Phoenix Park: Back to Car City

That good news didn’t last – ‘It will be back to car city’ reports the Journal.

Minister of State for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan, said the decision over the gates was made after discussing issues like a growth of traffic in the surrounding areas over the past few weeks. 

“The volume of traffic built up in adjoining areas has gone up a lot,” he said, adding that there have been an “awful lot of traffic jams” on the western side of the park in particular. 

The decision is hoped to help “find out what impact the reopening was going to have” in relation to these recent bouts of traffic. 

“Whether we like it or not, for an awful lot of people it’s a commuter route,” he said. 

A public consultation on the matter will begin in “the coming weeks”, the Minister of State confirmed. I would love to see the traffic volume reduced in the park, I’m committed to trying to work to see how we do that.

“[The Phoenix Park] is the lungs of Dublin, but unfortunately it has also become an artery,” O’Donovan said. 

Is it a park, or a road with some green bits? If it’s a road, it’s obviously not wide enough, if it’s a park, it’s got too many through-routes. It can’t do both, and now it does neither.

Bewley’s on Grafton Street to close (again)

The iconic Bewley’s is to close again (it’s had a rocky 21st century so far). The current owners point at the high rent among other reasons.

In a note to staff, the cafe’s managing director Cól Campbell, a son of Paddy Campbell, outlined the impact of the lockdown on the business and highlighted the added costs of social distancing measures, once cafes and restaurants are allowed to reopen on June 29th.

He also cited its €1.5 million annual rent as a reason behind the decision, saying that a request for a rent reduction had not been granted. The building is leased from RGRE Grafton Limited, which is controlled by property developer Johnny Ronan. The rent amounts to about 30 per cent of the cafe’s sales.

Seems to me that other than owning a bank, owning property is the second most protected thing in capitalism in Ireland at least.

[Image: Deserted streets at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin]

Air Pollution Monitoring Sub Par – EPA needs to get better, fast

Hear, hear:

The Green Party has called on Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency to up its game on urban air pollution and improve their monitoring and advice during periods of serious air pollution. The call comes as air quality in Dublin and all other major towns reaches ‘very poor’ levels or ’10 out of 10′ on the Agency’s monitoring site.

Green Party Spokesperson Ciarán Cuffe said today:

“The EPA needs to tell us more about our air quality. The latest report on their website* dates from 2014 and is three years out of date. They need to improve their monitoring of air pollution, particularly in real-time, and ensure action is taken to tackle the causes when air pollution is at extremely high levels. More and better monitoring is required. For instance, there is no real-time data available for PM10 or PM2.5 particulates for Dublin’s inner city. This is a serious gap in data that must be filled, as we know that air pollution is concentrated in areas with high traffic and concentrations of people. We need only look across the water to London** to see how quality data can be made available in a timely manner.

“The EPA must improve their monitoring and work with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources to reduce pollution. We now know that diesel cars and vans are more polluting than some manufacturers claimed, and we must get rid of incentives to purchase heavily polluting vehicles. Minister Ross should also give local authorities the power to limit heavily polluting vehicles from our city centres, particularly on days when there are high levels of air pollution. It is time to consider banning certain diesel vehicles from Dublin’s inner city on still winter days that concentrate pollution. We must also ensure that smoky coal is no longer allowed into Ireland.

“The EPA has previously stated that air pollution is to blame for around 1,200 deaths every year. We now need action from the EPA and Government to tackle this silent deadly killer. Instead of telling children to reduce outdoor exercise on smoggy days, we should be tacking the source, and reducing pollution from cars and fires instead.

You can smell the pollution and feel it in Dublin some days, especially on the cold, calm days of winter when the cold air traps the pollution near to ground level. It’s causing all sorts of health problems, problems that will only get worse over time and strain the health service with avoidable illness.

Source: Time for EPA to up its game on air pollution – Ciaran Cuffe

Desire Lines

Good to see South Dublin CoCo filling in some desire lines in this park near the Luas stop on the Cookstown Way, Tallaght.

There’s a school of thought that says you should put in the minimal amount of paving and then wait to see where people walk first to save on un-wanted paving.

Awkward to Use = Not Used

There’s a set of underpasses for cycling/walking at the M50/N81 junction in Tallaght which connect Tallaght village with Templeogue and Firhouse. This puts the underpass into the routing for Firhouse-City and Tallaght-City, in addition to local cycle routes e.g. Firhouse-Tymon Park. I rarely if ever use this route, even though it’s much nicer, quieter and shorter than the alternative – going over the M50 along the R114.

pooruse-m50-underpass
Cyclists avoiding the underpass (small arrows), flow continues along road (big arrow)

I’ve wondered if it was just me, but the heatmaps (above) from the European Cycling Challenge 2016 are also showing a lack of use. Granted, I’m theorizing based on personal experience, but Google Maps tends to use the underpass as a preferred route suggestion (i.e. it’s shorter), and more tellingly, the route from Tallaght converge on the heatmap further towards town at the Old Bridge Road. This suggests to me that the routes could easily combine earlier, and a number of people turning right over the M50 at Mortons are effectively avoiding the underpass option and re-connecting to that route at a later stage (see below).

While the route from Tallaght to Templeogue is being improved by a new cycle route (slowly, oh, so slowly.. it’s still a ‘building site’ as even my 3yo pointed out the last time we had a look), it’s not clear if all the access points on the underpass will be improved.

Which brings me to what I believe is the cause: Kissing gates.

Impermeable: M50 Underpass
Impermeable: M50 Underpass

Never mind the narrow, overgrown paths (which I’d suggest are due to low levels of use as much as lack of maintenance), and the occasional broken glass (again, unused space gets colonised by people for other uses, drinking in this case), the key is the awkwardness of these gates. Personally, I can’t fit the bike through without lifting it over, and that’s only when empty. If you’re hauling anything at all, like a child, shopping, whatever, you’re now faced with unloading, lifting, re-loading, all the while you’ve blocked the path for anyone else. We were helped both times by a couple of lovely people who were walking by, but without that help the route is a whole heap of no.

I’ve seen people on light racers or mountain bikes without mudguards pop the bike up on the back wheel and going through, but that’s just not an option for everyone. Imagine a road where you needed a 4×4 to get through one bit!?

It’s a shame, as I believe it’s contributing to the under use of a potentially useful facility.