Impasse over Dublin Bay seafront plan
An artist's impression of a section near Booterstown strand of the 22km Sandycove to Sutton walk and cycleway project
Dublin could have the longest urban seafront promenade and cycleway in Europe, affording the city an invaluable public amenity, for the cost of just one motorway bridge.
The S2S (Sutton to Sandycove) project to create a continuous non-vehicular route around Dublin Bay, covering a 22km stretch of coastline, remains incomplete after more than a decade of planning.
According to Michael Collins of the S2S group, completing the final 8km of the route, most of which is on the southside, would cost €20-€40 million, the price of a standard motorway bridge.
He believes a proposed eight metre-wide path, which will run next to the coast for most of its length, has the potential to transform the city’s commuting culture as well as buttress vulnerable city flood defences.
“The possibility of being able to get from the suburbs to the city centre in less than 20 minutes at rush hour for free, on a safe, level, pollution-free route, is still the chief objective.”
He points to the fact that some 5,000 secondary schoolchildren between Blackrock and Sandymount would be within a kilometre of a traffic-free cycleway.
Despite the benefits, work on the southside elements of the project have ground to a halt.
The most contentious part of the route is a 4km stretch from Strand Road in Sandymount to the Blackrock baths.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is concerned about the potential impact on several EU-protected bird habitats. At issue is a bank of eel grass behind a row of houses near Merrion Gates, consumed by the bay’s Brent goose population.
The potential impact on the Booterstown spit, which hosts a range of bird species, is also a concern.
Paradoxically, Mr Collins says the longer the area remains without an adequate walk and cycleway, the more people will be inclined to walk on the beach, potentially disrupting the habitats that the NPWS wants to protect.
One possible solution is to move the route temporarily inland for a few kilometres beginning at the Booterstown Dart station before reconnecting with the coast in the Sandymount-Ringsend area.
“Defeats” the purpose
However, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Fine Gael councillor Barry Ward thinks this solution “completely defeats” the purpose of the project as it brings cyclists and walkers away from the seafront and back on to a busy traffic route.
While sympathetic to the NPWS’s position, he believes a solution which “would inconvenience the birds rather than displace them” can be found.