We need to talk about the blue badge parking spaces on Fishamble Street

Comment & Analysis: We need to talk about the blue badge parking spaces on Fishamble Street — why? These spaces are some of the most discussed and, sadly, a lot of what has been said about them falls into the category of disinformation and generalisations.

First I should note: This article was first drafted 12 months ago. If I had any sense I’d stay clear of this topic, but it’s a topic that’s not going away. I’ve engaged publicly online and by other means with disability advocates with mixed results as well as with users of blue badge users. I know at least some of what I’m writing here will be twisted by some but I cannot let that block discussion on this issue.

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And to add to that: My experience is not direct, I’m not a blue badge user. However, I’ve had family members with blue badges and know other people with them. I know disabled spaces are not just for wheelchair users and that people who look ok, but couldn’t walk far without crippling pain and others who would have breathing difficulties if they moved too much unaided.

I’ve also helped direct people who were not aware towards the progress of getting a blue badge, as they thought it was just for people in wheelchairs when they could hardly walk far and were suffering needlessly by not having a blue badge. I’m also aware that there are currently issues around getting new blue badges. And I know why this is such an issue for people and I know why disabled spaces are such a sensitive issue generally — I know how important the spaces are to people’s independence either fully or with the aid of others.

There’s a need to take into account of different people with different requirements, different levels of abilities and even different locations to visit.

In case anything I’m writing here is taken to imply otherwise — I think it’s obvious that Dublin City Council and all councils across the country need to do better on the design of disabled spaces, their locations, as well as on information, and enforcement. I’m in no way trying to make out that everything is perfect or even ok.

Again, before focusing on Fishamble Street, we should look at the disabled parking bay as outlined by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority. This is what is often referenced — it’s noted as the off-street design. Most streets will not accommodate this design:

The design of off-street designated parking spaces as outlined by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority.

The on-street design is closer to what most streets can accommodate:

The design of on-street designated parking spaces as outlined by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.

Now on to Fishamble Street: I’d agree that it is an unsuitable alternative to replace a disabled parking spot on a flatter location and would be of no use to many people. But the fact is that the spaces on Fishamble Street only acted as temporary alternative spaces for the car-free Parliament Street trial.

The very much so time-limited car-free trial on Parliament Street made it harder to get to these spaces on East Essex Street at the rear of The Clarence Hotel — that was at least partly the reason for the new spaces on Fishamble Street.

The Parliament Street trial happened at the same time as the Capel Street trial but the spaces on Fishamble Street were not linked to Capel Street as has been wrongly claimed a number of times.

Here are the five disabled spaces on Fishamble Street — these are all on the lower end of the street between the west end of Temple Bar and the Dublin City Council offices at Wood Quay.

The location is still on a slope but it is in no way the worst part of the street. There are also two spaces at the top end of the street where the gradient is sharper, but these have been in place at least since 2009.

While looking back on Google Street View imagery I found something I hadn’t realised before — three out of the five spaces were in place since 2009 — the council removed the three pay and display spaces added two disabled spaces and added buffer space between those and also spaced out the existing ones to add buffer space there too.

There have been claims that these five new spaces are useless but Google Street View seems to suggest otherwise.

The last imagery from December 2022 shows 4/5 spaces full of cars which have blue badges displayed. A mix of Street View and my own images show the following:

DateOccupancyBlue badges visible?
July 20234/5Yes (my images, not on Street View)
Dec 20224/5Yes
Nov 20225/5Some, others unclear, moving changes the date of imagery
Oct 20221/5Unclear, moving changes the date of imagery
Oct 20224/5Yes (my images, not on Street View)
July 20222/5Some, others unclear, moving changes the date of imagery
July 20222/5Yes (my images, not on Street View)
June 20225/5Some, others unclear, moving changes the date of imagery
March 20205/5 Some, others unclear, moving changes the date of imagery
Nov 2021NARoad being resurfaced, no line markings but blue badge visible on some cars
July 20212/5Yes
IMAGE: My image from 2023.

While there’s an amazing number of Street View dates in the last three years, the limitation of Street View means that if blue badges are on display cannot always be confirmed fully. However, I’ve also passed this spot in the last few years (note just when I took images) and was surprised to find not just high occupancy but mostly with blue badges clearly visible.

All I’m saying here is that the seven disabled spaces on Fishamble Street seem to be used reasonably well by some people with blue badges. The way some people have spoken about this issue, it nearly sounds like some people want all the spaces on the street removed when three out of the five pre-date Covid.

Different people with disabilities have different requirements and different places to go. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not trying to take anybody’s lived experience away from them or the experience of anybody else’s daily life.

It’s just that some people with blue badges seem to use the spaces on the street — you can look on Google Street View yourself and change the dates of the images shown. The Street View image history shows there’s different cars which seem to have blue badges using the spaces at different time and what looks to be some of the same cars using the spaces months apart, ie what seems to be people with a blue badge choosing to use these spaces regularly.

Maybe they are accessing a shop or home on the hill or nearby? Or maybe the Civic Offices? I don’t know as I try not to presume to know everything about someone. But I do know different people have different requirements and I do know these spaces seem to be useful to some people. One size does not fit all.

Councils need to do a lot more in terms of quality, quantity and information around disabled spaces. Especially where new street changes are being made. But misinformation and even some scaremongering doesn’t help anybody.

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