Dublin City Council: Still living in fear of disrupting the car?

South William Street (by infomatique – Creative Commons: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved)

Dublin City Council’s plan for the Grafton Street Quarter, released last week, is yet another example of how the city can’t take walking, cycling or civic spaces seriously. They don’t want to change traffic flows to the area — they seem to fear changing traffic.

Part of the city’s justification seems to be aiming for some kind of balance, but more can be done while still maintaining access to car parks and for deliveries. The data the council uses paints a distorted picture. For example, in the council’s plan for the Grafton Street area, under the section on cycling, the council says:

“Commitment to the Department of Transport, Tourism and
Sport’s Smarter Travel targets mean a cycle mode of 25% or
more for Dublin. The car mode is currently around 35%…”

But as the council should know, their own City Centre cycling traffic counts show that cyclists already account for 18.4% of traffic at the Dame Street / George’s Street junction, which is at the north-west corner of the Grafton Street Quarter. Cycling accounting for 25% of traffic in this area isn’t a far off target — it’s in reach.

Overall across the city centre traffic counting points, cycling is steady growing as a percentage of all traffic. But if we’re talking about a cycle modal share of 25% for Dublin City, the city centre will likely have a modal share 35% plus. This plan does not seem to account for such numbers of cyclists.

Cyclists in the city centre percentage of all traffic
SOURCE: Dublin City Centre Cycle Count – May 2013

This is mainly a shopping and leisure district and research from DIT shows that car shoppers only make up 10% of all shoppers in the area. Retailers overestimated car users, while nearly as many shoppers cycled (9%) and twice as many just walked (20%). Most shoppers in the area don’t travel by car — 90% use a different mode.

The largest group after pedestrians were bus users (35%). Luas users were massively overestimated but, with the Luas still not connected, users already outnumbered car users.

Nearly everybody including car users — most of whom are walking from large car parks — are pedestrians. Yet there’s no plan (beyond what is tied into the Luas Cross City project and already announced) to give streets over to pedestrians, and for people who want to sit down to eat, drink, socialise or just rest.

Shopping Travel Behaviour in Dublin City Centre
SOURCE: Shopping Travel Behaviour in Dublin City Centre

The business-led group Dublin2Walk Pedestrian Zone Extension Campaign claims that the majority of businesses in the area support trialling extra pedestrian streets. This they say could include most of South William Street, Dame Court and Dame Lane — while still maintaining access to car parks.

Drury Street
There’s no plans to restrict traffic so this artist’s impression of people standing in the roadway is unlikely to happen much, regardless of the nice new surface.

The council however say that when they consulted with businesses: “Mixed views were offered by some on more pedestrianisation. Fears were expressed over losing custom while at the same time they saw the advantages of pedestrianisation.”

This fear — which the council seems to share given their lackluster plan — has been echoed around the world. In Copenhagen some of the comments included: ‘We are not Italians, we are Danes. It will never work here,’ ‘Shops will die off if there are no more cars,’ and ‘The climate over here is not suitable for mingling in the streets.’

Around the time Copenhagen pushed ahead with a massive network of pedestrian streets, in Dublin, the council allowed the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street to be stalled for years because of fear. Fear again is playing its part in rejecting the trialling of pedestrianisation on South William Street and Dame Court.

The main changes for the area included in the plan are changes which are forced by the Luas Cross City project. It was even left up to the planning authority An Bord Pleanala to stipulate improvements to the footpaths along the route. Sadly, as we covered before: An Bord Pleanala did not take the same approach with cycling.

Dame Lane — on a weekend night it’s filled with people enjoying Dublin’s night life, and you get the odd idiot in a car pushing their way past the crowds.

Keeping with fear but back to cycling: While the Dublin City Council plan for the area says that “traffic volumes and speeds within the Grafton Street Quarter are low”, there’s little mention of the lack of permeability for cyclists, and not a single mention of contra-flow.

Contra-flow had been planned for the South William Street area and a number of locations around the city, but Dublin City Council stalled and the only work on contra-flow since has fixing older contra-flow projects which were not implemented right from day one.

The National Transport Authority’s cycle network for the Greater Dublin Area says that one-way street systems “are not good for cyclists as they invariably result in longer journeys” and that “even where the streets are very narrow, contra-flow cycling should be possible but without formal designation of a cycle lane within a very low speed environment.”

The council plan for the Grafton Street area focuses nearly exclusivity on DublinBikes stands and parking for private bicycles (which are issues in their own right), but access and permeability of the area is a major issue. The council only focuses on a small part of the problem, as if it’s the only problem:

“One problematic area is South King Street which it not accessible to any vehicles including bicycles outside certain hours. This necessitates a long detour for cyclists.”

There are other problematic access issues which results in detours. The single-lane one-way system in the quarter filters out to wider two-lane one-way streets.

St Stephen’s Green North
Another artist’s impression: Is that a cycle path between the tracks and trees? Just like many current Dublin cycle paths, it seems to end suddenly, dumping cyclists into a pedestrian area

A prime example is heading south from St Andrew’s Street and later return to Dame Street. Any cyclist who want to say within the law, stay on their bicycles, and access the area from St Andrew’s Street (below the red dot below), are required to take a substantial detour to get back to Dame Street.

The image below shows the routes cyclists have to travel without dismounting once they past the south section of St Andrew’s Street — dismounting often means walking along often busy, cluttered and narrow footpaths.


Main green route: The most straight forward, but long and includes cycling unfriendly and busy two-lane one-way streets.

Narrow green route: Also long and also includes some of the two-lane one-way streets and the route is convoluted.

Orange route: This would be possible if South King Street was made accessible, but it’s even longer and includes where the Luas will be on narrow streets (not exactly a route you want to be pushing more cyclists down when there’s shorter routes).

MORE: Grafton Street Quarter plan and cycling
 Grafton Street Quarter Draft Public Realm Plan
Dublin2walk on Facebook
MORE: Contraflow cycle lanes purposed for Dublin City
MORE: What does Luas Broombridge mean for cyclists?
MORE: Cycling against traffic legally
MORE: Our coverage of the Dublin area cycle network plan