Comment & Analysis: Parnell Street at Parnell Square / the top of O’Connell Street is the northside’s College Green for buses, but it has no bus priority northbound, pedestrians are squeezed into a narrow footpath and there’s no space for cycling in most directions.
Tackling the junctions between Parnell Square East and West is a surprising omission from the key projects list in the Dublin City Centre Traffic Plan, but it could still be included as part of the plan for a new traffic route around the city centre for motorists.
Obviously, College Green and Parnell Street are two locations with somewhat different contexts. But how buses and trams are held up due to car traffic on Parnell Street is a reminder of College Green before the bus gate was installed.
By taking out even some of the directions of travel for cars from these junctions would allow (1) bus priority, (2) more space for pedestrians along here and on a larger chunk of Parnell Street, and (3) allow for a safe east-west cycle route north of O’Connell St / Henry Street area.
The above photo and the below video were not taken in the middle of rush hour but coming up to 7pm last Thursday — even accounting for traffic being worse coming up to Christmas, anybody used to taking buses which travel northbound on O’Connell Street is used waiting on buses on Parnell Street at various times of the day.
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Traffic comes from four different directions to get to the section in question:
All of the northbound bus routes share one of the routes through the junctions. Their flow is interrupted by:
- Traffic coming from Parnell St west to Parnell Square West.
- Traffic coming from Parnell St east to the west end of Parnell St or Parnell Square West.
- Traffic coming from Parnell Square East to the west end of Parnell St or Parnell Square West.
And Luas goes through the area like this:
The area around Henry Street is a permeability block for people (legally) cycling eastbound.
Not only is there extra distance to cycle Parnell Square West is uphill and has a large number of buses pulling in and out. And the same goes for Parnell Square East going downhill — I know experienced cyclists who see it as one of their problem areas.
So, what’s solution? Restrictions on private traffic could be tried out using Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act under the new guidelines on trials.
A possible start would be with the flow from Parnell St west to Parnell Square West and the traffic flow coming from Parnell St east to the west end of Parnell St or Parnell Square West.
If the council were to go the full hog and also cut car traffic on Parnell Square East other arrangements would more likely need to be made such as reworking an alternative northern access to the Rotunda. Looking at access to the Rotunda would be advisable anyway. It’s also worth noting that the latest news seems to be that the outpatient department is moving.
This would allow buses to flow a bit more freely and free up space for walking and cycling, especially if the option of traveling along the green arrow direction shown above was removed.
For example, at this location the cycle lane could become a much-needed footpath extension and the general traffic lane here could become a two-way cycle path:
On this section the current cycle lane space could be given over to pedestrians and a two-way cycle path provided.
Again this is something which could be trialed under Section 38 of the Road Traffic Acts.
Further along the street, the design is outdated for the volume of thought traffic since Luas Cross City was constructed — it could be said that these sections of the street should be changed before now but you make a decent cycling connection, the changes described above are needed.
Parnell Street is in need of a full revamp but a “road diet” ahead of that could improve the street a lot.
All of this can be done while still providing for car access, deliveries etc — it’s at least worth trying it and it can be done with quick-build measure and reverted back or adjusted if needed.