Saturday 1 October 2016

Restricting access to the capital will not solve traffic chaos

Published 03/07/2015 | 02:30

'The transport plan is heavily focused on pedestrian, cyclist and bus use. Not a city for old men - or women - then'
'The transport plan is heavily focused on pedestrian, cyclist and bus use. Not a city for old men - or women - then'

Somebody down in the bunkers of Dublin has a crystal ball. It appears that in the future there will be balmy days and sunshine aplenty to go with the radical Dublin City Centre Transport Study. Besides good weather, you will need good shoes and possibly a facility for several languages. The objective is to 'provide an attractive environment for pedestrians that facilitates and encourages social interaction'. To achieve this, all access to private cars and taxis will be eliminated from College Green, Westmoreland Street, O'Connell Street.

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Bachelors Walk will be reconfigured as a corridor for public transport, cycling and pedestrians between its junctions with Jervis Street and O'Connell Street. On the south side of the river, this arrangement would be repeated either on Aston Quay, Burgh Quay or George's Quay.

Suffolk Street and St Stephen's Green north will be pedestrianised (no cyclists), which will result in restricted access to Dawson, Nassau and Kildare Streets.

Pardon me, but the centre of our capital city is a thoroughfare replete with amusement arcades, fast food outlets, needle exchanges, tacky displays and pound and knicker shops (to paraphrase Senator David Norris). Grafton Street, meanwhile, is home to mobile phone and convenience shops. Planning control should have been more rigorous.

As a sole trader who works from home, my interaction with traffic has been limited to school runs and occasional forays into the city. I have a 15-year-old car, a new bicycle (after two were stolen on the streets) and a pair of crutches. The DART is one hour's walk away, the Luas a half-an-hour walk and the bus 10 minutes with an irregular arrival pattern. None are accessible on crutches.

Since I broke my hip in January, I have become acutely aware of how inaccessible the streets of the capital are. Using a car park is not helpful to an elderly person with a walking stick. Not only are there hardly any handicapped car spaces, but the footpaths and kerbs are treacherously uneven and fractured. This situation has forced many people out of the capital for shopping, leisure or business.

The transport plan is heavily focused on pedestrian, cyclist and bus use. Not a city for old men - or women - then.

Disabled access is just one aspect of the traffic plan that appears to be overlooked. There is also the issue of safety and security at night. In a recent radio interview, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the ban on taxi access meant people can get buses home at night, so what's the problem?

Well, I don't know too many women who want to stand at a bus stop alone at night.

The taxi ban is ridiculous. The assumption is that public transport is a sufficient alternative. We've recently had two bus strikes, I can't remember the last taxi strike.

Taxi numbers have grown exponentially since de-regulation. They are safe and fairly immediate, particularly since the introduction of a taxi hire app.

I suggest the regulator and the city council review this ban and improve taxi access, perhaps establishing a Dublin Taxi brand with fixed rates between specific landmarks.

Quite frankly, the suggestion that buses are more environmentally friendly is ludicrous. Most of the day they have one or two passengers, belching fumes, often 'out of service' and 'going into service'. Unionised public transport is not a democratic measure.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has increased the rates for restaurateurs to use the pavement for outdoor seating. Now that open-air restaurants are envisaged down Dawson Street and O'Connell Street, one wonders how restaurants will afford to maintain them, seeing that diners are assumed to be on a Luas, DART or bus route and can't avail of taxis.

The proposals are estimated at €150m.

In a country where four seasons are common in one day, the plan is over-zealous and goes against the use of private motoring and taxis, forcing people to stand in the rain.

It envisages Dublin as a Mediterranean tourist town rather than a working, thriving, authentic city space with all the grit and grain of its Viking, Medieval, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian heritage.

Unless something is done about the 'look' of the city, the quality of the shop-fronts, the litter, the crime, there will be little to recommend trying to gain access to it. Efforts to revive life in the city will come to nothing if families are banned from using a car to access their city home.

Not everyone goes to the city to work all day or have a return shopping trip.

Many people need their cars for a meeting and continue on to other meetings with files, with laptops.

When this plan makes car parks obsolete, it will seriously impact on business. Car park owners have been advised to apply for alternative use, simple as that.

According to Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council Chief Executive, the plan was drawn up because of the expected growth in commuter traffic over the next decade.

That is fair enough, but the solution is not to ban cars altogether. Will the staff at Dublin City Council share their car park with the public and reduce their carbon footprint? Hardly, they are obliged to go on strike if their entitlement is taken away.

Irish Independent

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