COMMENT & ANALYSIS | LONG READ: A plan to remove car traffic from Ellis Quay and Arran Quay — which allows for walking, cycling and bus priority along the quays — is the main point of contention. But what exactly are the public figures who oppose the route saying and is there any substance to it?
The two main people who have criticised the project are: Cllr Ray McAdam (Fine Gael) and Janice Boylan (Sinn Féin). There’s also the former Dublin Central Labour TD and current chairman of Stoneybatter Pride of Place, Joe Costello.
Cllr Ray McAdam has said on his website: “I will continue to lead the resistance to any proposal associated with the Liffey Cycle Route that will have a detrimental impact on Stoneybatter, Church Street, Arbour Hill, Montpelier, Infirmary Road and Phibsborough.” But what’s the bases for this and is he mainly worried about local car users?
If the goal of councillors is to reduce the negative effects of car traffic on city centre residents around the above mentioned areas, they should be campaigning for the best possible priority for the BRT (bus rapid transport) route planned between Blanchardstown and UCD and for that project to be accelerated.
What have the public figures said about the Liffey Cycle Route?
Cllr McAdam said:
“What is being proposed, will see between 400 and 600 cars per hours being redirected from the Quays through our neighbourhood. While I am in favour of safe cycling amenities, I am equally opposed to a major reorganisation of traffic in the city that negatively impacts the quality of life for Stoneybatter residents.”
While, at the city’s most recent transport committee meeting, Cllr Janice Boylan said
“At the moment the proposals is that we will have 400 to 500 cars [per hour, at peak times] come up into the small village of Stoneybatter and down into a one-way system and then down onto Church Street.”
The problem with the above statements is that they are not factual. First, the council is not proposing that all of the traffic will divert up any one route — on his own website, Cllr McAdam quotes a response from the city council, which states: “…it is not considered that all of the cars that currently use this section will divert to the north side with some diverting earlier, some to the South and some to alternative modes.”
Cllr Boylan’s suggestion that the traffic will go via the “small village of Stoneybatter” is something Cllr McAdam also seems to have implied and the Dublin People newspaper reported that Joe Costello said “extra traffic will split the village of Stoneybatter”. Why would traffic which currently uses Ellis Quay (which is east of Blackhall Place) go via Stoneybatter and Mannor Street (which are northwest of Blackhall Place) when it’s nearly the oppsite direction?
Back to the figures: In 2014 there was around 500 private motorists per hour at peak hours, but by 2016 this had declined to under 400 per hour on Ellis Quay. These statistics are from Dublin City Council:
So, the most current data shows it’s 400 per hour at peak, not 500 or 600 as contended. But that’s not all…
Linked to this, recently we published two articles dealing with some of the major changes planned for Dublin city centre — the first had the headline “Impact of Luas Cross City will be transformative for Dublin city” and the second was titled: “Amongst real concern, there’s a campaign of fear against planned Dublin traffic changes“.
These two articles dealt in detail with how car traffic reduction is already the long-term trend and how this trend will be accelerated with the Luas Cross City opening and bus priority measures.
In a different version of Cllr McAdam’s position on the Liffey Cycle Route, this time in the latest version of his Stoneybatter Matters newsletter, he states:
“It beggars belief, in my view, that the Council is only examining how Stoneybatter, but also Arbour Hill, Montpelier and Infirmary Road areas, will be impacted by removing private cars from a stretch of the Quays and re-directing them through Stoneybatter.”
There’s a few things wrong with the above statement: First, it’s not only examining it now, it has already started detailed analysis. But when did Cllr McAdam expect the council to start detailed analysis? When they were still examining other options?
Arbour Hill and Montpelier have long needed rat-running blocking or at least reducing measures. We understand that the council are already looking at this. The question is, why has it taken so long?
Cllr Boylan said:
“At the moment, Brunswick Street is like a car park at the best of times. For example, this week it was a midterm break and the schools on the street were off, I happened to be on the street at 7.50am, I had a hospital appointment, and the traffic was literary bumper to bumper…”
If the route is “like a car park” and “literary bumper to bumper”, how can it get any worse? Is Cllr Boylan engaging in hyperbole or does she really think it’s that bad — if it’s the latter, there’s nothing to worry about: Existing car commuters will switch to other modes of transport for the full distance of the route or they’ll switch close to the city centre. This is normal in many cities across Europe.
Some people need their cars, that’s indisputable. But the theory that most of these car commuters have no other option is not supported: It’s just that the other options may not be as convenient as using their cars in some of the most densely populated areas of the country.
Cllr Boylan added:
“The children don’t feel safe to walk or cycle to school because of the amount of cars and the lack of pedestrian crossings.”
Well, why not act on this? Why does it take the Liffey Cycle Route or any traffic changes before councillors want to improve conditions outside schools on Brunswick Street or city centre residents generally? If the children don’t feel safe with the current level of traffic — why not reduce it? Why not provide the required pedestrian crossings?
30km/h is already planned to kick in on the street later this month but councillors have discretionary funding which they could use to do more, such as add traffic calming and provide pedestrian crossings.
Cllr Boylan said:
“Residents from all over the area — Stoneybatter, Queen Street, North Kings Street, Brunswick Street, Church Street and surrounding areas, have expressed their displeasure and raised their objections to with this plan. And it’s not a case at all the these people don’t value cycling because some of them have expressed that they were avid cyclists, but they saw the massive flaws in this plan.”
With a local campaign of fear against the current and previous versions of the Liffey Cycle Route, it’s sad but not surprising that a notable number of residents feel such a way about the project. Cyclists have all sorts of different views. We should listen to people’s concerns based on the substance of what they are saying and not based just what mode of transport they use.
Cllr Boylan also said:
“We have two schools, we have hundreds of residents, we are due very soon to have a midwifery school on that street and we will also be getting student accommodation and a big supermarket on Lower Grangegorman which runs onto Brunswick Street, we’ll have 10,000 students which will be joining the DIT GDA [Grangegorman] campus in the next two years.”
She echoed that in a statement on Facebook.
Context is vitally important here: The city is growing and there’s no space for extra commuter car traffic — space needs to be made for more walking, cycling and public transport. Luas Cross City, new bus lanes on the quays, the Eden Quay bus gate and the Liffey Cycle Route and links off it will play their part in that.
Even after those, the city will need more and more projects from BRT routes to cycle route so that more people can leave their cars at home when commuting or doing other business in the city centre.
As for DIT Grangegorman — only Trinity College with Dart stations at two ends of its campus will be better served by public transport and a only small percentage of its students travel by car. Grangegorman will have two Luas routes within walking distance and tons of bus routes at different ends of the campus. Most of the planned DIT and private student accommodation have no car parking except disable spaces, but loads of bicycle parking.
Cllr Boylan also asked if “we have considered diverting the cyclists” — yes, a short diversion off the quays for cyclists has been considered but it would not meet the quality required to make the whole Liffey Cycle Route worth building. Cllr Boylan then seems to suggest the cycle route could divert off the Liffey as far as Brunswick Street, but future routes will serve those areas.
From our previous articles it’s clear that some readers aren’t aware that the Liffey Cycle Route is a strategic 4.6km route along the full length of the quays — it will be continuous and fully segregated from traffic. It is a backbone in the planned Greater Dublin Cycle Network as it will directly link to nine or 10 planned primary cycle routes, another nine secondary routes and will be directly or closely linked to five or six greenways. It is key for safe and attractive cycling in Dublin.
Our coverage of the issues of the Liffey Cycle Route and related issues will soon continue with an article exploring making links of the quays and making the areas around Smithfield safer and more attractive for walking and cycling.