Council seeks to enhance a stroll down Grafton St
“If you look at other cities, there is always a focus on the river and waterfronts; that is something we have neglected. We have to ask the question: is it more important to having a semi-motorway coming through there or an attractive city centre?”
Another plan, long-mooted, is a diversion of traffic from College Green, already reduced in volume by a bus gate at Pearse Street. As councillor Mary Fitzpatrick (FF) notes, “the built environment”, with Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland building, “does lend itself to a big public plaza”.
It is a long way from 1982, when cars could still be driven down the city’s premier shopping street. On December 1st that year, Dublin Corporation finally declared the “war” between pedestrians and vehicles to be over, although cross-traffic and extensive goods access to Grafton Street was then still allowed.
The effect of pedestrianisation in Dublin has been highlighted by emergence of home video footage in recent years showing a radically different streetscape in the 1970s. Two such videos have attracted more than 500,000 viewers online in the past year, one of them featuring the sight of film-maker Andrew Manson parking his car temporarily on a single yellow line outside McDonald’s on Grafton Street.
“We left the camera running and went in to get a burger,” says Manson, who now runs an arts centre in Co Wicklow.
The footage, which he dates around March 1979 (and not 1982, as attributed when it was posted online), was recorded as a college project. He wanted to capture some images at dusk so he took an evening drive with his 1956 Morris Oxford from Dún Laoghaire to Dublin and back, filming with a Super 8 Nizo Braun, taking one frame every 6½ seconds.
The footage was rediscovered 18 months ago when his son Rob, himself a filmmaker, had it digitised. Andrew Manson gleefully recalls his college tutor dismissing the film as a waste of film roll; now it “has been downloaded in all the countries of the world bar about six”.
He recalls Dublin being a more “intimate” place 30 years ago. On another occasion, he remembers driving into the city to photograph “the bright lights of the city, which was basically the No 6 [Players cigarette brand] sign at the top end of Grafton Street,” he laughs.
As for the future, Mary Fitzpatrick says there has been a “continuous expansion of traffic calming and vehicle removing in the city centre and that is an objective for the inner city core.
“Generally, where it is pedestrianised, it is conducive to more shopping, more eating in restaurants and more people using the city.”
The 30-year-old Driving through Dublin film can be viewed at: vimeo.com/ 27435412