Greening Dublin’s streets shouldn’t come at the expense of walking and cycling

— There’s a danger greening efforts are concreting in the status quo and squeezing pedestrians.

Comment & Analysis: There’s been great progress made at greening some streets in Dublin City, but more care needs to be taken — greening streets shouldn’t come at the expense of walking and cycling.

Greening is much needed — greenery and trees are good for the environment and people’s health with a wide range of benefits from scrubbing the air to mental health to biodiversity to reducing/slowing rainwater flow from streets into the water drainage system.

And we also shouldn’t say that footpaths should never be narrowed for greening. But the Dublin City Council Parks section, which is responsible for greening, seems to think footpath space is fair game even when it’s beside large carriageways.

The Parks section is known for not liking cycle paths in parks, but their new move of reducing footpaths on streets in Dublin City Centre to the national minimum footpath width is even stranger.

The Whitefriars Greening Strategy is the latest plan from the Parks department, which was outlined to councillors before Christmas (PDF and video of meeting here).

A width of 1.8 metres is listed in the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets as “minimum space for two people to pass comfortably” in “areas of low pedestrian activity” — I don’t know how anybody could look at one of the relatively few ~4 metres wide footpaths in the city centre and say, pedestrians will manage with less than half of that space:


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And, yet, the Strategy reduces a section of footpath on Bride Street by around half to 1.8 metres:

The footfall in this area isn’t suitable for sub-2 metre footpaths and the aim should be for 2.5+ metres. So, reducing some relatively wide footpaths (which should be that width) shouldn’t be happening in areas like this:

Especially not before looking at the wider street and its use — it’s worth noting that the bus lane is hardly needed here and will not be needed once BusConnects reroutes buses off this street, that there’s a need for a high-quality cycle route (it’s part of a primary route in the Dublin City Active Travel network) and maybe more crossings too:

The above Street View images are out of date, the Parks section has already sampled some of the design on one side of the street:

Bishop Street is a one-way street between Bride Street and Aungier St — it includes access to a lot of offices and some housing. Most cities which view themselves as cycling-friendly would have allowed for contra-flow cycling on a street like this a long time ago.

It’s unclear why this street is being kept so wide and no contra-flow provision is being allowed for:

The drawings also show a much-needed formalisation of the arrangements at the east corner of Bishop Street where it meets Aungier St/Redmond’s Hill, and, it seems closing off the access from Aungier St into Peter Row.

But this seems like a downgrade for cycling access — currently access in and out in provided for people cycling:

The corner of Whitefriar Place and Whitefriar Street needs a junction redesign but this design hardly screams pedestrian priority.

A more minor issue: There’s also no provision for contra-flow cycling on Whitefriar Place — this is far less of an issue than on Bishop Street, but contra-flow cycling is just standard in most cycling-friendly cities but it’s hardly even an afterthought still in Dublin. The main issue to enable contra-flow would be at the junctions and this design makes it harder to provide a junction treatment.

This is what it looks like — narrow footpaths to allow for two-way traffic… example after example of Dublin City Council needing to stop looking at streets from its silos:

If there isn’t a change in approach, there’s a danger greening efforts are “concreting in” the status quo, squeezing pedestrians, and making it harder to provide for cycling both on main routes and in terms of contra-flow which should be provided on most one-way streets.

2 comments

  1. Any of those roads in the diagram with cross hatching should have grass or low shrubs there instead. No impact on usable road space, but adds extra greenery and will likely slow drivers too as it narrows the ‘road’.

    Reply

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