— Issue of noting interim public constitution report pushed to a vote.
— Councillors took issue with the report using ‘negative’ and ‘positive’.
A minority of councillors of an area of Dublin City attempted to stall the city’s first significant parking-protected cycle route — this is despite just 1% of public consultation submissions being overall negative.
The South East Area Committee of Dublin City Council previously voted against holding resident-only public consultation for the proposed South Dublin Quietway.
On Monday a majority of councillors for the area which serves the Pembroke-Rathmines local electoral area voted to note a report on the Fitzwilliam Cycle Route, which is planned to run from Leeson Street to Mount Street Lower and include upgrading large junctions along the route.
An interim report on the public consultation was presented to the committee on Monday afternoon. According to council officials, 1,763 submissions were made — 97% were supporting the scheme, 2 percent were not relevant to it, and 1% were negative towards the project.
The majority of submissions were from commuters but, even the majority of submissions from residents, were also positive — 9 compered to 5 which were negative, although one of those had 83 signatures. Paper-based petitions are usually not weighed heavily as the council has found them to be problematic in the past, including reported peer presure on neighbours to sign which they disagree with or have little interest in.
There was also 19 submissions from groups — 15 positive and 4 negative — and two from public representatives, both positive.
The groups making positive submissions included: Trinity College Dublin, the Dublin Institute of Technically, the Dublin Institute for Advance Studies, the ESB, Dublin Chamber, An Taisce and its Green Schools programme, NCBI, the Dublin Cycling Campaign, and the National Gallery of Ireland. While the groups making negative submissions were: South Georgian Core Residents Association, Dublin PPN Disability Linkage Group, the Blind Legal Alliance, and Headway, a brain injury charity which often argues for bicycle helmets.
Adrienne Houghton, the council’s project engineer for the project, said that the issues raised in different submissions ranged from the positive of overwhelming support for the project, welcoming safety improvements and improving active transport links, to negative points of perceived increase in risk for people with disabilities, potential pedestrian and cycling conflicts, the rational for the proposed design, questions about the junctions and impact on the historic streetscape.
Houghton said that the issues raised would inform the process of the detailed design for the project and it is hoped that construction would begin in quarter two of 2018. She noted that road safety audits are to be done, which are standard at different stages of projects.
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The residents in the council chamber gallery were welcomed by chairwoman Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) before opening the issue up to councillors.
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent), who has objected to a large number of sustainable transport projects in recent years, complained about the language used by council officials — he said it was wrong phrasing disapproving comments on the route as negative and that supporting comments were being called positive.
Cllr Flynn said: “To simply refer to these as negative and positive is preempting something, and putting into the public domain something that should not be there. The language should be neutral.” He added: “What you’re doing here is stigmatising and labeling the [section of] residents and other organisations which have made observations into negative.”
He said that the report should be withdrawn.
Cllr Paddy Smyth (FG), who was one of the promoters of the scheme, welcomed the submissions and said: “I’m not sure what language we’re allowed to use but it’s very heartening that 97% of submissions were welcoming.”
He said the the line of communications to should be kept open with residents.
Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) spoke to the gallery and welcomed the residents and said that she “would like to support Cllr Flynn around the language used”. Cllr Byrne said: “Submissions are submissions and I don’t think its fair to single out organisations as highlighting only the negatives as I’m sure there was some positives within their submissions.”
“I am very supportive of this cycle route but as always it is my duty to raise concerns of the residents,” she said. Cllr Byrne said that there are issues of accessing cars, especially residents with disabilities and buggies, and oil delivers from trucks to houses which still use oil for heating.
Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) — who was one of the driving forces behind stalling the South Dublin Quietway which would limit rat-running on residential streets — said that “areas are not just for traffic pass through”. Cllr Freehill said she agreed with Cllr Flynn and said that the project was not ready to take the next steps. She said that the verbal report from officials was “more like the score of a match”.
Cllr Freehill said “it’s very important that people can continue to live” in the area and that areas would not be safe without people living in them.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) — who also voted against consultation to happen on the South Dublin Quietway — said he liked the idea of the when it first came forward and that he would “like still to support it”.
Cllr Lacey has previously been hit by a car door when cycling in a bus lane with no space or buffer between where he was cycling and a car door. Unlike the bus lane where he crashed, this project includes modern-standard cycle lanes and a buffer space for car doors, but he said: “When I think about cycling along and car doors opening, [the project] is not quite ready yet.”
He said that he did not agree with an attract on council officials by Cllr Flynn but that the wording should probably stick to ‘for’ and ‘against’.
Cllr Claire O’Connor (FF) said that she agreed with Cllr Flynn on the issue of language used and that she it is very hard to say those who are for and against without a column saying that there is divided opinion.
Cllr Chris Andrews (Sinn Féin) said that the opinion of residents should have a higher weighting and asked about the details of the negative responses.
Cllr Freehill said that even “for” and “against” are “judgemental”.
Cllr Anne Feeney stressed that the report was an interim report and that officials have said that they will come back with a more detailed report with more neutral language.
Christopher Manzira, acting head engineer, said that the council officials came back to councillors with an interim report because councillors had asked for information to be presented by this month’s area meeting and that a fuller report will will be presented next month.
He said that officials already had made an undertaking to keep contact with residents and will continue to do so with face-to-face meeting with the residents’ group.
Manzire said that the issues raised will be feed into the risk assessment process and that only then would the design be finalised. He said that safety issues would get priority.
Cllr Mannix Flynn again asked that the report should be withdrawn, that officials have “made a conclusion”, that it is “extremely unfair” and that it should not have shown that there was overwhelming support for the project because that’s the message people will take from the meeting.
After attempting to note the report and move on to the next issue of the meeting, Cllr Feeney was interrupted by Cllr Freehill. Cllr Feeney then said that she would take a vote on noting the intern report — a majority of councillors present, eight, then voted to note the report.
IMAGES: Example sections of the route.