Sunday 4 December 2016

'Car-less paradise for cyclists will mean a city centre that's out of bounds for people with a physical disability and the elderly'

If you're old, disabled, or want to buy anything heavy, you'll be stymied by the new plan for Dublin

Emer O'Kelly

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

Owen Keegan
Owen Keegan

It is just a year since the Dublin City Manager, Owen Keegan, announced that preventing people driving would improve access to the city centre. He meant, of course, that it would improve access for cyclists. He's a cyclist himself.

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He added in the same interview (in which he defended the now-infamous introduction of double cycle lanes on the north quays, which reduce motor traffic to a single lane, causing traffic jams throughout the day, rather than just at rush hour, as formerly) that more commuters should take up cycling. "Cycling has to be for the unbrave as well."

Certainly confirmed and addicted cyclists in Dublin city are brave: so brave that they fling themselves unbidden in the wrong direction on one-way streets (I counted 11 in the space of one hour in the south city centre); ride on pavements at speed, with additional shouting for pedestrians to clear the way (I was the pedestrian in Kildare Street); diagonally across major junctions of three and four lanes of traffic; against the lights (four of them at separate times on O'Connell Bridge in the space of 90 minutes); 23 breaking red lights in the space of two journeys between Portobello and the city centre; and several weaving like demented flies after dark through traffic, dressed in black and without any illumination.

And of course, they're vocally more than courageous in their abuse of every other road user, including pedestrians who cross at designated crossings and dare to remonstrate with them for bullying their way through.

But a new plan for the centre of the city has been announced by Dublin City Council, which will create a car-less paradise for cyclists in which all of them can trick-cycle their way over the rest of the population legally instead of illegally.

Roughly speaking, the inner quays and College Green will be out of bounds to anyone who can't walk or cycle. That's all people with a physical disability, all old people, and the majority of people who want to shop for anything more than a pair of tights.

Let's just take an example, a person who is neither a pensioner nor an invalid. Let's say that in March 2013, she had a bad fall due to a badly broken pavement where the roots of a tree close to her home had broken through. She smashed her forehead on the ground, and twisted her lower body badly. Her pelvis was in smithereens, resulting in almost four months in hospital; she suffered a massive bleed behind her eye, and was permanently blinded in that eye. She still walks with a limp (despite intensive physiotherapy), is never without pain and can only manage about 100m. Both her balance and perspective are badly affected, which makes walking on city streets hazardous.

There is also major damage to both her shoulders, and she is unable to carry anything heavier than about two kilos.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that while she lives "within the canals", she will be unable to travel into the city, or shop there, if the Dublin City Council plan for a "desirable" traffic flow is brought into effect. Fortunately for her, she works at home, so will still be able to earn her living.

I can be absolutely certain of the effect of the plan, because I am that person. And if the plan is put into effect, my life will be reduced to that of restricted invalidism, rather than someone who lives a normal, if rather pain-filled life following an accident.

The centre-city traffic plan, over which Owen Keegan presides, did not come before any elected representatives; it was announced without consultation with the public or their representatives.

Equally, the plan which reduced the north quays to gridlock a year ago, was put into effect without consultation: and at the time, Mr Keegan said bluntly he didn't feel the Council had anything to apologise for.

But that's nothing new, because despite their claims to the contrary, local councillors are without any power whatsoever: all decisions are made by the paid executive.

On RTE radio on Tuesday, Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party and an eco-ideologue, said that he and his wife had managed with public transport over the years with a buggy and four children.

You'll note that word "eco-ideologue". On the same programme, Conor Faughnan of the Automobile Association (which admittedly is a commercial organisation dependent for its income on the motoring public) said that the latest plan seemed to be ideologically driven, not traffic driven.

He pointed out that there are no traffic jams in College Green at midnight, and it seemed to be ideology that required that cars be banned from there, even at midnight. Every car driven off the road represented a win in ideological terms, he suggested. He didn't name anyone, of course, certainly not a senior public official dedicated to cycling.

Me, I'm just finishing by pointing out to any dedicated cyclist in Dublin City Council who thinks that buses provide adequate transport, that the last time I travelled in one, it jerked suddenly to a halt, and I dislocated a hip. See post-accident disability, above.

Sunday Independent

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