Tuesday 25 October 2016

Change is difficult, but we should all share this brave vision of the future

Published 11/06/2015 | 02:30

Artist’s impression of how Dublin’s College Green will look after it is given over to pedestrians and public transport
Artist’s impression of how Dublin’s College Green will look after it is given over to pedestrians and public transport

if cities are the drivers of economic growth, then both Dublin City Council and Limerick City and County Council should be roundly applauded for setting out ambitious plans on making them best in class.

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Both are very different in their scale and ambition. Dublin plans to increase use of sustainable forms of transport such as taxis, buses, Luas, trains, bikes and walking, while Limerick has focused on the regeneration of its historic core and providing a wonderful 200-acre park for the benefit of all.

Reaction from motoring lobby groups and car park owners regarding plans to ban taxis and private cars from parts of the capital was as expected. It would be to the detriment of the city, to retailers and to economic growth. But the measures do not propose banning motorists from the city, just College Green and sections of the quays. They also, rightly, show that the city centre is small and compact, and more than accessible by walking, cycling or by using public transport.

Motorists should be forced to realise that they can no longer drive with impunity where they choose, and that healthier transport options will be given precedence.

Just a short number of years ago, the capital was choked with traffic. By 2023, the number of trips is projected to increase by 20pc, or 42,000 per day. That has profound implications and the choice is simple - should Dublin be a city designed for people, or for cars? It's worth noting that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

These are proposals, not set in stone, and open to public consultation. Plans can be tweaked and changed to accommodate genuine concerns.

But the benefits far outweigh the risks. People will enjoy College Green and the River Liffey without negotiating heavy flows of traffic and breathing in exhaust fumes.

Mountjoy Square and Merrion Square could become quiet places to relax, and not plagued by traffic noise. Public transport will be better, more efficient and more frequent.

Obesity levels will reduce because people use their legs for walking instead of sitting in a car.

We are an adaptable and highly evolved species. Surely no one is suggesting we do not have the ability to make these changes?

And the economy will not collapse, the motoring industry will not go out of business, nor the world fall in. On the contrary, Dublin's best assets will be utilised, and the city centre become a much more pleasant place to live, work or visit.

Limerick's 2030 Masterplan is also ambitious in its scale, but for different reasons. While not proposing the kind of behavioural change which some may resist in the capital, it is seeking to make the city centre more attractive to residents, visitors and commerce.

The city has already effectively banned further development of out-of-town shopping centres, and is involved in extensive regeneration of older residential areas, including Moyross, South Hill and St Mary's Park.

The main pillars of Limerick 2030 include development of the waterfront, including pedestrianisation, and seven strategic sites in the centre are at various stages of development. Jobs will follow, with hundreds already created in start-ups.

Both Dublin and Limerick face their own challenges. What these plans show is that local authorities have both the vision and expertise to map a different future, where people are central to how a city operates, and where business as usual is no longer an option.

Irish Independent

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