COMMENT & ANALYSIS: For clarity, I have to start this article by saying: Capel Street is now car-free, but cycling is still allowed. Allowing cycling was part of the plan and the reason why the council avoided the term “pedestrianisation”. This wasn’t clear from some of the news coverage, but doesn’t change the fact that cycling is now allowed.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s five suggestions to improve the street that should be addressed quickly.
1. Remove any excessive signs, fences, bollards etc
The fences, bollards beyond the access points, redundant signs and line markings should be removed, both to reduce clutter and also open up the street for pedestrians.
There especially shouldn’t be any yellow posts and plastic bollards left on the street beyond the entry points, where motorists are diverted away.
The cycle lanes (as the one pictured above, right) installed when there were still cars on the street should be removed or at least adjusted.
2. Provide for cycling northbound on Capel Street
Dublin City Council has promised formal provision to allow people to cycle northbound. It’s a good idea to do this as quickly as possible to not just allow for (legal) cycling permeability from the quays and just along Capel Street and it’s side streets, but also to allow for clarity for everyone involved.
The last 50 metres or so at the south end of Capel Street still has motor traffic on it (pictured above). This allows motorists existing Great Grand Street to access the quays and Grattan Bridge (aka Capel Street Bridge). But it means a contra-flow lane will be needed here to allow for northbound cycling access to Capel Street.
It will also be tricky to provide for access to Capel Street from the quay-side cycle path, especially while the bridge is still open to cars. But this shouldn’t be used as a reason to delay providing northbound access along Capel Street.
3. Improve the surface visually
While some people don’t like the buff surface treatment which has been used elsewhere, using it or just black top resurfacing of the street could also help give the street a cleaner look and make it less like a motor traffic environment in the short to medium term while a longer-term redesign of the street is looked at.
Another alternative is a patterned painted design as used as a temporary feature on Times Square before it’s more permanent design.
At a minimum, there shouldn’t be yellow box junctions within the car-free street (this clearly doesn’t apply to cross-streets where cars are allowed). As many of the car-centric markings should be burned off or painted over quickly.
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4. Take into account that many people will still be using the footpaths
Pedestrians are still using the footpaths and short-term measures should take this into account.
It will likely be some time yet before the street is fully redesigned, improving some of the existing pedestrian crossings (as the example pictured above where the Luas and some access traffic intersects Capel Street) could go a long way to improving the experience of those still using the footpath, especially people with disabilities.
5. Standardise and simply the required entry signs
Pick a sign, any sign. But just please one and stick with it. Even two different versions, not the current 5 (or more?) variations. Currently on the approaches to the car-free section of the street, there’s a mix of signs, including:
- Old-style no entry sign, with except cyclists plate.
- Pedestrian street sign, with delivery exception plate, alongside old-style no entry sign, with except cyclists plate.
- Pedestrian street sign, with delivery exception plate, and pedestrian and cycling shared sign (the shared sign would refer to the carriageway only and not the footpaths).
- On just one or two side streets: Pedestrian street sign, with delivery exception plate (cycling exception missing).
- New-style (red background) no entry sign, sometimes across from old-style no entry sign, with except cyclists plate.
Even allowing for the fact that some sections of streets allow access for deliveries and others do not, there’s way too many different signs in use at entry points. This should be sorted to avoid any confusion and to remove some of the clutter..
6. Use “Street Open to…” signs
Some version of the “Road open to…” or you could say “Street open to…” signs (as above) should be used. These would help make it clearer than the currently used “traffic free street” signs (below) that the street a shared street and cycling is allowed.