More cars in Dublin City Centre post lockdown is “knee jerk solution”

IMAGE: File image of car traffic in Dublin.

— Cycling will play key roll, car access for those who need it – Council CEO.

Access for cars will be maintained into Dublin City Centre, but it is a “knee jerk solution” to think that there’s space for everybody to switch from public transport to cars, Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan said this morning.

He made the comments on RTE Radio One’s Today with Sarah McInerney following criticisms from the car parking-focused groups such as the Dublin City Centre Trader’s Alliance and the Irish Parking Association. The head of the Irish Parking Association suggested that more people could drive after lockdown.

This website is the only media outlet so-far to cover how Dublin retailers linked to these car park lobby group could face a boycott from some members of the public.

This morning, Keegan said that there is a “fundamental question” if residents want the same level of traffic in urban centres around Dublin City, often referred to as “urban villages”.

“It seems clear that there will be capacity restrictions on public transport — the knee jerk solution is that we’ll all get into our cars, but that’s not a sustainable or viable model. We believe there’s huge potential for growth for cycling numbers and that could help deal with the travel demand in the short term,” said Keegan.

He said that when implementing social distancing in offices: “I’m confident post restriction there will not be anything like the [past] level of commuting demand. In our own case in the city council, we could only possibly accommodate half the staff who work in our main offices. Half our staff are likely to continue to be working from home.”

The city council has previously outlined how pedestrians traffic lights changes to avoid crowding on footpaths means that Dublin city centre cannot handle pre-COVID 19 traffic levels, Peak car capacity is said to be cut from 46,000 to around 27,600 cars. But while referring to changes of street space, Keegan said that the measures taken to date have had a negligible impact on car traffic.

When presenter Sarah McInerney challenged Keegan on this with reference to the interim Liffey Cycle Route works, Keegan said that the works had been agreed with councillors before the COVID 19 pandemic.

Keegan said that the council had not reduced disabled parking spaces and if some were removed they would be relocated.

He said that a document to be published, by the council with the NTA, as early as next week which is expected to outline more significant measures.

Keegan said that there will be a level of consultation at that point. Responding to a point raised by McInerney that the council had been accused of acting “in stealth under the cover of COVID 19”, he said to date that the city council has been dealing with an emergency and that it was not unreasonable that a public body respond to public requests for social distancing space.

“We are dealing with an emergency situation. Residents who want wider footpaths don’t want them in 6 months or 18 months, they want them now. We responded and think it was legitimate to respond to overwhelming public requests with strong support from elected members,” he said.

He said that some people think that there should have first been extensive public consultation and elaborate planning process with no action in the meanwhile, but he said that the council’s view is that there was a “sufficient case to act”. Keegan questioned, at what he said was a time with such low levels of traffic, why some people would have issue with the social distancing space provided which he said was overwhelmingly well received and has the support of councillors.

Keegan said that even figures provided by the Irish Parking Association — which the council says are an underestimation — have 60% of people traveling into the city centre by sustainable modes and he said: “It’s entirely appropriate that we have a regard for the majority of people coming into the city and we have given commitments to maintaining access for private cars. We’re not banning cars on every route, there will be some restrictions, but there still will be a facility for those who need to come in by car.”

The Dublin City Centre Trader’s Alliance has claimed that the council are acting illegally but, as IrishCycle.com covered yesterday, councils have power under the Road Traffic Acts, strengthened by the Public Transport Act, to implement changes on streets.

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.

3 Comments

  1. Great up to date comments as backlash to sustainability moves increases! Well Done

  2. Thanks Cian! Great developments and a good interview. I do wish though that Owen Keegan hadn’t said ‘there will … be … losers’! Surely we can accommodate those who actually do need to use car to get very very close to their destination – even central Copenhagen has 9% car modal share, I think!?

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