Dublin on the wrong track with cycle route along north quays
Opinion: ‘Why would any sane adult “choose” to drive a car into the city unless there were pressing practical or health reasons for doing so?’
‘Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan’s plan to further restrict car traffic on the north quays to one lane is not surprising. He declared war 11 years ago, as the city’s director of traffic: “We have given up trying to cater for the private car and if people haven’t worked that out yet, then there’s a serious problem with IQ.’ Photograph: Alan Betson
“[The plan of Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan (left) to further restrict car traffic on Dublin’s north quays to one lane] is not surprising. He declared war 11 years ago, as the city’s director of traffic: ‘We have given up trying to cater for the private car and if people haven’t worked that out yet, then there’s a serious problem with IQ.’” Photograph: Alan Betson
A picture of the Dublin City Council chief executive in hi-vis vest, leading fellow devotees of cycling over one of the capital’s several lovely, starchitect-designed bridges scored high on my smugometer last week.
The message? Dublin is for Dubliners.
In that idyllic world, gangs of modern Vikings would revisit the scene, confine the plundering and violating to the naff outer suburbs and lash up some new city walls encircling the canals – extending the boundaries a tiny bit to D4 and D6, Dalkey and Clontarf perhaps – with gates just big enough to enable only healthy, elegantly built humans on bicycles to pass into the glittering citadel.
Free! Free of ghastly cars. Free to cycle elegantly to the National Concert Hall, or the National Gallery, and all the many wonders funded out of the public purse by taxpayers, taxpayers who include those culchies-outside-the-walls and Dubs who were priced out of the capital, taxpayers forced into cars because the public transport is inadequate or their health is poor or they want to buy stuff that requires heavy lifting to the commuter belt.
The chief executive’s plan to further restrict car traffic on the north quays to one lane (and introduce a new two-way cycle lane) is not surprising. He declared war 11 years ago, as the city’s director of traffic: “We have given up trying to cater for the private car and if people haven’t worked that out yet, then there’s a serious problem with IQ.”
Congestion chargeIndeed, he was “looking at” the London congestion charge “with interest”, because he had “never taken the view that an alternative should be in place as a precondition”. This was when exhausted commuters from Carlow, Louth and Laois were losing half their lives traversing the city.
But of course, the congestion charges arrived anyway. They were called tolls and they were slapped on every major artery leading into Dublin city (apart, interestingly, from the N11, which happens to run through the capital’s most affluent fringes). So you live 35km down the N4? That will be €2.90 each way for a car, thank you. Forced out to Portlaoise? €1.90 please. The M1 at Gormanston? €1.90. The M3 at Dunboyne? €1.40.
And do not assume these charges are applied regretfully. Dublin city council will continue to toll the now debt- free, highly profitable East Link (€1.75) after it turns 30, although that’s when the milking was supposed to cease. The 24-year-old West- Link toll bridge – built to avoid the city but a daily object of rage, waste and derision until it opened the barriers six years ago – continues to vacuum up motorists’ cash, currently €3.10 for cars not registered with eFlow.
ChoiceCulchies who proceed past these deterrents will then find themselves in a city where five hours at a meter (where you can get one) is nearly €15, priced – said Mr Keegan 11 years ago – to give people a “choice” between taking their cars to the city or using public transport.
The problem with Keegan’s policy is not the mom-and- apple-pie objective of creating a safer, more relaxed, free- wheeling city. The problem is that his credo is based on the notion that people “choose” to take their cars into town.
According to the AA, the cheapest car costs €6,600 a year to run. Why would any sane adult on an ordinary salary “choose” to run a car or drive it into the city unless there were pressing practical or health reasons for doing so? Has Keegan asked? At one time, thousands of public and civil servants were perceived to be the main offenders, since they had free parking for some reason. Is this still the case?
I would love to dispense with a car. We live just 24km from O’Connell Street and across a field from a big, new primary school, yet the nearest bus stop and train station are more than 6km away, in a village with no free car parks and a railway station with nonsensical parking charges and episodic service at certain times.
I dream of those lovely transport hubs in the citadel, where getting to Tallaght hospital or to a job in Blanchardstown or Dundrum would be a simple matter of catching a (massively subsidised) Luas or bus.
This is the point. Dublin is not a stand-alone city. It is the capital, with all the privileges and responsibilities that accrue to that; a capital that has deliberately made itself the national hub of employment, transport, centres of excellence (think of the plan to shoehorn the children’s hospital into the heart of it), Civil Service and much else. Its policies therefore cannot be decided in isolation from the rest of this tiny State, no bigger than the population of greater Toronto. Certainly, no one official should have the power to say any plan that affects us all is “inevitable”.
Vincent Browne is on leave