The Dutch-style roundabout lands in Ireland

A new breed of roundabout offering priority to bike riders and pedestrians has landed in Ireland.

It is the country's first Dutch-style roundabout, a protected intersection design popularised in the Netherlands and beginning to appear around the globe.

The roundabout is in the outer Dublin suburb of Mulhuddart and is part of a development called Church Fields being built to promote active travel.

"We are creating a network of roads, cycle lanes and footpaths that will manage the flow of people around Church Fields," says Fingal County Council’s Director of Planning and Strategic Infrastructure Matthew McAleese. "The area has a young population. It is just beginning to develop, and we have a golden moment now to make it as safe and attractive as possible."

On the face of it, any infrastructure that separates and protects bike riders and pedestrians is welcome infrastructure, but safety improvements aren't always immediate and clear cut. 

A Dutch roundabout introduced in Cambridge in 2020, the UK's first, serves as a useful example.

With zebra crossings, a dedicated outer ring for bike riders and "sharks' teeth" markings to indicate right of way, Cambridge's Dutch roundabout is a similar design to the one in Mulhuddart.

In the three years since it was introduced, there have been 10 collisions, three of them serious, according to council figures reported by the BBC in April. This is an increase on the six minor incidents reported at the intersection between 2017 and 2019.

However, the council reasons that the number of bike riders using the roundabout has increased by almost 50% since 2017 and now makes up 11.4% of all traffic users in 2022. Pedestrian use increased by around 30% over the same time.

Closer to home, this style of intersection has been introduced in Melbourne and in Canberra it may just become the norm. The ACT Government last month released a draft guide for best-practice intersection design featuring protective barriers and continuous bike paths at roundabouts, with a view to making them standard on the city's streets.