Comment & Analysis: Last week residents of Stoneybatter and Grangegorman in Dublin 7 sent a letter to Dublin City Council requesting a trial scheme to restrict through motor traffic on Grangegorman Lower, one of those residents, Michael Banim, explains why.
Grangegorman, which includes Grangegorman Lower, Upper and Rathdown Road, runs roughly parallel to the Stoneybatter area which includes Manor Street, Prussia Street and Aughrim Street. These streets are key active travel routes for the residents of Stoneybatter, Ashtown, Cabra and parts of west Finglas.
The recent COVID-19 mobility plan, published jointly by Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority (NTA), has so far not included either area in its priority list of routes. The initial selection was based on the NTA’s canal cordon count, and the combined active travel figures for Old Cabra Road, Blackhorse Avenue, Annamoe Road and Chareville Road total only around 2,000 people.
This reflects the city’s geography, but it could also reflect the present paucity of attractive walking and cycling routes in the wider area.
The Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network Plan, published by the NTA in 2013, identified Manor Street and Prussia Street as a primary route. However, this route is also now identified as a core bus corridor under the BusConnects programme. Prussia Street is too narrow to accommodate two priority bus lanes and segregated cycle lanes, and the adjacent Aughrim Street, which will have the orbital N2 bus route, is the same. This presents a problem in delivering a cycling-for-all approach in the area.
The solution, we argue, is that Grangegorman Lower should be developed as a quietway; a low-traffic street with high volumes of walkers and cyclists. It is home to the new TU Dublin campus, the Dublin 7 Educate Together primary school, and links to the Stanhope Street primary school on Kirwan Street, and St Paul’s secondary school on Brunswick Street.
In the medium term, a new gate to the TUD campus is to be opened on Prussia Street adjacent to St Joseph’s Road, and the Park Shopping Centre on Prussia Street is slated to be redeveloped with a more substantial walking and cycling link to the campus than presently exists. These measures will help increase numbers accessing the campus from Blackhorse Avenue and Old Cabra Road.
In the meantime, Grangegorman Upper, Rathdown Road and the TUD North Circular Road entrance could be used to allow cyclists to avoid the bus lanes on Prussia Street or Aughrim Street. Cyclists using these access points could converge on Grangegorman Lower, before travelling down George’s Lane and Queen Street to reach the Liffey Cycle Route.
Though some of these routes are less direct than continuing down Prussia Street and Manor Street through Stoneybatter, they present greater opportunities for delivering high volumes of safe cycling if through-traffic is removed.
Background for the proposal
Rathdown Road is home to the Rathdown Road and District Residents’ Association. Late last year, it held a public meeting in Phibsborough to discuss a traffic management proposal for the NTA’s BusConnects project. The current BusConnects plans propose restricting private motor traffic from travelling south down neighbouring Prussia Street and Aughrim Street. This has caused concern amongst residents, who fear the move could push additional traffic through Grangegorman.
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In response, the association drew up plans for a pedestrian plaza centered around the ‘Clock Tower’ in the heart of TU Dublin’s campus. This plaza would remove through-access for motor vehicles and connect the two halves of the campus for pedestrians and cyclists.
Though not a resident of the Rathdown Road district, I had been corresponding with Luke McManus, the association’s chairman, regarding some similar ideas I had been working on in the Stoneybatter Sustainability Coalition’s BusConnects submission, and was invited to attend. A presentation on the BusConnects plans and the plaza proposal was given, and though the plaza would result in more circuitous drives being necessary on some journeys, this was viewed by residents as an acceptable sacrifice in order to reduce traffic levels in the area. It was agreed near-unanimously by the 40-odd residents present that the plaza proposal should be sent to the NTA.
As the COVID-19 report makes clear, the collapse in public transport capacity means the city will need to act quickly to provide alternatives to the private car and avoid gridlock. Several weeks ago, inspired by the many cities worldwide acting decisively to reorganise their mobility networks in response to the crisis, I reached out to Luke to see if his residents’ association would be interested in contacting Dublin City Council about getting a trial version of the plaza installed more quickly.
As the lockdown progressed, the wonderful TU Dublin campus began to see increased footfall, with large numbers using Grangegorman Lower to access it. Social distancing measures meant it was common to see to walkers and cyclists on the road – not an ideal situation given the speeds of motor vehicles in the area. Further, it seemed obvious that once the schools returned, social distancing would become very difficult under the current street conditions.
Dublin City Council had started to indicate a greater willingness to take suggestions from residents regarding emergency measures for walking and cycling, so myself and Luke, along with several neighbours from Kirwan Street, the residents’ association of Rathdown Road and the residents’ association of Grangegorman Lower, agreed on a proposal to send to the council.
We requested bollards be placed across Grangegorman Lower, to prevent the street from being used as a through-route for cars, and to allow walking and cycling to continue to flourish. The targets for the Covid-19 Mobility Plan set out a tripling of cyclist numbers in the city: a Grangegorman Lower quietway would seem the sensible way to ensure these targets are reached, and users are kept safe.