Dublin City Council has confirmed that it has pulled back from a clear commitment on providing a segregated cycle path across the planned College Green Plaza — the news comes after design consultants famed for “share space” were appointed as part of the lead team for the project.
Details on what motoring access will be allowed on the plaza — for example, for access to the Bank of Ireland front and rear car parks — is also still up in the air as the council has switched from calling it a “pedestrian and cyclist plaza” to a “pedestrian priority” plaza with “limited” access for motorists.
After concerns were expressed by councillors at the lack of a well-defined cycle route at the council’s transport committee in October 2016, Brendan O’Brien, director of traffic at Dublin City Council, said: “…it is the intention to have a segregated cycle route through College Green…”.
That statement was made after a promotional images were released of a cycle path stopping short of the plaza area and a photomontage showed cyclists mixing with pedestrians on the plaza. The council indicated that this area was near-blank because it was part of the design process and a cycle route would be included.
However, this month the view of the council has changed. A spokeswoman for the council said in a statement: “It would be premature, at this stage, to comment on the detail of any design proposal that may emerge. However, the design team will be guided by the requirement to provide for the traversing of the space by cyclists, preferably in a segregated cycleway, while acknowledging that this is a pedestrian priority area.”
The council’s last major public realm project, Kilmainham Civic Space, has been criticised for its handling of cycling — the faults are detailed in an independent safety audit commissioned by the council. Individual cyclists also came forward to this website at an unprecedented level to complain about how the design has made things worse for cycling.
With College Green, the term ‘pedestrian priority’ was used in a press release which announced the design consultants last month, but as the term can range in meaning from pedestrians mixed with cycling to pedestrians mixed with trucks we asked for clarity on this but the exact meaning was not forthcoming.
The council spokeswoman said: “The new civic space will be a pedestrian priority space but will need to cater for occasional and limited vehicular access including deliveries, events, emergency vehicles etc.”
She added: “As is known, following a public procurement process, the College Green Design Team have recently been appointed and the City Council are working closely with the design team on the development of high quality proposals for the new Civic Space. The appointed design team are multidisciplinary with a vast range of relevant experiences and are actively developing design proposals for the space.”
At the public workshop on the College Green Plaza a number of groups of people independent of each other suggested putting the cycle route and bicycle parking under the plaza surface, but the council said that this is not envisaged as part of the planned plaza. The council spokeswoman said: “Given the archaeological nature of the area, along with other constraints, it is not envisaged that an underground cycle route or cycle parking will be developed as part of the current proposals.”
Last month Dublin City Council announced the appointment of Dixon Jones / Paul Keogh Architects as “design team leaders for the city’s College Green Civic Plaza project.”
The council said that the project aims to “contribute to improving the quality of the city’s public realm, thereby increasing Dublin’s attractiveness both as a place to do business and as a place to live.”
The press release last month said: “Subject to planning permission from An Bord Pleanála, construction of the College Green Plaza is scheduled to commence in January 2018, to coincide with the start of operations on the LUAS cross-city line in December 2017.”
Adding that it is “A flagship project in the implementation of the City Council’s public realm strategy, the College Green development will remove through traffic from the area.”
Dixon Jones / Paul Keogh, a joint venture between the London and Dublin-based architects, won the tender after a two-stage EU procurement competition which the council says attracted submissions from Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.
Dixon Jones previous public realm projects include Exhibition Road, a space lauded by many in architectural circles, but which has been plagued by heavy traffic and criticised by many cycling campainers and others.
Most recently campaigners in London have criticised including Exhibition Road as part of the a Quietway:
The ‘Quietway’ on Exhibition Road is a total, total joke. pic.twitter.com/PixVGl9BGz
— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) January 23, 2017
The full multi-disciplinary College Green team will also include Roughan & O’Donovan Consulting Engineers, Cathal Crimmins Conservation Architects, Paul Martin Landscape Designs and Rogerson Reddan Quantity Surveyors.