In Phibsboro, Campaigners Are Optimistic about New Plans for Townscape

For years, some Phibsboro residents have been campaigning for changes to make their streets and public spaces less traffic-centric and more people-friendly.

News that the BusConnects plan to redesign the city’s bus network was going to bring three “core bus corridors” through the urban village sparked worries that things were going in the wrong direction.

But as National Transport Authority (NTA) representatives this month met with local residents in several neighbourhoods, the news for Phibsboro seemed good, local campaigners say.

On 18 July, members of the group Reimagining Phibsborough, and others, met with NTA representatives to talk about the transport body’s conceptual designs for how the area might change as part of the BusConnects plan.

“I think we were all very pleasantly surprised. They’d taken a lot of what we suggested on board,” Dorothy Smith, a local artist and member of Reimagining Phibsborough.

However, it’s important to emphasise the designs are still at a conceptual stage, Smith said. The “devil will be in the detail”, she said.

For Cycling

With the 2015 Reimagining Phibsborough exhibition, locals came together to rethink the townscape of the northside village, and they’ve been working since then towards re-creating the town.

The Reimagining Phibsborough group – an environmental strand of Phizzfest – formed a community delegation with the LEIP Monitoring Committee, Dublin Cycling Campaign, members of the Local Tidy Towns and representatives from the Phibsboro business community to consult with the NTA on the BusConnects changes.

Since their meeting with the NTA, the transport agency has released “work in progress” designs for Phibsboro post-BusConnects.

These show the three bus corridors running through Phibsboro, all cutting through the crossroads at Doyle’s Corner. But there are also measures meant to make the neighbourhood nicer for pedestrians and cyclists.

One big change would be a new cycle and pedestrian route. This would run under the North Circular Road at Belacqua Bridge, and around Phibsboro library.

Designs show the cycle path looping along the back of Mountjoy Prison to the Royal Canal, where there’s a new cycle bridge proposed.

The proposed redesign brings the Royal Canal Park into play too, says Smith. “It’s kind of neglected and it’s not used as it should be in order to attract people.”

Although Smith welcomes the cycleway, she points out that there is no cycling infrastructure included for Phibsborough Road itself in the design.

“Bikes would presumably be sharing bus lanes again. It’d be the same situation that when you’re at the bus stop, on a bike you’d have to cycle out. All of that stays the same,” says Smith.

Local Fianna Fáil Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick says that it’s important that BusConnects engages in proper consultations with local groups.

“I think it’s great that they’re revising their plans but I think it’s disappointing that their not consulting properly [with councillors],” she said. She had yet to see plans, she said.

“The bus corridors have enormous potential to have a positive impact on our city but if they are to succeed we need to maximise public engagement for the project,” says Fitzpatrick.

Draft design from BusConnects.

For Those on Foot

One of the big concerns for Reimagining Phibsborough down the years has been that Phibsborough is not pedestrian friendly.

“One of the big things is not being able to cross the road,” says Smith. There are few pedestrian crossings in Phibsborough. Wait times to cross can often be long.

The NTA’s plans show new pedestrian crossings – although their exact locations are yet to be confirmed.

“What we’re looking for at Doyle’s Corner is an all round pedestrian way,” says Smith, where all the cars are stopped at each road on the crossroads. That’s not in the plans yet.

Other mooted improvements by the NTA to the public realm include tree verges in the middle of Phibsborough Road, between Munster Street and Leinster Street North.

There’s also footpath widening at different spots on Phibsborough Road, alongside “possibilities for decorated footpath pavement along the section to provide consistent village feeling”, according to the plan.

Designs also show the incorporation of large planters and more seats in wider areas, something that Reimaging Phibsborogh says will help create a village feel too.

Draft design from BusConnects.

This only includes the Phibsborough Road, and the designs do not include North Circular Road toward Cabra, a shortcoming in the NTA’s design plans, says Smith.

A surprising development that emerged in the meeting this month, says Smith, was the NTA representatives saying there were plans to use a compulsory purchase order to get a section of the carpark in front of Tesco, to create an improved public realm.

Would this affect the ongoing standoff between Tesco and the wider development of Dalymount Park, a disagreement which centres on access to the store for deliveries?

“It’ll be interesting to see if it will resolve the stalemate there,” says Smith.

[CORRECTION: This article was updated at 12.41pm on 31 July to correct the relationship of Reimagining Phibsborough to other groups in the area. Apologies for the error.]

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Sean Finnan: Sean Finnan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach him at sfinnan@dublininquirer.com.

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