Awkward to Use = Not Used

There’s a set of underpasses for cycling/walking at the M50/N81 junction in Tallaght which connect Tallaght village with Templeogue and Firhouse. This puts the underpass into the routing for Firhouse-City and Tallaght-City, in addition to local cycle routes e.g. Firhouse-Tymon Park. I rarely if ever use this route, even though it’s much nicer, quieter and shorter than the alternative – going over the M50 along the R114.

pooruse-m50-underpass
Cyclists avoiding the underpass (small arrows), flow continues along road (big arrow)

I’ve wondered if it was just me, but the heatmaps (above) from the European Cycling Challenge 2016 are also showing a lack of use. Granted, I’m theorizing based on personal experience, but Google Maps tends to use the underpass as a preferred route suggestion (i.e. it’s shorter), and more tellingly, the route from Tallaght converge on the heatmap further towards town at the Old Bridge Road. This suggests to me that the routes could easily combine earlier, and a number of people turning right over the M50 at Mortons are effectively avoiding the underpass option and re-connecting to that route at a later stage (see below).

While the route from Tallaght to Templeogue is being improved by a new cycle route (slowly, oh, so slowly.. it’s still a ‘building site’ as even my 3yo pointed out the last time we had a look), it’s not clear if all the access points on the underpass will be improved.

Which brings me to what I believe is the cause: Kissing gates.

Impermeable: M50 Underpass
Impermeable: M50 Underpass

Never mind the narrow, overgrown paths (which I’d suggest are due to low levels of use as much as lack of maintenance), and the occasional broken glass (again, unused space gets colonised by people for other uses, drinking in this case), the key is the awkwardness of these gates. Personally, I can’t fit the bike through without lifting it over, and that’s only when empty. If you’re hauling anything at all, like a child, shopping, whatever, you’re now faced with unloading, lifting, re-loading, all the while you’ve blocked the path for anyone else. We were helped both times by a couple of lovely people who were walking by, but without that help the route is a whole heap of no.

I’ve seen people on light racers or mountain bikes without mudguards pop the bike up on the back wheel and going through, but that’s just not an option for everyone. Imagine a road where you needed a 4×4 to get through one bit!?

It’s a shame, as I believe it’s contributing to the under use of a potentially useful facility.