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Rather than showing leadership, Irish Examiner follows The Irish Times’ lead in going against BusConnects

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Both The Irish Times and Irish Examiner claim to be on board with everything from climate action to tackling inactivity to making our cities move livable, but when it comes down to firm proposals to better shape our streets and roads, both newspapers lack in leadership and choice fighting on the side of the status quo.

The other day this website reported on a call from Cork campaigners for “Leadership, vision, and courage” to stand up to likely opposite and to make BusConnects Cork plan better. Leadership cannot just be from politicians. Leadership has to be shown by a wide range of society, including journalists, editors, and managers in newspapers and other media outlets.

That doesn’t mean journalists blinding supporting all climate action or liveability measures. Change will be hard for some and that needs to be covered. But leadership means a shift away from defending the status quo and not calling measures backed by evidence “magical thinking”.

The Irish Times is now famed for covering BusConnects from mainly how it is going to impact motorists and how some gardens (in reality often little more than car parks) will be narrowed. The newspaper has a record of doing the same with cycling projects, focusing on impacts for motorists. Intrinsic and often exaggerated details on how motorists may be disrupted even make it into the front page of The Irish Times.

A high number of Irish Times journalists cycle, at least some of the time, and their readership likely has a far higher percentage of people who cycle than the general population. Yet, how many times has the newspaper covered even the broad problem of cycling on its news pages vs the number of times objectors get favourable coverage? Intrinsic details of cycling issues on the news papers of the paper? Dream on… unless it’s mainly focused on what objectors are saying.

Now that the infrastructure element of BusConnects has reached Cork, The Irish Times-owned Irish Examiner has followed its parent paper’s lead in going against BusConnects.

In an editorial today the Examiner compares BusConnects to Robert Moses’ handiwork. The level of destruction and demolition caused Moses (and inspired by him) isn’t even close to comparable to BusConnects. Moses is known for bulldozing minority neighbourhoods to make way for roads and other projects.

As a sideline: Moses, who lived to an old age, is reported to have never held a driver’s licence. So, don’t let modern-day non-drivers who support car dominance fool you.

The Examiner editorial claimed:

“The €600m plans announced this week to introduce 75km of bus lanes and 54km of cycling and walking infrastructure in Cork may not initially be seen to rival the intent of Robert Moses. They are not pro-car for example. But in terms of scale, they are equally as ambitious and profound. They will take away on-street parking, require the acquisition of buildings, and, perhaps most unacceptably, the loss of gardens.”

Unless the NTA is going to redesign roads into the shape of the N27 South Link Road, it’s not comparable to Moses’ handiwork:


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IMAGE: Cross-Bronx Expressway construction by 1961.

Is BusConnects sometimes too focused on compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) of gardens or other methods of providing extra space rather than reallocating existing space? Yes. But does that come any where close to what Moses did? Not a chance.

Despite ample national and international evidence that people can switch at least some of their trips from cars to walking, cycling and using public transport, the Irish Examiner editorial is firmly on the side of the status quo. It said: “There is an enormous level of supposition and magical thinking in these suggestions about the appetite and ability of people to walk and cycle into the city and about the effective provision of cost-effective and timely public transport.”

The Examiner also said that there’s an implied threat that the money can easily go elsewhere… this would be a very welcome approach but there’s no real commitment to it. It’s unclear why the Examiner thinks that a city unwilling to show leadership should still get sustainable transport funding when at least some other areas are willing to put that money to good use.

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