At the bottom of Grafton Street, pedestrian William Garcia ignores the red man and walks across Suffolk Street.
Jaywalking is illegal, but Garcia says it he felt it was safe to cross and so he did. “There were no cars, so I was confident I would make it across,” he says.
The city and its people do not always agree on the paths Dubliners should take through the capital’s streets – formal pedestrian crossings and man-made desire lines, traffic lights and people’s impatience combine to shape and regulate the flow of foot traffic.
It seems like jaywalking is quicker, which is why we do it, but is it really, given that jaywalkers may just get caught halfway across the road? If so, how much faster is it? Is it worth the risk?
In Dublin city centre on a spring day, there are plenty of pedestrians who take a chance and cross the road while the pedestrian lights are red.
On O’Connell Street, Nicole McGovern says she crosses the road when it is not her turn “because I want to get to places faster”.
Most their decision on whether to wait or just wade right in depends on a combination of confidence and perception of risk.
If they are certain they can make it across the street unscathed, or feel the risk level is low, most say they will take the chance and cross.
“I don’t see why I should stand and wait until a light tells me what to do rather than using my own judgement,” says Annette Brennan.
Another pedestrian, Jordan Smith says there’s a “culture of jaywalking in Dublin”, and it is safer to move with the crowd.
Maria Stephens, who has lived in a rural village for most of her life, says she always waits for the green man because she is not used to a heavy traffic of Dublin city centre.
Kelly McGovern says she tends to “jaywalk a lot, crossing the streets, mainly because there are not actually many pedestrian crossings, and I’m too lazy to walk to one”.
How Much Quicker?
Under the direction of Dr Eoin O’Mahony, we did a walking survey of Dublin streets to verify that it is faster to jaywalk than to wait at the lights, and to find out how much quicker it is – what’s the reward earned through the risk?
We four researchers from the MA class at the UCD School of Geography walked from Connolly Station, down Lower Abbey Street, and around to the Spire. They then walked from the Spire to the bottom of Grafton Street. And they took a final walk from Dawson Street to Pearse Station.
On each route, two researchers abided by the law, waiting at each light for the green man to appear so that they could cross the road legally and safely, and two walked by crossing whenever they had the opportunity to do so.
Using the MapMyWalk app to track our walks, the researchers compared the time differences between jaywalking and crossing at lights. On the first two routes, it was approximately 20 percent faster to jaywalk. The last route proved to be 8 percent faster.
|Connolly to the Spire||.97 km||9:52 min||10:31 min/km||.94 km||11:55 min||12:38 min/km|
|The Spire to Grafton St||.89 km||11:22 min||12:54 min/km||.93 km||14:25 min||15:33 min/km|
|Dawson St to Pearse St||.82 km||9:08 min||11:07 min/km||.88 km||10:47 min||12:15 min/km|
If jaywalking is faster, what’s the problem? Well, being a pedestrian can be dangerous.
Provisional statistics from the Road Safety Authority tell us that there were 35 pedestrians killed nationwide in 2016, which was 19 percent of all road deaths that year.
In Dublin, there were 21 road deaths in 2016, and 10 were pedestrians. So, at 48 percent, the percentage of fatalities involving pedestrians is much higher here than the national average.
We know that alcohol is a factor in almost half of fatalities involving pedestrians in Ireland, but we don’t know whether jaywalking played any part – to our knowledge there’s been no research on that.
One law says a pedestrian cannot cross a street within 15 metres of a marked crossing; she must move to the crossing. This provides a loophole, if there isn’t any crossing within 15 metres. But in Dublin city centre, there aren’t many places this will apply.
Rather than trying to change the course of the river of pedestrians, another option would be to accommodate it by adding more crossings. So will the council be doing that?
“It is not always possible to provide pedestrian crossings in every location from an engineering point of view,” said a Dublin City Council spokesperson.
Reporter Laoise Neylon contributed to this article.