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Making Strand Road one-way for water main works should not be compared to cycle path trial

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Making Dublin’s Strand Road one-way for the planned Irish Water water main replacement works should not be compared to Dublin City Council’s proposed cycle path trial — there’s some key reasons why.

Irish Water describes the water main a “critical trunk water main”.

On social media, there’s some understandable joking around about planned water main works, ie asking why can’t the water main be put in sea (as objectors had suggested for the cycle path). Others are saying it will be a good time to measure the effects of diverting traffic — I don’t think it will be because the traffic will be worse with the water works.

There’s key differences between the Irish Water plan and what the council had planned for the cycle path trial. The obvious different is that there will be no cycle path to provide for modal shift for both longer distance and local travel.

This relates to Strand Road but, separately, the council had also planned to extend the cycle route south to meet the DLRCC Coastal Mobility Route — which would have made up the longest continuous cycle route into the city centre.

The second main difference is maybe just as important — the direction of the traffic which is planned to remain on Strand Road and thus the direction of traffic to be diverted.

Having southbound traffic detour as Irish Water is planning will push more traffic straight from the high-capacity route via the Eastlink and Sean Moore Road into Sandymount village.

A key point about the city council’s plan is that diverting northbound traffic would disrupt and disperse the traffic more because the right turns off the Merrion Road etc in Sandymount have limited capacity — both the length of the turning lanes and the traffic light sequences. This would limit the amount of traffic which goes via the village.

This would not just push more people into changing to the M50 for longer-distance cross-city travel, but it would also result in more people driving into the city centre towards modal change (ie switching to Dart, bus or cycling).

Hopefully, the Irish Water plan won’t be too harsh on the Sandymount village centre but the fact you can currently drive straight from the end of the Sean Moore Road into Sandymount Village via small streets isn’t likely to help.

Even if Irish Water/Dublin City Council was to close direct access from Sean Moore Road to the village via Cranfield Place, I think the route around on Church Ave would still result in more motorists choosing going via the village as the route of least resistance to travel south.

Another reason is people will more likely to continue with their old travel behaviour when it is a temporary change with no prospect of being extended.

A final reason is that if there’s a detour planned on a road or street, transport and travel behaviour experts recommend diverting the main morning flow of traffic — this is because motorists are more likely to switch modes of transport if their morning trip is the one which is changed. Getting to work etc is more time sensitive and if they can do their morning commute half ok, they’ll struggle on with their commute home.

As an aside: Talking about psychological effects or getting people to switch to sustainable transport is something that the people who want to protect the car-dominant status quo often complain about (it’s social engineering etc). But we’ve had a huge increase in the volume of cars on our roads which was pushed by billions of euro in advertising by the car industry backed by fine tuned psychology to target people.

Anyway, the Strand Road one-way system planned by Irish Water is likely to be far worse than that for the cycleway trial.

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