Angry motorists rage at TDs over parking woes and 30kmh speed limit in Phoenix Park

Visitors enjoying pedestrian lanes in Chesterfield Avenue in Dublin's Phoenix Park during the pandemic. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Jack Chambers

thumbnail: Visitors enjoying pedestrian lanes in Chesterfield Avenue in Dublin's Phoenix Park during the pandemic. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
thumbnail: Jack Chambers
Ken Foxe

Leo Varadkar and Chief Whip Jack Chambers were sent angry letters from constituents who claimed a new 30kmh speed limit in Dublin’s Phoenix Park was damaging their cars or forcing their vehicles to cut out altogether.

The correspondence was among a flurry of letters forwarded by Dublin TDs to the Office of Public Works (OPW) about the availability of parking for Dublin Zoo and the park.

Controversy raged after traffic chaos around the zoo during the Easter holidays. Some on social media blamed the lack of parking on the introduction of safe, dedicated cycle lanes in Chesterfield Avenue, which runs through the park.

In a letter forwarded by Mr Chambers, one motorist said their car cut out twice in the park. However, 30kph limits are common in built-up areas in the capital and elsewhere.

“I can’t keep at that speed as my engine won’t allow me,” their letter said. “This is creating very long tailbacks and if my car cuts out (which it did today two times) the person behind me will crash into me. 50kph needs to come back as my car literally can’t drive at 30kph without stalling.”

Another member of the public wrote about how two recent visits to the Phoenix Park – including one to Dublin Zoo – had ended up with them turning around and going home as they could not find parking.

In a message forwarded by the Tánaiste, one elderly constituent explained how the new slower limit was putting a “lot of pressure on my engine” and that “cars were not built for that speed”.

“There is no pleasure any more driving through the park; it is like an obstacle course and in slow motion. I feel that the motorist is being attacked left right and centre with all these changes,” they wrote.

Another email from Mr Varadkar’s office was reported to have come from a “fellow Fine Gael member”.

“As a member of FG in Castleknock,” the correspondent said they “cannot understand how the local FG-elected representatives for the Castleknock area would let this ridiculous situation to have developed”.

In internal emails, OPW officials warned parking availability was likely to be an ongoing problem as the summer arrived.

“The busier the season gets (and with two bank holiday weekends in the next month and a bit), this discussion will probably resurface,” one email said.

Emails also explained how motorists had parked illegally throughout the park no matter the number of warning signs.

“Will review the signage as requested and organise additional signs,” one message said. “Our experience in the past is that they are just ignored.”

The OPW also said that much of the parking previously available in Chesterfield Avenue had never been available for zoo parking anyway.

An OPW spokeswoman said recent changes in Phoenix Park had made it significantly safer for pedestrian and cyclists.

“Within one kilometre of Dublin Zoo, there are around 900 car parking spaces for all visitors to the park … there are over 2,000 car parking spaces within the Phoenix Park, including Farmleigh House,” she said.

The spokeswoman said consultants had been appointed to develop a parking strategy for the park.

She said the 30kmh limit had led to a significant reduction of speeds with a “noticeable change in driver behaviour”.