Dublin council official calls for ban on parents driving children to school

Conference hears of how Dublin might reach ambitious air quality targets by 2030

Parents should be legally prohibited from driving their children to school, a senior Dublin City Council official has told a clean air conference.

The Climate Brave event drew a panel of experts to discuss how the capital might reach ambitious air quality targets by 2030, often by way of “difficult and potentially unpopular decisions”.

Brendan O’Brien, head of technical services for traffic, said that if given the power “what I would do in the morning is actually make it illegal for anybody to drive their kids to school”.

“That’s the most critical thing we could do because it would then force us, I suppose, to provide public transport and walking and cycling [facilities],” he said in response to a hypothetical policy question.


“It would also eliminate the reason a lot of people say they need to drive: they’re dropping their kids off. It’s not that we don’t understand that people have to do this, it’s just that in order of us sometimes to provide all the alternatives quickly enough we have to have this massive pressure.”

Tax break

Addressing various areas of traffic management, Mr O’Brien also said that 30km/h residential speed zones would be complete by next month and officials “will then go back and look at the arterial routes which still have 50kms or 60kms and see what can be done about those”.

He suggested a tax break for environmentally friendly delivery vehicles within the city centre, similar to the “Bike to Work” scheme.

And he said something could be done to give local authorities the power to introduce low-emission traffic zones.

Monday's exchange on public behaviour and policy revolved around a pledge by the city's four local authorities to reach World Health Organisation (WHO) targets on clean air, levels far in advance of EU legal requirements.

Dublin now joins 76 cities, regions, and countries in the commitment to bring air quality to safe levels by 2030 with the allocation of extra road space to walking, cycling and public transport at the heart of its approach.

Biggest offender

Anne Graham, chief executive of the National Transport Authority (NTA), said transport had the fastest rising level of green house gas emissions, with the private car the biggest offender.

The NTA is due to order three trial hydrogen buses and is also investing in hybrid technology.

As regards the notion of banning school runs, Ms Graham told The Irish Times that the NTA already funds programmes to encourage children to walk or use bikes but that they often travel significant distances.

“Maybe parents should think about trying to ensure that their children go to school locally . . . and then it’s more accessible by walking and cycling,” she said.

Air pollution is currently linked to 7 per cent of lung cancer deaths, 18 per cent of fatal pulmonary disease cases and 34 per cent of heart disease deaths.

Dr Maria Neira, director of the WHO department of environment, climate change and health, told the conference 7 million people die every year.

She said 90 per cent of the world's population are breathing sub-quality air. In places like Beijing, she said, "they are convinced that the sky is grey, they don't realise that it can be blue".

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times