COMMENT & ANALYSIS: There’s no nicer way I can say this: The Strand Road Cycle Route Trial Cycle path objectors have put forward pure unadulterated nonsense in the High Court as an argument against the project.
The project mainly includes making Beach Road and Strand Road one-way to make space for a two-way cycle path. Also planned is a two-way cycle path on the Merrion Road and the Rock Road, which would link in with the cycle route in Blackrock Park and onto DLRCC’s Coastal Mobility Route.
If the trial was successful and linked with Coastal Mobility Route, it would mean people cycling for transport or leisure would have a near-continuous 10km cycle path route from Sandycove to Irishtown and Ringsend (the non-continuous sections would be low-traffic streets such as in Blackrock). It would wouldn’t be perfect but still a huge leap forward as the first continuous cycle route from city to suburbs in Dublin. The health, environmental and transport benefits would be substantial.
Breakingnews.ie / The Irish Times has coverage of the case today, the first of two days set aside for the case about the proposed Sandymount cycle path trial. The case against Dublin City Council is being taken by local resident Peter Carvill of the Serpentine Avenue, Tritonville and Claremont Roads (STC) group and by Cllr Mannix Flynn.
As this website reported previously, Cllr Flynn claims to be supportive of cycling, but he is also a serial objector to cycle routes.
The claim today in the High Court that council officials were their own “judge, jury and executioner” and the project was “a particularly extreme example of the public being excluded from the consultation process” is so outlandish it is nearly unbelievable to me that it was said in court if it wasn’t in the court report.
My disbelieve is in the context of hearing “there was no consultation” or “there was not enough consultation” over and over again about different projects in Ireland and from different parts of the world, over years of covering these issues. These are age-old claims from people outright objecting to projects which take space from cars, or at least the parts of projects which might affect them.
Sometimes there are issues around consultation, there’s no doubting that and to claim otherwise would be foolish. But with Strand Road it was to be a six month trial and instead there was six months or more of consultation and wider debate. In a pandemic doing in-person consultation would be unjustifiable, but the amount of consultation seems put the level of consultation on this project beyond the average consultation.
The legal provisions planned to be used for the trial do not have a requirement for public consultation and public display of plans for cycle projects. The council chose to go far beyond the requirements and the consultation included:
- The original online consultation.
- The council publishing more than one proposal from the STC objector group.
- Detailed assessments of those proposals highlining their flaws — the flaws are glearly clear
- Further online consultation when a small section of the route was changed based on the feedback of the original consultation.
- An extension to that further consultation when other objectors complained about the formats that documents were available in.
- It was debated in a number of local area council meetings.
- And, after all of that, the Lord Mayor set up a community forum which STC left when things were not going their way.
The consultations were covered by the media, shared widely on social media, and local groups were informed.
The objectors in court then argued that it was not a trial at all because if deemed successful it should remain in place permanently… as if that’s not what should happen when a trial is deemed successful. It is what happens with similar schemes in Ireland and also in the UK.
The issue of “where will the traffic go” is contentious, but as Will Andrews wrote back in March: “…international evidence repeatedly shows that displacement of traffic isn’t a simple numbers game, that the somewhat wide-eyed sounding concept of ‘traffic evaporation’, cited by supporters of the trial, is well-founded. That’s why major cities like Taipei, Seoul and San Francisco have been able to remove whole urban sections of motorway, and keep their citizens moving.”
Much of the other complaints about the project, as report in the court report, from councillors not being able to block the trial to it not needing to go to An Bord Pleanála relate back to the claim that council officials were the “judge, jury and executioner”.
This seems to be more central to the case, but it’s not yet clear that if goal from the complainants is to attack the council for making a choice they should not have or attacking the law, looking for the law to be struck down.
As IrishCycle.com has reported a number of times before: On the issue of planning permission, the council and the National Transport Authority rely on the the Road Traffic Act 1994 (Section 38) as amended by the Public Transportation Regulation Act, 2009 (Section 46).
Public Transportation Regulation Act, 2009 expands the meaning of traffic calming in Road Traffic Act 1994 to include the ability to “restrict or control the speed or movement of, or which prevent, restrict or control access to a public road or roads by, mechanically propelled vehicles (whether generally or of a particular class) and measures which facilitate the safe use of public roads by different classes of traffic (including pedestrians and cyclists).”
It continues: “includes for the purposes of the above the provision of traffic signs, road markings, bollards, posts, poles, chicanes, rumble areas, raised, lowered or modified road surfaces, ramps, speed cushions, speed tables or other similar works or devices, islands or central reservations, roundabouts, modified junctions, works to reduce or modify the width of the roadway and landscaping, planting or other similar works.”
The legislation allows for wide-ranging changes to existing roads and streets, including fully closing off streets to motorists. This is primary legislation, enacted by the houses of the Oireachtas and was very much so intentional — it’s not accidental when there’s that much detail.
Cllr Flynn has known about this law change since at least 7 years ago in October 14 when he complained about it at a council meeting.
While the council officials have great powers under the legislation, they have shown if anything too much restraint while trying to bring councillors and some residents along with them. The reality is if the claimed negative outcomes of the trial were sustained over a few days that councillors would be able to presure officials to abandon the project.
The complainants real fear seems to be that the trial will go ahead and that most people on balance will like it.