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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sam Boal/

Overhaul of Dublin city centre roads will address cross-town traffic

Changes to the areas around Pearse Street and the Custom House will be tabled next week as part of plans to boost public transport, walking and cycling.

A NEW PLAN for Dublin city centre’s roads aimed at deprioritising vehicular traffic through the core and boosting public transport, cycling and walking will be tabled next week.

The plan will see some of the capital’s busiest multi-lane traffic arteries redesigned.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told a cycling symposium on Thursday that the Dublin City Council proposals would include an overhaul of the Westland Row, Pearse Street and Tara Street area.

This is currently one of the busiest vehicle routes through the city centre, and conveys a huge volume of cars onto the quays, which are also expected to be changed by the new plans.

Council officials and the National Transport Authority will present the Draft City Centre Transport Plan at the local authority’s transport committee meeting next Wednesday.

Traffic travelling north along Westland Row will no longer be able to turn left onto Pearse Street, which will become a two-way street. It is currently a multi-lane thoroughfare running one way only.

The Journal understands Tara Street – currently a busy traffic route with narrow footpaths – will have more space allocated to active travel and buses.

It is understood that changes to the area around the Custom House are also set to be proposed. The historic building is currently surrounded by heavy traffic on both the quays and busy, multi-lane Beresford Place, however some of this space is likely to be reallocated.

Ryan said Ireland needs a 25% reduction in the volume of traffic to meet its climate goals but because it is not politically possible to “price people off the road” using fuel tax, “the way we should do it is demand management by re-allocating space to get to that objective”.

“Dublin city centre is probably the most crucial first example. Sixty percent of the traffic coming into the city centre is through traffic.

“It’s not going anywhere in the city centre, it’s going somewhere on the other side,” he said.

He added that it was possible to reduce through traffic and “still provide access and still provide for all the services”.

Janet Horner, a Green Party member of the council’s transport committee, said preparatory work that has already been presented to councillors indicated the forthcoming plan would be radical and would significantly improve the city centre for public transport and active travel. 

The Dublin Commuter Coalition, which campaigns for better public transport, has called for the city to be changed from “a place we send traffic through, to a place people travel to”. It hopes next week’s plan will include traffic restrictions on O’Connell Street and the quays.

Coalition chair Feljin Jose said: “To make the city centre more liveable, we have to reallocate space away from cars to public transport and active travel.

“The Dublin city centre area is the most connected area in Ireland when it comes to public transport but allowing unrestricted car traffic causes huge delays to public transport and makes it an unpleasant place to walk or cycle.”

The new plan comes after a programme of pedestrianisation in the capital during and following the pandemic in areas such as Capel Street, and will happen alongside the planned conversion of College Green and Dame Street to a low traffic environment. 

Dublin ‘fundamentally’ unsafe for cyclists

Addressing the Cycling and Society Symposium at Trinity College on Thursday, Ryan acknowledged that Ireland was currently in a “bad place” in relation to road safety, given the significant increase in road deaths so far this year compared with last. 

The minister said Dublin city was “fundamentally not safe” for cyclists. He said the reduction in speed limits announced by government this week would “not on its own be enough and not sufficient when it comes to promoting cycling in our country”.

This was because “the whole system is car-centric or has been over five, six, seven, eight decades and has been by design – we’ve designed for the car”.

The lack of safety for cyclists in Dublin and other cities means “we are not seeing the increase in cycling numbers we need”, which means not just speed but the “design and operation of our streets” must change, the minister said.

Opening Thursday’s cycling symposium, organiser Robert Egan of Trinity College noted that there has long been a gap between policy and practice in Ireland when it comes to cycling. A target was set in 2009 that 10% of journeys would be by bike in 2020 but cycling’s current transport share is just 2%. 

Professor Jane Stout, Trinity’s vice-president for biodiversity and climate action said cycling was “a critical piece of the decarbonisation puzzle”.

“If you really radically want to address our greenhouse gas emissions, then we need all people of all ages, all genders, all backgrounds to have the opportunity to cycle or use more sustainable transport modes,” she said.

Brian Caulfield, Professor of Transportation in Trinity, said the event, which focused on the planning of safe cycling infrastructure and its integration into cities, had “demonstrated how the power of research can inform and guide policy in sustainable and activ mobility”.

The event was attended by cycling academics and campaigners from across Europe.

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