Solution to Ensure Safety of Schoolgoers? the devil will be in the detail

Image courtesy
Karen Morgan, Dublin Live.

Eoin Meegan

Traffic congestion has long been a nightmare on Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook, a source of great frustration to the residents there. This is especially acute at peak hours, and when children are being dropped off and collected from school; St Mary’s Primary School is located on the avenue. To circumvent traffic coming in the opposite direction motorists regularly mount the pavement, thus putting the lives of those children in immediate danger.
Earlier this year parents with children attending St Mary’s held a ‘pavement protest’, which saw them line the footpath blocking cars from mounting, while carrying placards demanding “pavements are for pedestrians.”
One protestor said: “The issue is that the footpath is very narrow and I can’t get my double buggy down it at particular points because the lampposts are too close.”
The narrow, tortuous avenue which runs from Donnybrook village to Sandford Road, has parking on one side, and can barely accommodate the two-way traffic.
Councillor Deirdre Conroy said in a motion to the council that “there have been a number of near misses with pedestrians including small children,” and warned “it is only a matter of time before something worse happens.”
This issue has been ongoing for the best part of two decades.
To the outside onlooker the most obvious solution would be to create a one-way system with one of the two adjacent streets running parallel with Belmont, Eglington Road or Marlborough Road. However, apparently there have been some objections from these quarters.
During a recent Public Consultation the following two options were proposed:
Option 1 proposed that a short section of Belmont Avenue, from the Sandford Road end of the street to Belmont Gardens be one-way for motorists, with a contra-flow cycle lane for people cycling.
Option 2 includes filtered permeability (a system which filters out through traffic while maintaining accessibility for local inhabitants, deliveries and emergencies) at the Sandford Road end of the street. This means that all of Belmont Avenue would remain twoway, but access would be limited to walking, cycling and emergency access at the Sandford Road end.
The council report said: “The preferred option to be implemented for a six month trial appears to be Option 2 Filtered Permeability. This received the highest level of support (44% of all respondents; rising to 57% of respondents for those living in Belmont Avenue).”
However, this option was not chosen, it would seem after objections by some residents of the aforementioned adjacent roads; their concerns, that access traffic would spill over to their streets. The council Traffic Section then recommended Option 1 – Restricted Access for safety reasons – for a trial period. And at a meeting of the Area Committee of Dublin City Council last month this option was passed, to take effect from June 1 for a trial period of six months.

This will allow traffic to go up the full length of Belmont Avenue from Donnybrook Road and exit onto Sandford Road.
It will allow two-way traffic internally from Belmont Gardens (and the new houses) down. The committee also agreed to meet every two months during the trial to review the project and analyse the impact. And to continue, where possible, to seek interventions on the parallel roads and any other viable options.

Local Councillor Dermot Lacey told NewsFour: “As a Councillor for the area for many years I have been trying to find a solution that works – let’s see how this impacts – my commitment is and always has been to work with everyone on solving problems. I know this is not perfect but to be honest I don’t know what else is.”

While it may not be the perfect solution, the fact that the long-running issue is being addressed at all must be welcomed.
However, its success or otherwise will not be apparent until the second half of the trial period, when the schools open again in September.
In any event it alleviates the situation somewhat by restricting the two-way traffic to anyone living on Belmont Avenue, or visiting there, cuts back on ‘rat running’, and makes it safer for the children going to school. It’s hard to find a solution that accommodates everyone in cases like these, but the safety of our children should be the first priority. Let’s see how this trial period works out, and then, if needs be a more permanent solution must be found.