Dublin can be heaven

... even if you’re a cy­clist. Frank McNally rewrites a clas­sic Dublin song.

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

De-clut­ter streets PAUL CULLEN, Ir­ish Times jour­nal­ist

Too of­ten, Dublin feels like a slum. The roads are bat­tered, build­ings are badly main­tained, the streetscape is clut­tered. Bob Geldof wrote years ago about the im­pact the built en­vi­ron­ment can have on the psy­che, and it’s still the case that Dublin’s de­plorable land­scape is drag­ging its cit­i­zens down un­nec­es­sar­ily. We need to ap­point an en­forcer with spe­cial pow­ers to en­sure that roads are re­in­stated promptly and prop­erly af­ter be­ing opened up; to de-clut­ter the streetscape (does ev­ery sin­gle sign need a sep­a­rate pole?); and to have eye­sores reme­died and derelict build­ings fixed or sold off.

Bet­ter foot­paths DEIRDRE BLACK, land­scape ar­chi­tect

How we de­sign streets de­ter­mines how we move. How we move de­ter­mines how we feel. The so­cial realm of the city is an­chored by its foot­paths – it’s here the small-scale per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions hap­pen with strangers and friends that form the glue that holds the whole thing to­gether. Walk­ing the city is a part of cit­i­zen­ship.

Most peo­ple’s feet work at 3mph and the rhythm of walk­ing gen­er­ates a rhythm of think­ing and talk­ing. To in­hibit walk­ing is to pre­vent think­ing, and to stymie that pre­cious Dublin com­mod­ity: con­ver­sa­tion.

My “cap­i­tal idea” is to pin­point the lo­ca­tions in the city that are hos­tile to peo­ple walk­ing. The phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that keeps us hu­man and hu­mane is not ex­pen­sive, or dif­fi­cult to build. Stud­ies have been car­ried out in Dublin to mon­i­tor heart­beat and adrenalin lev­els of walk­ers around the city. The places of high­est anx­i­ety are those where we are jolted out of what could be called “inat­ten­tive walk­ing”.

Inat­ten­tive walk­ing hap­pens when the in­fra­struc­ture around you en­ables move­ment with­out hav­ing to fo­cus on not get­ting knocked down, bumped into, or jumped on.

It means foot­paths with an ac­tive build­ing edge, smaller turn­ing cir­cles at junc­tions, ap­pro­pri­ate widths and sen­sory mark­ers, sen­si­ble lo­ca­tion of bins, seats, trees, cy­cle racks. Con­scious foot­path de­sign in other words.

Cities that re­spect the walker and their role as lifeblood to the city have great road cross­ings. Where pedes­trian pri­or­ity is not fea­si­ble, a green man light in­vites you to cross at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, with plenty of time to make the jour­ney.

So let’s build great foot­paths for the peo­ple, de­sign for space and care, and make room for so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and city travel at 3mph.

Move Dublin Port DAVID McWIL­LIAMS, Ir­ish Times colum­nist

I have writ­ten this be­fore but it is worth re­it­er­at­ing in the con­text of the Ir­ish Times “Cap­i­tal Ideas” se­ries.

An ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion to Dublin’s ca­pac­ity prob­lem is to move our port and de­velop one of Dublin’s great­est nat­u­ral as­sets into a new city. In the past three decades, Barcelona, Bre­men, Copen­hagen, Am­s­ter­dam, Oslo, Bil­bao, Buenos Aires, Genoa, Lon­don and Cape Town have all moved their ports and lib­er­ated the land to cre­ate beau­ti­ful new cities in which peo­ple can work, live and play. Dublin is one of the hold-outs in still hav­ing a port on its most valu­able prime land.

Ports no longer need to be at the mouths of rivers; it is peo­ple- based ser­vice in­dus­tries that want to be close to ameni­ties and to the sea. We have hun­dreds of acres of this land in Dublin, but it is full of oil drums and con­tain­ers – a waste of land.

Dublin Port man­age­ment is do­ing a good job in man­ag­ing trade in and out of the coun­try; it’s just that Dublin Port is in the wrong place. In a city with a mas­sive hous­ing and trans­port cri­sis, the op­por­tu­nity cost of 640 acres of prime land oc­cu­pied by a port that em­ploys only 140 peo­ple is enor­mous. We could build 40,000 units there and still have over 220 acres for of­fices, shops, mu­se­ums, sports fa­cil­i­ties, parks, cafes, bars and clubs.

To ad­dress Dublin’s con­ges­tion, high rents and low of­fice ca­pac­ity, we should move the port north, in­te­grate the new port with the mo­tor­way sys­tem, and re­claim the area for high- den­sity devel­op­ment. We could build a new Dublin on this land: a city for the 21st cen­tury.

Trans­form­ing Dublin would take time but this is what great cities do: they build for the fu­ture with 100-year vi­sions.

Right-height straps ORNA MULC­AHY, Ir­ish Times jour­nal­ist

Heated bus shel­ters; free cof­fee days for pen­sion­ers; pop- up Christ­mas kiosks where they’d mind your shop­ping; laun­derettes in car parks and super­mar­kets: I can think of plenty of ways to make Dublin a bet­ter place to live in, but a sim­ple strap to hang on to in rush-hour Dart trains would be a great start.

Most Darts have straps, but they’re ei­ther in the wrong place or at the wrong height. I find these are just a lit­tle too high for com­fort, and why have them above the seat­ing area and none in the stand-up open area where they’re needed?

In Ja­pan’s fa­mously jammed trains grab- han­dles come in jaun­tily- coloured rings, or el­lip­ti­cal shapes that can be used by two peo­ple at a time if you can bear a bit of hand- touch­ing. A strap is a small thing but it would make life so much eas­ier to have one that works and in the right place. Please.

Bus Rapid Tran­sit BARRY BOLAND, char­tered sur­veyor and town plan­ner work­ing in the devel­op­ment in­dus­try

The Fe­bru­ary an­nounce­ment by the Govern­ment of its in­ten­tion to go ahead with the Metro Link tram­line is a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards cre­at­ing a bet­ter pub­lic trans­port sys­tem in Dublin. Side by side with this sys­tem, the Bus Con­nects ini­tia­tive has gone out to pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

I ar­gue that a third op­tion – Bus Rapid Tran­sit – of­fers a bet­ter so­lu­tion for the sim­ple rea­son that it is much cheaper.

Bus Rapid Tran­sit con­sists of two car­riages, ar­tic­u­lated bus/ trams with a seat­ing ca­pac­ity of 80 peo­ple and a fur­ther 80 s t and­ing at peak hours. It is r ub­ber-wheeled and pow­ered ei­ther by diesel or over­head elec­tric­ity ca­bles. It runs on a des­ig­nated car­riage­way, on con­crete plinths, with traf­fic- light pri­or­ity at junc­tions. Wait­ing time sig­nalling is stan­dard, and its pri­or­ity sta­tus means it can main­tain an ac­cu­rate timetable.

If Bus Rapid Tran­sit looks like a tram, de­liv­ers ser­vice like a tram, and gives pas­sen­ger com­fort like a tram, then why is it so dif­fer­ent? The sim­ple an­swer is cost: both in terms of con­struc­tion and the much re­duced dis­rup­tion time, par­tic­u­larly in con­gested Dublin streets. Bus Rapid Tran­sit does not need the re­lo­ca­tion of un­der­ground ser­vice pipes un­der­neath its own car­riage­way – like Luas and Metro.

Bus Rapid Tran­sit can be de­liv­ered at ap­prox­i­mately ¤ 10 mil­lion per kilo­me­tre whereas Metro Link is likely to cost ¤ 100 mil­lion per kilo­me­tre ( in­clud­ing land cost). For ev­ery Metro Link or Dart Un­der­ground we could have eight to 10 Bus Rapid Tran­sit routes.

Com­pared with buses, the ad­van­tage of Bus Rapid Tran­sit is more on the ser­vice side. The ex­pe­ri­ence in Dublin re­in­forces in­ter­na­tional re­search whereby com­muters are far more likely to aban­don their cars in favour of trams rather than buses. This seems to have as much to do with image as with a re­li­able timetable.

As re­cently as 2014, the Dublin Trans­port Au­thor­ity (DTA) pub­lished a Bus Rapid Tran­sit pro­posal, which was open to pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion but re­ceived lit­tle sig­nif­i­cant sup­port. Around the same time, Dún Laoghaire Rath­down County Coun­cil pro­posed a Bus Rapid Tran­sit from Mer­rion Gates to Sandy­ford. This also failed to garner any sig­nif­i­cant sup­port.

It seems to me that trans­port plan­ners in Dublin are not giv­ing due con­sid­er­a­tion to Bus Rapid Tran­sit, de­spite it be­ing cheaper and ar­guably more at­trac­tive to cus­tomers than tra­di­tional bus lanes. I find it hard to fathom why. I urge the DTA to go to Nantes or Swansea to see what Bus Rapid Tran­sit can de­liver. I urge all other Dublin­ers to do the same.

Dogx­er­cis­ing ROSITA BOLAND, Ir­ish Times jour­nal­ist

Why not have a rail out­side ma­jor super­mar­kets that you can tie your dog’s leash to, if you are a shop­per out com­bin­ing er­rands with ex­er­cis­ing your dog. With some­one in at­ten­dance who gives you a num­ber, which you then re­turn when you take your dog. You pay ¤ 1 for car park­ing at most super­mar­kets, and I’d hap­pily pay the same to know some­one was su­per­vis­ing my dog out­side while I shopped un­seen in­side.

A home for na­ture PADDY WOOD­WORTH, au­thor, jour­nal­ist, lec­turer, tour guide

As well as con­nect­ing the city bet­ter to a bet­ter coun­try­side (see my ar­ti­cle on page 2), we need to bring more of the coun­try­side into the city. Here are six sug­ges­tions:

1. Cul­ti­vate ur­ban agri­cul­ture, from tomato pots to al­lot­ments

2. Build up­wards, not out­wards, and in­clude roof gar­dens and liv­ing walls into all new build­ings.

3. Re­tain – and re­store and cre­ate – nat­u­ral cor­ri­dors ( streams and canals with all their veg­e­ta­tion, and hedgerows) be­tween green spa­ces, so that plants and an­i­mals can move more freely around the city.

4. Pri­ori­tise na­tive plants in gar­dens and parks, re­move ex­otic in­va­sive species, and where ex­otics are used, favour those that nur­ture pol­li­na­tors.

5. Sub­sti­tute wet­lands for hard coastal ar­mour wher­ever fea­si­ble.

6. Use per­me­able sur­faces for cy­cle­ways and car parks, to min­imise run-off.

A kind­ness pol­icy JOE HUMPHREYS, Ir­ish Times jour­nal­ist

The idea of lo­cal govern­ment pro­mot­ing civic virtue may seem weird to­day but it was an in­te­gral part of early democ­racy. The philoso­phers of an­cient Athens recog­nised ci­vil­ity was a moral mus­cle that needed ex­er­cis­ing. Dublin City Coun­cil could start with a mix of cit­i­zen ju­ries for pol­icy-mak­ing and the roll-out of pro­grammes pro­mot­ing good manners on the streets. More hon­esty boxes and vol­un­teer banks, and less red tape for com­pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives, please.

The city of Ana­heim in Cal­i­for­nia (pop­u­la­tion 336,265) has made the pro­mo­tion of kind­ness of­fi­cial pol­icy (backed by lu­mi­nar­ies in­clud­ing Lady Gaga). Ini­tial re­sults in tack­ling so­cial iso­la­tion and crime have been en­cour­ag­ing. http://city­ofkind­ness.org/

Bei­jing’s traf­fic strat­egy CLIF­FORD COONAN, Ir­ish Times Bei­jing cor­re­spon­dent

With five mil­lion cars chug­ging along its streets, Bei­jing has been us­ing the hum­ble num­ber plate as a weapon against con­ges­tion and air pol­lu­tion.

While by most mea­sures Dublin has a clear edge on the Chi­nese cap­i­tal, traf­fic is be­com­ing a prob­lem. In March, 73 per cent of com­pa­nies in the Dublin Cham­ber of Com­merce said traf­fic in the city had neg­a­tively af­fected their busi­nesses. Cars also ac­counted for more than half of emis­sions in 2016.

To fight con­ges­tion, Bei­jing has in­tro­duced a sys­tem to re­strict the days you can drive in the city cen­tre. On cer­tain days, and de­pend­ing on the fi­nal digit of your li­cence plate, you must re­frain from driv­ing in the city cen­tre. For ex­am­ple, if the num­ber plate on my car ends in 5, I can’t drive on Thurs­day.

An­other way Bei­jing is try­ing to tackle con­ges­tion is by us­ing an an­nual quota on is­su­ing new num­ber plates – and you can’t buy a car with­out se­cur­ing a plate first. To get a plate you en­ter a bi­monthly lot­tery – the odds of get­ting one are low.

China has lit­tle to teach Ire­land about en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, but it does have a strong record in in­tro­duc­ing mea­sures to slow con­ges­tion and air pol­lu­tion, and has even started to re­verse the trend in some ar­eas. It is an ex­treme mea­sure, and Dublin­ers like their lib­er­ties, but it has made traf­fic- choked Bei­jing a l i ttle more live­able.

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