Photos by Cónal Thomas

Dublin City Councillors agreed last week to keep bollards up on some roads in Drumcondra to stop cars nipping down side streets to avoid traffic.

Now, they’re looking at whether other areas need something similar, how that might work, and where should get attention first.

Just how the council’s traffic department might prioritise future schemes, however, and how they might build on experiences in Drumcondra remains to be seen, says Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe.

The Pilot

Last August, the council put bollards up in Drumcondra to try to ease traffic on some residential roads and reduce rat-running.

They went in at Millmount Avenue and Millbourne Avenue, blocking cars from passing between these streets, and Walsh Road and Ferguson Road there.

So, drivers in a hurry could no longer use them as a short-cut between the busy Drumcondra Road and Home Farm Road.

In March this year, councillors gathered to hash out with senior engineers just how best to approach future neighbourhood traffic measures around the city.

They talked about how long it takes to deal effectively with local traffic issues, staffing levels, and the need to prioritise schemes similar to the one in Drumcondra.

Senior Executive Engineer Helen Smirnova noted at March’s meeting that, as it stands, the traffic department “does not have the resources to undertake the massive task of neighbourhood traffic schemes”.

In 2016, the council’s traffic department “got a full complement of staff … but due to the work load it’s still not enough”, she said.

There are currently 21 proposed schemes waiting to kick off, each of which could cost €60,000 to €70,000, said Smirnova.

So, she asked, how should the council prioritise and allocate resources to them?

Although the Drumcondra project only needed four flexible bollards and a little roundabout, “it took a lot of time and resources to get to this point”, she noted, back in March.

As a result, councillors queried how the council went about public consultations for these kinds of projects, and the impact that has on its resources.

At the time there was considerable pushback against the project from some residents who felt that the council had not properly consulted the local community.

Councillors, however, agreed at a meeting of their North-West Area Committee last Tuesday that the bollards on Millmount Avenue and Millbourne Avenue should remain.

21 Schemes

Labour Councillor Andrew Montague says that, although the Drumcondra project has proven relatively successful, such schemes “do spark a lot of upset”.

Montague says that shifting traffic from one street to another can be risky, but that the priority should be to encourage walking and cycling.

According to Independent Councillor Cieran Perry, following Tuesday’s meeting, it looks as if the council plans to use this project as a template for other areas across the city.

For now, though, the council’s engineers aren’t providing much detail about additional schemes.

At a workshop last week, councillors were briefed about other neighbourhood traffic schemes. But officials didn’t say where the next possible 21 schemes might be, or what they might look like.

“They didn’t want to get into the discussion of individual areas,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Cathleen Carney Boud.

A council spokesperson said they couldn’t say where the additional schemes would be, but that staff in the traffic department “currently have requests with similar issues, as in Drumcondra”.

The idea right now is for two schemes per year to go ahead, says Carney Boud. The final design of any traffic changes should be left up to the council’s engineers, she said.

Some, like Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, say the design decision should lie with councillors. He has asked for a traffic-calming scheme at Lansdowne Park in Ballsbridge for some time, he says.

Which First?

Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan says there’s no doubt the current system for planning neighourhood traffic schemes is cumbersome.

It needs to be simplified, even if that means talking less to local residents, he says. “For the greater good these decisions sometimes need to be taken.”

McCartan says he wonders whether there is too much consultation with the public at times. “It slows down the whole procedure,” he says.

At the workshop last week, one suggestion was to see which neighbourhoods have the most requests in from councillors at present.

The 21 neighbourhood traffic schemes could be prioritised based on that, says the Green Party’s Cuffe. There was general approval of “a waiting system” for neighbourhood schemes as well, he said.

That should be pretty easy, he says. “We just need a system that we can all agree on,” he says. Councillors could just vote on which to prioritise, too.

Some argue, though, that more traffic and engineering staff are needed before these schemes can be implemented at all.

Says Sinn Féin’s Carney Boud: “Until we get that staff it’s difficult to see how we can push forward with these projects.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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