COMMENT & ANALYSIS: If you’re asking what about the people who have no choice but to drive into city centres, we need to also ask: What about residents and others not driving in an area subject to increasing densification?
To be clear here: IrishCycle.com is not against densification — adding housing density is generally a good thing when it’s relatively low to start with, But with densification, the case for rebalancing streets away from car dominance gets stronger.
Dublin is the main example of this: Its density is around the same overall as comparable EU cities and Dublin’s city centre area (ie within the canals) is densifying. So, adding density without changing streets to match that — especially on already narrow or crowded footpaths — is going to make things needlessly worse for residents, both more established and new.
This is not just a cycling thing or even a walking for transport thing. It’s about livability. Our streets are not just for transport, but for basic interaction with fellow residents and others.
North King Street is an acute example:
Once the barriers are taken away on this Dublin CIty Council housing project, North King Street will be left with a narrow footpath on the busier side, two narrow cycle lanes and five traffic lanes.
The footpath that will be left after the building is in place looks to be narrower than where a short-live pocket park was in place around 2014 — and the vertical nature of the building right up to the footpath will make the narrower. Again: Having buildings right up to the street is another example of a generally good thing but not with narrow footpaths:
In the square km around this street (including Smithfield and some of the Liberties north of Thomas Street) as mapped out by the CSO, the population increased from 11,869 in the 2011 Census to 12,743 in the 2016 Census — a high 7.1% change for an area that is already highly populated. There’s been an increase in building in the area since the last Census.
The area just northeast of this is the highest population density per square km at 15,449 people, but the highest density areas are generally around 12,000 people per square km.
To put the density of Dublin city centre in context you’re talking about being able to house all the residents of Sligo, Greystones, Clonmel, Malahide, Carrigaline, Leixlip, and Maynooth, including their sprawling suburbs into an area of around 12km squared.
Most households in Dublin city centre do not have cars (left image below), and fewer again use them for commuting (right below):
There are no buses routes on this stretch of street from Blackhall Place to Granby Row (between Parnell Square West to and Western Way). And there are no plans for buses to use this street under BusConnects — leaving the footpath and cycling space squeezed here is just benefiting car users.
And what about people who need to drive for whatever reason? Nobody is suggesting taking all the space away from cars, but a rebalancing is needed.
It’s important to point out that on average commuters coming into Dublin City Centre are travelling shorter distances than say those travelling to business parks around the M50, and also are more likely to be travelling those distances on a train or bus than their M50 worker counterparts.
The first chart here excludes those living within the canals:
Yes, of course, more can be done to provide transport links to commuter areas — that’s happening with BusConnects already and will be supported further by Dart+ and other projects. But there will never be some perfect time to take space from cars and in these conversions, we need to start talking more about city centre residents and others outside of cars.
The reality is that a lot of the cars being driven into Dublin are still from within the M50 and there’s still a huge potential to switch those trips to walking and cycling. As usually: Nobody is saying everybody can or will walk or cycle.