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On a recent Saturday evening on Mountjoy Square in the city centre, cars, buses, and bikes whizz along wide tarmacadam roads.
Of the eight possible crossing points at each corner of the square, four currently don’t have pedestrian crossings.
For quite some time, local residents and councillors have called on Dublin City Council (DCC) and the National Transport Authority (NTA) to install pedestrian crossings at two junctions — Mountjoy Square’s south-west corner, which currently has one pedestrian crossing joining Grenville Street to the square, and the north-west corner, which has none.
Mary Laheen is a resident of Mountjoy Square for 32 years, and thinks that the infrastructure in the area is not meeting the needs of its growing population.
“People keep getting told how we need to be a more high density city. Then the government just builds the houses but it doesn’t actually do anything to make a high density community livable,” she says.
The pavements are too narrow and if you want to cross the street it’s really tricky because there is too much traffic, says Laheen.
On Friday 14 August, as part of the update of the Covid Mobility Plan, DCC announced a plan to install four pedestrian crossings at the north-west junction of the square — on Mountjoy Square West, Gardiner Place, Mountjoy Square North and Gardiner Street Upper.
While locals and councillors in the area are happy with the announcement, some question why it took the council so long to implement pedestrian crossings at the busy junction.
New Crossings, But Not for Every Side.
The project at Mountjoy Square is due to be separated into two phases, and will only involve work on Mountjoy Square’s north-west corner.
Phase one is planned to start this year — two crossings will be installed joining Gardiner Place to Mountjoy Square West and across Mountjoy Square West just south of Gardiner place, says a spokesperson for the council.
Phase two is due to see the remaining two crossings installed at the north-west corner on Gardiner Street Upper just north of Mountjoy Square North and also on Mountjoy Square North just east of Gardiner Street Upper.
Dublin City Council were unable to give an exact figure of how much the crossing would cost as it is still in the design phase.
“… it is reasonable to assume a pedestrian crossing costs in the region of €50,000. In the case of Mountjoy Square it could cost considerably more as there will be heritage issues (granite paving etc) to be considered,” a spokesperson for the council said.
The NTA, who are funding this project, have set aside €100,000, double the cost suggested by the council.
Currently there are no plans for crossings to be installed on the south-west corner or the south-east corner either.
Waiting For The Green Man
Since 2004, the council received a total of 21 emails and enquiries from a mix of councillors and residents requesting pedestrian crossings be installed at various points in Mountjoy Square according to a Freedom Of Information request (FOI).
In documents obtained under FOI, one local resident wrote to the council in 2015 to express their difficulty with crossing the road. “With the speed of traffic and the high traffic frequency, I believe that it is only a matter of time before someone is fatally injured,” they said.
In May this year, a woman was knocked down at Mountjoy Square West and Gardiner Place in a hit-and-run incident at one of the corners without a pedestrian crossing. She was left with serious leg injuries.
“I’ve been pushing for this for at least five years,” says Green Party Member of European Parliament Ciarán Cuffe speaking on the phone last Thursday.
“This will be a real boost for those who live and walk around the square and I think that it is long overdue,” says Cuffe, who worked as councillor for the north inner-city before going to Brussels.
But he is not the only one who had pushed for these crossings.
Back in 17 November 2017, the Mountjoy Square Society which is a group that aims to promote the area wrote to the council about the issue.
“There is a general concern at the current imbalance in favour of commuter traffic through Gardiner Street (Lower, Middle, Upper) and environs at the expense of local residents,” the letter from the Mountjoy Square Society said.
The council said to the society: “Please note that this process takes at the minimum a number of months or longer depending on the overall volume of requests.”
The Mountjoy Square Society was contacted in relation to this article, however did not respond in time for publication.
In 2013, funding was granted by the NTA to add pedestrian crossings at Gardiner Place, Gardiner Street and Mountjoy Square North and a final design was agreed by the council in late 2013.
But the project never saw the light of day.
The project was put on hold, says DCC Environment and Transport Senior Staff Officer, Stephen Hickey in correspondence with Workers’ Party member Éilis Ryan on 21 December 2018 “while they worked out a design for the BusConnects project.”
Schemes that were planned for the area before, such as the BusConnects, had planned to provide pedestrian crossings, a spokesperson for the council said.
“The NTA decided in January of 2014 to withhold funding for any signalisation of this junction until the BRT [Bus Rapid Transit] route is finalised,” said Hickey.
“A lot of the residents feel that the bus corridors [BusConnects] were ignoring the fact that places like Mountjoy Square are residential areas with children living in them,” says Ryan speaking over the phone last Thursday.
The NTA did not respond in time for publication to questions surrounding why the pedestrian crossings are going on Mountjoy Square north-west corner now and whether that means that the BusConnects plan is halted.
[Correction: This article was updated on 9 September at 12.09. The original version stated that Éilis Ryan was a DCC councillor. We apologise for the error.]