— Newspaper previous attacked cycling and bus priority projects, effectively car-reduction measures, on the quays.
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday gave a stark warning on nitrogen dioxide air pollution, clearly making the link between excessive car use and human health — in reaction, The Irish Times told us to wear cycling face masks and not to walk on busy roads and, this morning, used its influential editorial column to call for urgent action to… wait for it… have more monitoring.
More monitoring is needed, but using such an influential column to just calling for monitoring is a disservice to the residents of the city centre, and visitors of all types, be they workers, shoppers or tourists.
The bull in the China shop — the car — is hardly touched on in the article.
The Irish Times says the “capital needs a real-time map to highlight how bad the air has become in certain parts of the city” but what the capital needs is action — mainly focused on traffic reductions measures.
Motor traffic reduction is needed for air quality reasons, but also to make space for a growing city, make the city safer, to allow its population to be healthier by being more active, and a reduction in carbon emissions. These are interlinked issues which could be called seeking sustainable or liveable cities.
Some opponents of motor traffic reduction measures, such as the AA’s Conor Faughnan, are masters at their work. They have well-crafted arguments that make great sound bites but don’t stand up to much scrutiny.
Opponents will even use the interlinked issues to cry or imply ‘conspiracy’ — as if people and groups looking for a better city should only have one justification for anything.
Cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht (see first video below article) prove that car reduction in city centres does not kill city centre businesses. Paris is one of a growing number of cities which have found traffic does not just jump to other roads and streets, and this is backed by evidence on traffic evaporation (explained better in the second video below).
A good starting place for car reduction in Dublin is the quays along the River Liffey — remove cars from at least a good chunk of the quays (aka #GreenTheQuays).
#GreenTheQuays would benefit commuting by adding people-carrying capacity, it would benefit the human and natural environment by the removal of cars and by adding trees, and it would benefit both tourism and ability of residents to engage in activity. It would benefit business by having a more attractive city for employees and a better retail experience.
Where will all the cars go? The number of cars on the quays — mostly with around one person in them — is relatively small. This day-long data released in 2018 shows how few:
Key data from #LiffeyCycle Route presentation today — day-long traffic counts at Capel Street bridge and at O’Connell Bridge: number of cars down 40-60% since 2012, while number of bicycles up between 60-140% — this is before segregated cycle paths — build it and more will come! pic.twitter.com/nmuiAwBNQ2
— IrishCycle.com (@IrishCycle) April 3, 2019
The largest amount there is under 6,500 cars for the day, to a low of under 4,300 at Bachelor’s Walk / O’Connell Bridge. It differs so much because of motorists joining and leaving the quays at different locations.
The 4,300 figure divided by 7 hours is just 614 per hour — that’s a of cars in the core city centre but relatively few people — it’s about one and a half longer Luas trams or 6-7 buses.
The longer Luas green line trams hold 408 passengers. The shorter trams have a capacity varying between 309 and 319 people, depending on the particular model.
Buses can carry around 80-100 passengers. Dublin should have cleaner buses by now — but even the newest diesel buses are far more regulated than the average car on the road and carrying far more people. Even a lightly loaded bus takes up way less space than cars.
The Luas tram extension and expansion programme is on-going and new buses are added every year or so.
The below graph with rush hour data from Bachelor’s Walk, taken before the bus priority traffic light was installed (car flow as since decreased), shows just how stark the different is in people carrying capacity. The Luas here is the red line route and the buses and cars represents those on the north quays:
This is before we even touch on the Kildare railway line and the relatively new services via the Phoenix Park or more people walking and cycling.
Unlike traffic removal in other parts of the city, doing it on the quays is supported the the huge amount of public transport already provided for and enabling cycling on the quays would not make a cycling network, but it would be a hell of a start and instantly tackle the worst part of cycling commuting to a number of inner and outer suburbs.
Not everybody has long distances to go and, with those who do, there’s a mix of buses, trains, car share, and park and ride. Sometimes hard choices will need to be looked at, but the status quo of polluting and blocking up the most densely populated area of the country isn’t on.
For some people the time will never be right and some people located in the rural commuter belt far from towns will never have a direct service. Health, safety and climate are at stake — there’s no better time than now.
The Irish Times says that “anybody who walks down heavily-trafficked Pearse Street, for example, would be aware that the air they’re breathing is contaminated by the tail-pipe emissions from cars, vans and buses belching out diesel soot particles and nitrogen dioxide” — removing a traffic lane from this street and other locations will reduce the amount of cars and provide for alternatives like cycling.
Government ministers have pointed to the launch later this year of the first national Clean Air Strategy and to electric cars. But we should not wait for more and more policy documents before acting.
There’s also mounting evidence that electric cars, while remove tail pipe emissions, still produce toxic plastic pollution into the air, and continue to produce break dust pollution. Because electric cars are heavier, they also have a worst effect on dust emissions from road surfaces. Collectively these are called particulate matter (PM) emissions, which the World Health Organisation says on its website: “There is no evidence of a safe level of exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur. The exposure is ubiquitous and involuntary, increasing the significance of this determinant of health.”
"When we go to electric cars there'll be no tailpipe emissions – but we'll get plastic emissions from tyres."
Dispatches reveals that toxic particles, not previously identified, are coming off every vehicle – including environmentally friendly ones. pic.twitter.com/ZHnY6uSOFe
— Channel 4 Dispatches (@C4Dispatches) June 10, 2019
The Irish Times also mentions how “strong measures are now being planned in London to curtail traffic in the worst affected areas, aided by a public awareness campaign that includes an interactive Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map, which allows people to check on air pollution levels throughout London.”
It adds: “The same technology has been deployed in Paris, which holds the dubious honour of having the most polluted air of any city in Europe – something that its, is determined to reverse.”
Rather than advocate for — or even list — the strong measures being used in London or Paris, the newspaper only advocates for better data.
No mention, for example, of school streets in London and elsewhere in the UK where motorists idling their cars get fined or even where school drop off and pick up by car are not allowed directly outside a growing number of schools. Also no mention of London or Paris handing over space to cycle paths or Paris closing a riverside motorway and having massive car-free days.
Car use really is the elephant in the room that the editorial writer can’t discuss.
The editorial writer, speaking for The Irish Times, states: “Dublin needs a similar real-time map to highlight how bad the air has become in certain parts of the city. Urgently.”
This is dangerous nonsense. People’s health has been effected due to decades of inaction and relatively little interest from the news or comment desks of too many Irish media outlets.
Dublin and other Irish cities need action on car reduction. Urgently.
Traffic reduction measures and the approach to transport and public space in Utrecht:
“Where will all the traffic go?” Explaining Traffic Reduction