— Well over 650 car parking spaces will remain within 500-metre walk from Merrion Square.
— Some councillors suggest car parking on cycle lane for artists who display work at square.
Dublin councillors called on their fellow councillors yesterday to stop obstructing cycling projects “time and time again”, and to support necessary climate action rather than worrying about who’s “pulling the strings” when projects are in line with the city’s policies.
The comments were made by a number of Dublin City Council councillors when the South East Area Committee debated the 2.15km Trinity to Ballsbridge Interim Walking & Cycling Scheme. The project includes a mix of cycling in protected cycle lanes and having people cycling share with buses and taxis in sections of bus lanes.
The comments were also in response to some of the usual suspects who have objected to many cycle routes, including Cllr Manix Flynn (independent) and Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) who made unsubstantiated claims that the livelihood of artists who display works around the railing of Merrion Square was at risk due to the cycle route and questioned if it was the National Transport Authority was “pulling the strings”.
This idea that the project is an NTA-led project was mentioned by Cllr Flynn, Cllr Freehill and Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) — this is despite the project being in line with not just national policy but also Dublin City Council policy which was agreed on by councillors. Councillors were briefed late last year on the council’s Active Travel network and the role of interim routes.
Two of the councillors also used a common trope against cycle routes, implying that everybody is expected to cycle despite there still being car access and parking provided.
Cllr Freehill asked if Dublin was just going to become a place where “everybody passes through” and said: “Is a woman in labour expected to cycle in on a bike? Is that the reality some people kind of think is possible?”
She also suggested artists could get a permit to park in the cycle lanes on Sundays, this idea or similar ones were supported by some other councillors such as Cllr Deirdre Conroy (FF) who wanted a lower kerb used on to allow parking in the cycle path on Sundays.
James Geoghegan (FG) cycles a cargo bicycle but has been cautious about supporting cycle routes where measures affect motorists including siding with objectors to the Strand Road cycle route trial. He claimed to be a “keen cycling advocate”.
He said: “I am a keen cycling advocate, but even I wouldn’t put a newborn baby in a bicycle basket,” a reference to the National Maternity Hospital which is on Holles Street connected to Merrion Square North.
Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) said: “What I’m hearing is people suggesting that we have a five-day cycle lane and then allow parking in the cycle lane for something that happens over the weekend. I there have to be other solutions need to be looked at.”
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She said: “We have to be really bold in these schemes, and, yes, we have to get it right and protect culture assists such as the artists on Merrion Square. But also these schemes are critical to the survival of not just to the city but also to the planet.”
Cllr Hazel Chu (Green Party) said: “I just want to say I get the concerns, I too received the emails from the artists and appreciate the impact they have in terms of culture in the city.”
“But there is a climate emergency — we all talk about the changes we need in the city. We all talk about how we need better infrastructure, better pedestrianisation and better cycleway. But when it comes to it, time and time again, we then question why is it being done and put roadblocks in our own way,” she said.
Cllr Chu said she fully supports the plan and asks others to do so too while also working with the artists. She said that idea of allowing parking in the cycle lane on a Sunday would just led to frustration on both sides.
Cllr Claire O’Connor (FF) said: “I wouldn’t be supportive of swapping and changing [the cycle lane to parking] on a Sunday, that suits nobody. It centrally doesn’t progress what we want to do here.”
“In this debate, as sometimes happens in the council, there has been a misplaced focus on who’s pulling the strings here, ultimately the strings are being pulled by our climate,” said Cllr O’Connor.
Cllr O’Connor said that there may need to be work done on the drop-off point for the Holles Street Hospital, and “there may need to be tweaks, but I’m fully supportive” of the project.
Cllr Daniel Céitinn (Sinn Féin) said creative solutions are needed but that he is “Not convinced that allowing people to park on cycle lanes at any point at any time is the solution to these problems.” He asked for extra effort to be put in to see what could be arranged with the artists.
Council official Niall Kinsella, an engineer in the Active Travel section of the council who is focused on interim cycle routes, said it was a choice between removing parking, a bus lane or a general traffic lane.
He said: “After discussion with traffic [a section of the council], we were advised that removing the bus lane would have serious implications and removal of a traffic lane would potentially cause a significant knock-on effect to traffic. Both of those can be looked at.”
A number of councillors complained that the artists had not been consulted. In reply to this, Kinsella said: “In terms of consultation with other groups, again, we like to brief yourselves first. I don’t think we’d get any thanks from the area committee if groups were coming into [officials] talking about schemes that you were not even aware of. Our goal is to keep you in the loop first and then to engage with others.”
He added: “There is considerable parking provision in the area — within 500 metres walk of Merrion Square North there’s 650 spaces including 100 odd on Merrion Square South and a number of multistory car parks,” he said.
The figures do not even include the parking on the west and east of the square — the exact number of spaces on these sides has not been finalised as planning on different projects is ongoing.