The Irish Times view on closing Dublin’s College Green to traffic: A lacklustre effort

There was something half-hearted about the city council’s summertime experiment

There has been widespread public support, at least in principle, for the conversion of College Green into a European-style pedestrian plaza. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

There has been widespread public support, at least in principle, for the conversion of College Green into a European-style pedestrian plaza. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The closure of Dublin’s College Green to traffic for the first time in its history last Sunday was a damp squib. Inclement weather didn’t help, but there was something lacklustre about this summertime experiment, with very little entertainment laid on to celebrate the city’s great architectural set-piece, just a few red-and-white striped medieval-style tents, surrounded by similarly striped traffic cones and needless crash barriers, most of which were taken away by 4pm. If this is Dublin City Council’s idea of giving a glimpse of what a pedestrianised plaza would feel like, it leaves a lot to be desired.

By contrast, the unilateral action taken by a coalition of groups campaigning for better cycling and pedestrian facilities in closing South William Street to traffic just a day earlier was an unqualified success, with a festive atmosphere permeating much of the length of this usually traffic-choked street – admittedly without any of the rain that spoiled the half-hearted effort in College Green. Indeed, the removal of all east-west traffic merely served to show how appallingly cluttered Dublin’s great architectural set-piece is, with traffic signs, Luas power lines and utility boxes, poorly-located trees and all the rest.

Council officials must deal with the consequences of turning College Green into a pedestrians’ heaven

There has been widespread public support, at least in principle, for the conversion of College Green into a European-style pedestrian plaza. But the proposal was shot down last November by An Bord Pleanála, not least because of its negative impact on the city’s bus services; on Sunday, no less than 20 bus routes had to be diverted elsewhere to facilitate the traffic-free experiment, which is set to continue for another two Sundays. And in the meantime, Dublin City Council is preparing to make a fresh planning application for the plaza, apparently without making any amendments to the original scheme.

It is incumbent on council officials to deal with the downstream consequences of turning College Green into a pedestrians’ heaven by addressing the reasons why it was refused by the appeals board – primarily the diversion of buses from what is, after all, the very heart of the city.

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