COMMENT & ANALYSIS: This is my favourite famous quote:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”— George Bernard Shaw
What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China or a cycle path in Sandymount? It’s got to do with attitudes.
My problem is that I’m an unreasonable man. No, not because I think all progress relies on people like me. Not that at all. I don’t think that.
I think progress relies on Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend residents, others from further afield and politicians who are on the fence or against the planned trial of a cycle path on Strand Road to be open to being supportive of the trial.
That’s why I’m unreasonable on this issue. If I was a reasonable person I would think it’s too hard to convince such people. But I’m not reasonable. I don’t think scaremongering can be left to win. My unreasonability gives me stubbornness but also optimism and hope that sensible people in the area and beyond can see beyond scaremongering and stand up against it.
Before we go any further I should say Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend are generally nice places, but like many parts of Irish towns and cities they are too dominated with car traffic. Some people might disagree with this and be fine with the status quo. That’s their view.
But it’s up to people who want change from the status quo to be unreasonable in the face of people who want to maintain the car-centric status quo — those who are happy with or are in denial about a status quo which hinders livability, which blocks have safer streets, stops having cleaner air, and gets in the way of making walking, cycling and life on our streets more attractive.
Sandymount Green is soon getting long-awaited pedestrian crossings because not even the heart of Sandymount village is free from serious levels of motor traffic volumes — this is despite some people scaremongering about the Strand Road trial implying the village is alright as it is. At times or in places, it might not be as bad as pre-COVID but it will likely bounce back to just as bad or worse if left on checked.
The status quo is not inevitable. But more local residents need to be unreasonable and fight against the people who want the status quo.
Now is an ideal time to look not just for the cycle path trial but better conditions in and around Sandymount — the opposition to the cycle paths on the grounds of not wanting extra traffic in the village is a key opportunity to not just reject extra traffic but look for motor traffic reduction in the wider area.
For example, links to/from the Strand Road must include links into Irishtown and Ringsend. One road which should have changed years ago is Church Avenue, where we’re reliably told that in the past a school children was killed cycling on this road. A two-way cycle path on this road could link to having Bath Avenue and Londonbridge Road calmed changing then to access-only streets with the bridge across the River Dodder between then changed to walking, cycling and emergency access only.
This would link locally to the Dodder paths and many already traffic-calmed streets in Ringsend. It would also be a step closer to linking the coastal route to the segregated Grand Canal cycle path.
This is just one example. Traffic calming and reduction measures for the wider area needs to be looked at pro-actively before the trial is in place and also to react to any issues once the trial is up and running.
Let’s be blunt here: This approach will ensure extra safety and will aim to avoid possible avoid negative effects of the trial, but it will likely further annoy the people who just want the status quo to be retained.
Of course there’s people who need to drive, but the best solution to that is that those who don’t avoid driving as much as possible. That might annoy some people but a city striving to offer choices in the way people get around — especially with COVID-19 restricting numbers on public transport — needs to make it safer and attractive for more people to do the right thing.
But where will all the traffic go?
While writing about cycling and running social media account for this website, I get to read the comments from and interact with a good few residents of Sandymount and beyond. A good few have pointed to people who use Strand Road to drive to the airport or beyond on the M1 motorway as a reason to abandon or massively alter the trial.
The airport was by far the most common location mentioned. This is apparent in the public consultation report too.
As it stands the off-peak time difference between travelling from locations like Dun Laoghaire to Dublin Airport using the M50 to the west vs using the Port Tunnel is 5 minutes.
But let’s not kid ourselves, the toll on the Eastlink is €1.40 and the Port Tunnel is €3 off-peak and a whopping €10 peak time toll for cars designed to keep the tunnel free for the trucks it was built to be used for. That’s compared to just €2.10 for the western M50 toll, and €0.50 cent off for people using a Eflow account.
The reality is that a lot of people making such a trips by car via Strand Road are toll dodge using Ringsend, Pearse Street and the north inner city. These are high-density areas and the EPA’s Pearse Street air monitor shows that road traffic has a serious effect on the health of residents. International experts say electric cars still emit harmful air particles pollution from tires and breaking, thus electric cars are not the solution for most trips within cities.
Maybe we’re still in denial as society about the effects of motor traffic, but it’s reprehensible to be making such trips by car via densely populated areas and city centre streets when there’s a motorway alternative.
A lot of the traffic using Strand Road is going into the city centre via Pearse Street or going to locations like the north and south Docklands.
While traffic modelling is noted to be deficient in this area, measures like the cycle path means less, not more traffic in the wider area. It will mess less traffic not just for Sandymount but also for Irishtown and Ringsend — the idea implies that post-lockdowns that all or most of the traffic currently using Strand Road northbound will just divert to other local is understandably but not at all logical. The peak-time traffic removed from Sandymount just will not fit on local roads and street.
A lot of such traffic will evaporate. It sounds far-fetched, but as explained by TU Dublin lecturer David O’Conor: “So, where will all the traffic go? It evaporates, right? Actually it does. Not very scientific sounding, or even helpful, many might think. But there is a sound basis for this counter-intuitive idea, and lots of evidence to support it too.”
This is what has happened when Paris removed river-side motorway and continued to put the squeeze on cars taking up valuable city space. Paris didn’t add any massive extra public transport to go along with this and lots of people objected, it even ending up in court.
After the change was made along its river, Paris kept going and made changes to parallel streets — reducing car traffic on these streets too.
If you still think public transport is so much more advanced in Paris and that’s discounts Paris as an example, Utrecht has less public transport provision than Dublin yet it has gradually made space for cycling by reducing space for cars to the extent that over 50% of commuting trips in the city are taken by bicycle and 60% of all trips into its city centre are by bicycle.
Dublin is a long way off Dutch cities in terms of safe and attractive cycle route but a continuous route from Sandycove to the city centre would be the first continuous suburbs to city centre route and a great addition for the city’s first steps in making cycling for all ages and abilities.
This tweet from the city council in Utrecht said that in 1974 the city was proud of its brand new-ready-for-the-future-10-lane-asphalt-from-facade-to-facade-motorway, right beside its city centre. But now in that future, its fortunate thar things have worked out differently — with the motorway removed and restored to water:
In 1974 waren we maar wat trots op onze spiksplinternieuwe-klaar-voor-de-toekomst-10-banen-asfalt-van-gevel-tot-gevel-snelweg.— Gemeente Utrecht (@GemeenteUtrecht) August 4, 2020
En nu is het die toekomst. Liep gelukkig net ff wat anders allemaal. Volgende maand is Utrecht een nieuwe singel rijker. Nu al een plaatje. pic.twitter.com/5gYbO7c8R8
The point of doing it now in Dublin is COVID-19 and giving people an alternative way around the city without using public transport. The city cannot handle that slack being taken up by extra car trips. There isn’t the space and more cars means extra air pollution which is reportedly makes COVID-19 transmission more likely to lead to worse outcomes for people.
Trialing the planned Strand Road cycle path means if the project is as much as a disaster as the objectors predict, then the trial measures can be removed. The reason for 6 months rather than just a few weeks is that it takes time for people to adjust their habits and for measures to be adjusted as needed. It seems that the biggest fear of some is that the cycle route will be as popular as the route between Sandycove and Blackrock.
There’s an alternative suggestion outlined by a new group of resident in Sandymount, but this — even if well-meaning — only serves as a distraction. The group suggests removing 2km of footpath rather than reallocating space from a traffic lane as the council plans. But the footpath plan also falls short and about 300 metres of mixing cycling with motoring would also be needed.
Not only is it wrong to suggest the removal of 2km of footpath, as the group suggests, but that footpath is also not viable as a two-way cycle path. The existing footpath width is just about 2 metres wide in sections — that’s the width recommended for a single-direction cycle path.
Those making the alternative proposal might have a mix of motivations and outlooks in life but, at the end of the day, it’s a call to keep the status quo. Do you really want that for your area?
Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend needs this change as much as most of the rest of Irish city areas. Please don’t buy into the scaremongering.