College Green traffic ban will block ‘main artery’, say taxi drivers

‘It’s like closing of the M50 for the city centre’: Drivers criticise pedestrianisation plans

“There used to be two lanes and the traffic flowed freely . . .” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

“There used to be two lanes and the traffic flowed freely . . .” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Taxi drivers are not happy with Dublin City Council’s plan to start rolling out the pedestrianisation of College Green, and are concerned that it will negatively affect their business.

Dublin taxi driver Damian Tisdall said closing off College Green is “like closing off the M50 for the city centre”.

“It’s the main thoroughfare of the city – the main artery and they want to block it off. So you block its blood and it’s got nowhere to go, what happens? The city dies.”

Parked in the Foster Place taxi rank is taxi driver Christopher Fox, also from Dublin. “They’re breaking the ruling of An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála said it’s a danger to people,” he said.

“And [Dublin City Council chief executive] Owen Keegan is still doing this. This man, he’s a law unto himself. He doesn’t respect other authorities. That’s his problem. He can carte blanche what he wants to do.”

Despite An Bord Pleanála’s refusal of the plan to pedestrianise the area, the council are testing it out over three dates this Summer. College Green will be pedestrianised between 7am and 7pm this Sunday, July 21st, July 28st, and August 4th.

“There’s one single lane going around there,” said Mr Fox, gesturing to the road passing Trinity College. “The other lane is dedicated to the cyclists. There used to be two lanes and the traffic flowed freely in through that there.” He said traffic no longer flows freely because of the cycle lane “the same size as the bus corridor,” so more road space is needed.

Bus driver Michael Ryan has been with Big Bus Tours for eight years. He doesn’t know where his route will be diverted on Sunday.

“It’s going to cause a lot of problems for us because it’s a main artery to a lot of the main attractions here – Trinity College is one of our stops. This stop here actually serves Trinity College, the Grafton Street area, Book of Kells, and the next stop on just down the end of the road here is Dublin Castle,” said Mr Ryan. “Another vital piece of our tour is now affected.”

Marie Dunne, who lives in Tallaght, had not heard that she would not have the option of getting the bus through College Green on Sunday. “We watch the news on RTÉ, so I would have thought it’d be advertised on that. I don’t remember hearing anything about that,” she said. “I think a lot of people will be very disappointed.”

Ms Dunne said pedestrianisation would be particularly hard for people with young children or people who “want to do their shopping and then have to carry bags right across”.

The number 27 bus that runs out to Tallaght stops near Ulster Bank on College Green.

Sarah McGuinness, a student at Trinity College, said blocking cars and buses from the area would ease her commute to college. Waiting for the number 13 bus, Ms McGuinness said there is often a “bus bottleneck” coming into D’Olier Street. “I’m coming in from Drumcondra and I’m definitely totally in favour of [pedestrianisation],” she said. “It’s a nightmare – there’s the Luas and taxis and buses.”

Deliveries

For local business, one of the main concerns is making sure they can access deliveries.

Paul Walsh, manager of James Fox Cigar and Whiskey Store, on the corner of Grafton Street and College Green, receives deliveries every weekday.

“The notions of making deliveries from 7am-8am is no good to us because we don’t open until 10am, so employing people to come in for an hour to take deliveries isn’t really an option,” he said.

The Sunday trial is not an issue for Mr Walsh because the shop will not be expecting any deliveries, however, “if it were to be a seven day a week pedestrianisation then that becomes an issue. How do we get stock into the shop?”

Aside from the potential logistical problems, Mr Walsh believes pedestrianisation will be good for business and increase footfall. “In the summertime, vast majority of our customers are actually tourists so generally I think it’ll be good for us.”

However, from a personal point of view, he is not keen on the idea of blocking off other road users. “I take the bus – but I don’t think it matters how you get into work, it’s going to affect travel times no matter what.”

Six bus routes that will be redirected this Sunday stop outside Costa Coffee on College Green, but store manager Darragh Lee isn’t concerned about footfall in the long term.

“Obviously people getting the bus do come in here but I think we’d probably be busier if it were to become a square,” said Mr Lee. “I was actually really upset when they didn’t do it the first time.” He said a pedestrianised square would likely attract more tourists to the shop and increase footfall.

He said the Sunday trial is “perfect for us” because like many stores, they don’t get any deliveries in on Sunday.

Aoife Collins, supervisor at the cosmetics store Lush near the end of Grafton Street, said trailing the pedestrianisation is a good idea, as long as the council “were willing to make changes if they noticed that shops were being affected by it”.

“The council needs to be aware if it starts to impact deliveries or footfall for shops in the area,” she said.

Lush have another store based on the pedestrianised Henry Street.

Ms Collins hopes that pedestrianising the road outside their store would make it “a lot more accessible”.

“It’s very, very narrow here and it’s very difficult to get by,” she said. “We see a lot of customers getting frustrated around here.”