FROM THE ARCHIVES:A civil service committee examining road traffic regulations in the light of the growing number of motor cars spent much of its first day of hearings considering Dublin pedestrians, whom the assistant Garda commissioner in charge of the city, General William Murphy, suggested should be legally required to walk on the left of footpaths.
GENERAL MURPHY next referred to the question of pedestrian traffic.
During the nine months ending March 31, 1927, there were 20 fatal accidents and 811 non-fatal accidents in the Metropolitan Police area.
Of the 20 fatal accidents, 167 were due primarily to the carelessness of the pedestrians. Of the non-fatal accidents, 354 were due to the same cause. These figures, and the figures that they had obtained from other police forces, bore out the fact there was a need for the regulation of pedestrian traffic. [...] General Murphy said that the Dublin pedestrian was the most careless in the world, with the possible exception of pedestrians in country villages. If the Dublin pedestrian lived in Paris, and walked about Paris as he walked around Dublin, the casualty list would be a very heavy one.
Mr. Flynn – Is this due to the fact that the Paris pedestrian is more law abiding? General Murphy – They have regulations there, and the pedestrians have to abide by them. In Paris the vehicles have prior right to the road, and the pedestrians know it.
Mr. Flynn – Then it is so obviously dangerous to cross a road in Paris that the pedestrians don’t do it? General Murphy – The vehicle drivers have a right, and they know how to exercise it. [ . . . ]Mr. Duff – Assume there is a recognised footway, could pedestrians pass as they liked? General Murphy – Oh no! At the present time we have a second guard on duty at some crossings, and he regulates the passing of the pedestrians. Some wait for his signal; but many others cross as they like. Regulations in this direction is absolutely necessary.
General Murphy went on to say that the rule of the footpath walking by the right should be abolished, and that the same rule as operated on the road, walking by the left, should be substituted.
Mr. Duff – How do you propose to carry out that rule? Would you make it an offence to walk to the right on the footpathway? [sic] General Murphy – I would make it an offence of obstruction.
Mr. Duff – Take Grafton street: would you prosecute all the women who stopped and looked into the windows there? – The Guards, as they usually do, would use their commonsense.
The Chairman said that they had considered the matter in Committee. The difficulty would be to educate the people. They had not yet made up their minds as to whether they would make it an offence not to walk on the left or proper side of the footpath.
General Murphy – Unless you regulate the pedestrian traffic in the streets, you will leave 50 per cent of the job untackled, and accidents will continue to grow as they have been growing in recent years.