DCC NOTES: Active Travel Scheme Briefing And Hidden Disability Parking For Sandymount

Dermot Carmody

South East Area Committee Gets Briefing On Ambitious Active Travel Programme

Councillors at the meeting of the South East Area Committee (SEAC) on July 11th were briefed by the head of the Active Travel Programme Office Andy Walsh (DCC Senior Engineer), and by his colleagues Chris Manzira (Assistant Senior Engineer and Grainne O’Brien (Senior Engineer).

Mr Walsh outlined plans for a Walk-Wheel-Cycle network city-wide, which is meant to enhance the quality of life for Dublin residents by improving access, connectivity and sustainable mobility for all as well as reducing carbon emissions. Mr Walsh told councillors the minimum network required for a “connected city” within the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Plan would total 310 KM. 10km of this has already been completed and Busconnects will deliver a further 90km, leaving a further 210km to be delivered by the Active Travel Programme Office. This will comprise 80 different projects throughout the city which are funded by the NTA. Ultimately 95% of people in the city will be within 400m of the network.

Focussing on the South East Area, Chris Manzira told councillors 91km is the minimum required network here. Of this, 3km has been completed, 33km will be delivered by Busconnects, with the remaining 55km being the responsibility of the Active Travel Programme Office and delivered through 37 different NTA-funded projects.

Headline projects in the South East Area scheduled for completion between now and 2024 include the Fitzwilliam Cycle Route Scheme, South Grand Canal safety improvements, and completion of the Dodder Greenway from Herbert Park to Donnybrook.

Further projects aimed at later implementation will include the Grand Canal Greenway and Trinity to Ballsbridge route (intended for completion 2025-2027) and a number of other later (post 2027) projects including the Kilmainham to Ballsbridge South City Loop.

Grainne O’Brien then spoke about a number of interim schemes being undertaken in the South East Area. These are temporary schemes being put in place until permanent schemes can be defined and delivered. Ms O’Brien said these would consist of using existing road space for cycle paths and upgrading of footpaths and pedestrian crossings. Changes to traffic layout and parking may be needed. These interim schemes include the Dodder Greenway and the Clonskeagh to City Centre route, plans for which should be presented to the SEAC this year. Councillors and affected local residents will be consulted before any such schemes go to public consultation.

Cllr Tara Deacy (SD) asked if these initiatives are inclusive of all the input from members of the public during the Covid Mobility process. Mr Walsh confirmed that measures and suggestions from the public which were part of the Covid Mobility schemes have already informed development of the Active Travel Programme and will continue to do so.

In general councillors on the SEAC welcomed the initiative and pledged their support and their hope that schemes could be implemented as soon as possible. However, Cllr Manix Flynn (Ind) sounded a somewhat dissenting note saying that while “on the face of it it all looks grand,” in reality pedestrians and other individuals are confused about measures. Cllr Flynn claimed the scheme is geared towards “White middle class males’’ and makes no reference to, for example, housing estates. He said clarification is needed on what councillors get to vote on, and cautioned the council to pull back on major schemes until the court has ruled on the matter of Strand Road, (in this regard, Cllr Flynn appeared to be referring to a court action challenging plans for a one-way traffic system and two-lane cycleway on Strand Road, Sandymount by himself and a local resident, Peter Carvill.)

Other councillors appeared to object to the blocking of such schemes by legal challenge. Cllr Pat Dunne (I4C) said he wouldn’t be “putting blocks or barriers in the way of these schemes.” He said walking, cycling and public transport have to be prioritised in the city over private cars and that councillors should defend “progressive positions” such as the Active Travel Programme, at which point Cllr Flynn interjected saying that “when it’s illegal it’s worthwhile challenging.”

Newly re-elected chair of the SEAC, Cllr Dermot Lacey (Lab) urged councillors to have respect for the views of other councillors. However Cllr Flynn was moved to interject again shortly afterwards when Cllr Claire Byrne (GP) said that she shuddered to think of people standing in the way of such projects “while the planet burns.” Cllr Flynn called for those remarks to be withdrawn, protesting that he had not obstructed measures for personal gain but because they are illegal. Cllr Byrne pointed out that she made a general point and had not named anyone in particular.

Cllr Byrne went on to welcome the Active Travel proposals, saying such projects are “critical from a climate and health perspective,” but stressed the importance of good communications between the Council, local residents and elected councillors.

Other Councillors welcomed the initiative including Cllr Anne Feeney (FG), who also suggested that a further rollout of the Dublin Bikes scheme should happen in conjunction with the proposed developments. She also asked that the council be mindful of the design of bollards and kerb-sides, saying that Interim measures so far have been “ugly crowded and congested.”

Cllr James Geoghan (FG) said he was confident and hopeful that the measures will happen. He also remarked that it is not appropriate that Council engineers should “feel the chill of a threat” of legal action being taken against them by elected councillors.

PIcking up on this theme, Cllr Claire O’Connor (FF) remarked that at times it felt that the SEAC were “in a courtroom rather than a council chamber.” She said councillors will collectively hold officials to account, and that she really wanted this to work and looked forward to being a part of it working.

Cllr Daniel Céitinn (SF) urged consideration for secure storage / parking for bicycles in the context of proposed schemes to help mitigate against the problem of bicycle and wheel theft in the city.

Cllr Pat McCartan (FG) summed up much of the positive feelings among councillors when he remarked that prioritising the role of the car in Dublin city is unsustainable, adding that the sooner congestion charges were introduced, the better.

Replying to councillors, Mr Walsh said he noted Cllr Flynn’s comments, but that “it’s not about individual groups, it’s about access to schools, sports, retail, everything – not just commuters.” He agreed with the need to improve the bollard design on those used in the emergency covid measures, saying “we want them to be aesthetic, durable and safe.” He said the team were working closely with Dublin Bikes, Busconnects, the NTA and other parties, but said he wanted to focus on the projects coming in the next 2-6 years.

He also said the team are working with the roads division on a footpath-renewal programme funded by the NTA. Wherever possible they will be improving walkways to the same extent as cycleways. He concluded that pedestrians and wheelchair users are at the top of the priority list, and remarked that “by creating better cycling and walking facilities you draw people away from using cars.”

Hidden Disability Parking Space For Sandymount

Following a motion brought to council by Cllr James Geoghegan (FG), a parking space outside Tesco in Sandymount has been installed for those with sensory disabilities.

In a press release, Cllr Geoghegan said that the idea had come from “speaking with local parents of children with autism who find the weekly shop a challenge.” He said that the move has come about as a result of campaigning by parents with autistic children in the area to make businesses, sports clubs and the villages of Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown in general more autism friendly.

Saying that the next Development Plan for Dublin City could see the introduction of further autism-friendly village initiatives, Cllr Geogehan pointed to the upcoming public consultation on the raft plan taking place in August, which includes a new objective that the council will pilot autism friendly plans across the city.

Images: Disability parking space outside Tesco, Sandymount