A new Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Dublin is a possible solution to rat-running in the area bounded by Drumcondra Road, Botanic Road, Botanic Ave and Whitworth Road.
The area is mainly south-west Drumcondra and also includes a small part of south-east Glasnevin, just east of Botanic Road.
Iona & District Residents’ Association, a local residents’ group, have been looking for solutions to the traffic issues and sought out the help of London-based campaigner William Petty who has had experience advocating for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
As well as cutting out rat-running, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are designed to make residential streets more livable and to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive. The benefits include reducing noise and pollution.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) remain contentious in London. There is growing evidence that claims by objectors are generally not true, not true at all or are exaggerated.
Research in London has found, for example, that there is “no clear social equity problem related” to LTNs, that fire service times have not been affected, and that the schemes have not caused a rise in nearby main road traffic. Supporters of LTNs accept that there may be localised issues and the projects need to be designed with care.
Dublin has installed what could be seen as mini-LTNs in recent years which have been made permanent — before Covid, in Drumcondra at the intersection of Ferguson Road, Walsh Road, and Millmount Ave (main image above); and since Covid on Grangegorman Lower.
Both of the Dublin schemes involved ‘modal filters‘ made up of bollards and planters to stop through traffic. Like in London, both were controversial. But, in both cases, councillors agreed to make the measures permanent because the benefits were greater than the downsides.
A third Dublin scheme on Pigeon House Road was also deemed successful and councillors recently agreed to extend that trial by another 12 months. In all three of those Dublin examples, the nature of the streets meant that a single row of bollards or planters had cut rat-running from a larger than normal area.
Petty suggests that the Drumcondra / Glasnevin LTN would mainly need six modal filters to make it work.
“The six modal filters I have suggested would be enough to exclude through traffic from the neighbourhood – that is, people driving in one side and out another on their way to somewhere else,” said Petty. “Those journeys should be made on main roads. All properties would still be accessible by car from one of the boundary roads, but some car journeys made by residents would also be longer.”
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He said: “In one sense that’s a trade-off for quieter streets, but it’s also a positive feature that encourages residents to switch short car trips for sustainable modes such as walking or cycling.”
Petty said that the filters could be physical barriers such as bollards or planters. Or, he says, they could be monitored by number-plate recognition cameras, but the camera-enforcement option isn’t possible in Ireland at the moment.
Petty said there are other arrangements and local knowledge could help in fine-tuning the suggestion.
He said: “What I have suggested is just one possible arrangement of filters, and is only intended to act as a starting point for discussion. I can bring an understanding of LTN design, but not local knowledge – I only know what I can see on a map, and in fact, have never even been to Dublin. Since tweeting about my LTN proposal, the Iona & District Residents’ Association have received some really useful feedback, including things like banned turns that I’d missed. So any proposal should go through rigorous scrutiny by people who know the area before moving forward.”
He explains that as Covid mobility measures, there was a rush to expand the use of LTNs in London.
“A lot of London’s current crop of LTNs were put in in a hurry, and weren’t always well publicised or explained. They were also trialled with a concurrent consultation – a model which to my mind is far preferable to asking people to imagine the hypothetical effects of non-existent traffic filters, but which still exposed councils to accusations of trying to bypass the democratic process,” said Petty.
There are pitfalls he said which he hops that Dublin can avoid, but, on that, he added: “Having said that, I think some pushback is inevitable. We have spent the best part of a century building a transport system based on the right to drive wherever you want, and it won’t be undone overnight.”
IMAGES: Modal filters are not new in London and a resurgence of the use of Low Traffic Neighbourhood started pre-Covid. Here are some examples of filters in London ranging from planters to permanent planting areas to bollards and even a bicycle share docking station:
He said that politicians who are involved in the rollout of LTNs need to “stand firm, remember that they’re doing it for a better future, and accept that they won’t win over everybody.” And campaigners or locals supporting the measures, he said, “need to be relentless in championing the benefits: cleaner air, safer streets, more independence for children, and freedom to choose a sustainable mode of transport.”
He said that he’s based in Hackney, in northeast London, where he has been involved in cycle campaigning for a while when he got involved in LTNs.
“Last summer a number of London boroughs hastily rolled out low-traffic neighbourhoods, with the hope of giving people alternative travel options as they avoided public transport due to Covid fears. To keep track of all the new road layouts, I started putting together a Google map of LTNs. Different boroughs mapped their LTNs in a variety of different styles, so part of my task was standardising their designs.”
Petty said. “I settled on a ‘cell-based’ approach, which divided an LTN up into traffic cells – areas that you couldn’t drive between. I hoped this would be useful for drivers who found themselves in a new LTN, as it would show their nearest way out. Cyclists and pedestrians could ignore the cells of course, as all roads were still open to them.”
He said: “Fast-forward to 2021, and I was teaching myself to use a bit of mapping software called QGIS. I used it to build a tool that took the hard work out of mapping the boundaries of the traffic cells – you just pointed it a neighbourhood bounded by main roads, and it drew the cells for you. Then you could experiment with placing filters on roads in the LTN, and redrawing the cells to see how your filters blocked off through traffic.”
So, how did he get involved with the Drumcondra suggestion? He added: “When I tweeted about it offering to map people’s local streets for them, I got an overwhelming response – there is clearly a huge demand for low-traffic neighbourhoods! One of the requests I received was from the Iona & District Residents’ Association, which is how I came to map an LTN proposal for this area of Drumcondra. It was one of the few LTNs I mapped outside the UK, but as far as I can see the OpenStreetMap data that the design tool operates on are organised in the same way, so no adjustments were necessary.”