A high-visibility Garda campaign will get under way in Dublin's Phoenix Park todayto enforce a new 30km/h speed limit and traffic restrictions.
In what will be the most significant curbs on traffic in the park to date, speed limits will be reduced from 50km/h, cars will be banned from using the park’s main southern road as a throughway and its northern road will become one way only. In addition, temporary cycle lanes, which replaced parking on Chesterfield Avenue, will be made permanent.
Speaking ahead of the changes, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan said their introduction would save lives.
“Our ambition is to protect life. We don’t want to have a situation where there’s a young child or any park user killed because of excessive speed, and we have gotten a lot of complaints in relation to motorists’ speed in the Phoenix Park.”
Mr O’Donovan has also given his strongest indication to date that parking charges could be introduced in the park.
With a strategy on the future provision of car parking due to be published later this year, Mr O’Donovan said “difficult decisions” would have to be made about parking.
“We cannot continue to have the number of cars going into the Phoenix Park to park at the rate they are,” he said. “Everything is free, gratis and for nothing up there at the moment.”
Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council would have to work with the OPW to devise parking solutions, he said.
“We will need the two local authorities to come up with solutions short term and medium term to help us manage parking into the future. What is not sustainable in to the future is that it becomes something of a quasi-dumping ground for parking.
“Sustainability has to become a factor in this. A lot of the other tourist attractions are not providing car parking, but somehow [it] seems to have become our responsibility to find car parking on our site just for our visitors alone.”
The parking strategy would also focus on finding a solution to the problem of illegal parking, he said.
“We can’t continue to have the amenity being destroyed by people driving up on the grass, parking under signs saying ‘don’t park on the grass’ and just showing wanton disregard for what we’re trying to do. It is an appalling example to be showing to people.”
Asked if he would introduce clamping for offenders, he said he did not want to pre-empt the parking strategy, which he expected would be published in September. “I have an open mind on everything. I’m not saying that anything is off the table, what I can say is nothing will remain the same.”
From Monday, a stretch of just under 1km on Upper Glen Road, the park’s main southern road, will be made car-free, and North Road will be one way from the Cabra Gate to Dublin Zoo, with one lane of traffic in the centre of the road, flanked by parking spaces and a two-way cycle lane.
A strong Garda presence will be in place from Monday, and on an ongoing basis, Mr O’Donovan said. “We are asking people to obey the changes but to remind people that gardaí have powers of enforcement. There will be Garda presence in the park to enforce that throughout.”
He said he knew not everyone would be happy with the changes.
“We have already got some feedback of people not being overly happy in terms of commuting times but remember this is a park. It is in the first instance a place for people to enjoy in terms of amenity.”