Car reduction central to livable cities, but sometimes a bit of road widening needed

IMAGE: Most of the 'gardens' on Wilton Road are little more than driveways -- some with a bit of greenery.

— It was Cork this week, but issue affects Dublin, Limerick and Galway too.
— Focus needs to be on transferring and transforming existing space.
— But some CPOs of gardens and parking spaces cannot be ruled out. 

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Be it Cork’s Wilton Corridor Project last week or Dublin’s BusConnects for the last year or more, we need to start to have a wider debate about car reduction in cities.

The Wilton Corridor Project — which was rejected by councillors this week — was planned road widening to make space for bus lanes and cycling.

The current layout is three lanes, including a bus lane in one direction. The location in Cork is the main road between Cork University Hospital and the city centre:

In this debate, the people who say it’s not the right time cannot be allowed to win the argument — there will always be people who say it’s not the right time. There will always be people who say we need X, Y or Z large road or mega public transport project first.

But even in London, buses carry more people than the Tube. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which have both extensive rail networks, cycling accounts for around 50%+ of commuting trips. The Dutch city of Utrecht has extensive city centre traffic restrictions in place and is only now getting ready to launch a cross-city tram route.

But, regards of what systems are in place, someone will compliant it’s not enough. Tackling the all important surface transport and the politics of space is usually difficult, at least at first.

In the Inchicore area of Dublin residents have looked for the BusConnects bus improvement project to be changed — for cars to be restricted rather than trees removed. It seems like they have made progress:

In Cork, the Wilton Residents Action Group had a bit more of a mixed list of demands and worries — a recurring issue they raised was car storage and access. This is the same to-date with most areas of planned BusConnects changes in Dublin.

In an Irish Examiner article covering the rejection of the project, it reports that “Fianna Fáil councillor Fergal Dennehy said the project would bring traffic closer to peoples’ homes and it said that “Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty said he couldn’t support a project which was just ‘one piece of a jigsaw’, while Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher said the project would do nothing to address traffic pinch-points.”

The Wilton Corridor project is (was?) mainly a bus priority project with some cycling tacked on (the details on cycling aren’t great, but that’s another story as, if space is made available, details can be ironed out).

The comments from councillors are unrealistic and/or mainly focused on car traffic — the project would give buses greater priority and other sections would have been progressed at a later date. Trying to do everything at once holds up sustainable transport changed — you put jigsaws together one piece of a jigsaw at a time.

It would bring footpaths, cycle lanes and bus lanes closer to home, but there would still be a significant buffer between the footpaths and the bulk of the building including most of the houses.

As shown below, with current and planned images, the houses on the road would still have a significant enough front yard — most of them aren’t gardens by the owner’s choice and the council could have helped reintroduced trees to help block pollution (if they have the means,?residents should be doing this themselves regardless).

Change is messy. Moving towards a liveable and sustainable city is too. Sometimes it will mean reducing car lanes, reducing turning lanes, removing on-street parking or making cars one-way and sometimes it will require road widening.

The greater good is rarely mentioned or even hinted at by residents objecting to loss of “gardens” for bus projects.

If residents really want pollution reduction they should focus on making such schemes have greater space and priority for walking, cycling and public transport — such as segregated cycle paths and bus priority up to or closer to junctions. And more of a focus on greenery and public space.

It’s telling when nearly half of the potential impacts listed by residents under 3km from the core city centre are about car access and storage. If residents want a better city, they too need to think along the lines of less car priority even where it might affect their car use.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

1 Comment

  1. It looks from the photos that the amount of frontage taken is minimal,Most owners seem to have removed their gardens to make car parks ,in some cases it seems they have parking for as many as eight cars.When I read the initial reports it sounded as if buses would be passing within arms length of bedroom windows but this is not the case and if the cycleway is at the kerb then the motor traffic is no nearer the houses.One wonders if a desire to maximize compensation for loss of land may be a greater factor in the argument.

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