now on Grand Parade, but we will not move from Washington Street," Mr Lynch tells The Echo.

"We are paying a license fee and are trying to earn a living. We are bringing people home safely.

"Everything happens on Washington Street, you have thousands of people coming out of the pubs and nightclubs. There could be trouble if the taxis are not there. How will people get home otherwise?"

Mr Lynch says one solution is to set times when the stretch of road is a cycle lane and different times when it is used as a taxi rank.

City Hall are in charge of designating taxi ranks in the city. However, they have no plan to alter the cycle lane on Washington Street.

The City Council's Roads Operations division said in a statement: "In accordance with Cork City Council Appointed Stands (Taxi) Bye-laws 2016, there is no taxi rank on Washington Street.

"Cork City Council is currently in the process of making the Cork City Appointed Stands (Taxi) Bye-Laws 2020.

"A new night time rank is proposed for Hanover Place and it is not anticipated that a taxi rank on Washington Street will be included in the new bylaws. The draft bylaws are currently out for public consultation."

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