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Cork cyclists at odds with local council over need for physical barriers on cycling lanes

Cyclists in Cork are at odds with a senior City Council official as to whether, or not, national road design standards support calls for more physical barriers to prevent cars from parking in cycle lanes.

The row has led to campaigners questioning whether the council has “a proper understanding of the issues or realities facing cyclists”.

Gerry O’Beirne, director of Services for Roads and Transportation, has appeared to have ruled out segregating some cycling facilities in the city in order to prevent vehicles from parking on bike lanes, despite a motion from a councillor seeking the measure.

It follows a large demonstration by cyclists outside City Hall ahead of a meeting that saw Solidarity Councillor Fiona Ryan submit a motion seeking physical barriers - as seen along South Main Street - for areas she described as ‘illegal parking blackspots’.

Alfred Street, on the approach to Kent Station, is one area frequently cited by cyclists as being particularly problematic.

However responding to Cllr Ryan’s motion, Mr O’Beirne said design standards only encourage physical segregation in specific circumstances, and that parking in cycle lanes is a matter for city council wardens and the gardaí.

“The provision of ‘hard infrastructure’ on cycle lanes such as the up-stand kerb on South Main Street is not an appropriate design response in all areas,” Mr O’Beirne wrote in response to Cllr Ryan’s motion.

National design standards encourage designers to use physical segregation measures in specific circumstances. The issue of illegal parking in cycle lanes will be addressed by the enforcement of parking regulations,” he said.

However, the Cork Cycling Campaign has cited Section 1.7.2 of the National Cycle Manual - issued by the National Transport Authority - which states that segregated facilities are recommended “to preclude traffic from queuing or parking on the facility”.

Conn Donovan, secretary of the Cork Cycling Campaign, said they were ‘disappointed’ the Council has taken such a position, and he believes it is at odds with the National Cycle Manual recommendations.

“This does nothing to protect cyclists and won't encourage others to take up cycling,” he said.

“Mr O’Beirne said it is a matter for parking wardens but everyone knows the cars come when the wardens go home. Every Sunday you see cars parked on the cycle lanes on Alfred Street because the wardens are off.

“We are worried the council does not have a proper understanding of the issues or realities facing cyclists and other road users,” Mr Donovan said.

A local election candidate Peter Horgan said there is a need for “a drastic change in attitudes from City Hall in implementing cycling infrastructure”.

“If the people want investment in safety on the roads, it is the duty of the City Council to implement that. Shrugging our shoulders and saying that wouldn't work here is not an option, no matter what the topic," he said.

Cllr Ryan was critical of the council's response to her motion.

"I think the answers received from the Director is really typical of how motions are shut down in local authorities to cut across their implementation," she said.

"Refusing to answer sections of the motion, misquoting policy documents to their ends, this is standard practice. I'm refusing to accept this refusal to install very basic, European standard safety infrastructure that is needed to increase confidence in casual cyclists and those considering moving their primary mode of transport, but concern for city center traffic is a barrier," she said.