The welcome spate of new construction, together with a wave of new cycleways, bus corridors and pedestrian areas, has caused a barrage of new traffic control measures across the country.
From traffic lights to pedestrian crossings, these works are usually financed by levies on new development, and are passed onto homebuyers and commercial occupiers.
But with pedestrian deaths doubling last year, are these measures always an improvement – or even safe? In my view, they range from deadly and dangerous to potentially dangerous and need more thought.
There is a new traffic light design, which is lethally dangerous. I first experienced this in December, driving at night towards Wyattville Road from Killiney, Co. Dublin. Wyattville Road has been redesigned and a new set of traffic lights was erected at the junction with Church Road, Ballybrack. At the last second, I realised the lights on the main road were red, and I stopped just in time. However, a car behind me drove through on the full red and had to brake and swerve to avoid a car emerging on green from Ballybrack.
The next five times my family encountered these lights, on every occasion cars drove through the junction on a red light and we saw another near miss. This new design incorporates a filter arrow for the left hand turn, but placed on the right hand side of the junction. Particularly at night, drivers think it is a full green for straight ahead.
There is a vagueness around pedestrian crossings and so-called ‘courtesy crossings’
I alerted Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCOCO) and the Senior Executive Engineer with the Traffic Department agreed and had the dangerous light removed. There is, however, another similar design on a new set of lights on the link road from the M50 into Cherrywood Business Park. Because the side road into the new apartments isn’t open yet, that filter light is permanently red, but when it becomes operational, I’m predicting crashes. Watch out for others near you.
There is a vagueness around pedestrian crossings and so-called “courtesy crossings”. There are partially completed pedestrian crossings around Ireland where it is unclear whether they are pedestrian crossings, or not, with potentially fatal confusion between pedestrians and motorists as to who has right of way. One example is Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, where a double-crossing has all the appearances of a pedestrian crossing, but no flashing amber lights. Pedestrians step out thinking they’re safe, but cars drive through it without seeing it.
Coincidentally, the very helpful Sean McGrath, Senior Engineer with DLRCOCO Traffic and Road Safety Section, told me that the authority is currently trialling a new European design of pedestrian crossing, without flashing amber lights, in three locations, which are also being piloted in Limerick.
So-called “courtesy crossings” are also dangerous. There are no guidelines on how they are surfaced so we see a variety of cobblestoned finishes to ramps, which are the same height as the footpath, and cause frequent confusion as to who has right of way.
One reader alerted me to a new chicane, created on the main road at Woodbrook, Co Dublin, serving a new residential development, which he said was dangerous. I agree and it should at least have warning signs. DLRCOCO tell me it is an interim measure, pending construction of a new bus corridor.
With a lot of authorities and agencies involved in traffic management, I suspect that some vagueness may have crept into what constitutes the very best in design.