“There’s nothing being done on a localised level, it’s all in the city centre,” says Fianna Fáil Councillor for Ballymun and Finglas, Keith Connolly, over the phone on 8 September.
Connolly says that he put in a request to Dublin City Council Transport Advisory Group (TAG), which handles transport requests from members of the public and politicians, to build a speed ramp on Kildonan Avenue, Finglas after a child was injured in June after a hit and run incident.
Residents have been asking for speed ramps to be put in before this incident happened, Connolly says.
Connolly was told by a traffic engineer that TAG had a meeting on the 18 August but these speed ramps never reached the agenda, he says.
Another council official told him that the delay was down to the Covid Mobility Programme.
The Covid Mobility Programme was launched on 22 May as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Dublin City Council (DCC) aiming to provide temporary mobility intervention by adding more walking and cycling facilities in the city centre.
Although the plan has seen the roll-out of new cycle tracks, like on Griffith Avenue, widened footpaths on Dame Street and filtered permeability measures in Gragegorman, some councillors are concerned that this plan is too focused on the city centre, meaning that transport matters in the suburbs are being neglected.
Covid Mobility Plan
According to page six of the mobility programme, DCC says that it is aiming to increase the number of people cycling into the city by 200 percent and walking by 100 percent compared to 2019 figures.
According to the council, who have monitors at various points across the city, in November 2019, an average of 13,131 cyclists travelled into the city between 7 am and 10 am while 24,691 people travelled by foot.
The council wants to increase these figures to 39,000 cyclists and 50,000 pedestrians.
Currently, cycling levels at this time are 30 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels while footfall is at 20 percent of pre-Covid-19 levels according to the latest council update.
The National Transport Authority is funding the programme which so far has cost €2 million, a spokesperson for the NTA said in an email.
On the south side of the city, the Dodder Greenway cycle track is delayed because of the Covid Mobility Programme, a spokesperson for the council said.
The Dodder Greenway is a planned cycle and pedestrian route that follows the River Dodder from south county Dublin through Dún Laoghaire Rathdown area and into the city centre.
According to a spokesperson for the council, the project engineer who was working on the site, was temporarily reassigned to work for the Covid Mobility response team
“[…] at present the Covid Mobility response has the higher priority,” the council spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that they are unsure how long it will take before work on the Dodder Greenway resumes.
This news is frustrating for Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, he says.
“The Dodder Greenway is a mobility route and it’s a mobility route that everyone has agreed on,” says Lacey. “If it was me I would be pushing for the cycle route that was agreed on”.
There are always delays when it comes to the council getting transport matters resolved, says independent Councillor in Ballyfermot, Vincent Jackson. But the covid mobility measures have exacerbated the problem, he says.
“It’s like anarchy on Ballyfermot Road with the amount of congestion,” says Jackson.
Jackson says that he is currently waiting on DCC to change the timing of traffic lights on Ballyfermot Road after they were changed during the pandemic to give pedestrians priority at the lights.
Early on in the pandemic, the council changed the length of time on the green light at traffic lights for cars from 120 seconds to 80 seconds which only allows four or five cars to pass through, he says.
Councillors brought the issue up in the July South Central Area Committee meeting so the council agreed to change the green light time to 100 seconds, says Jackson.
But Jackson is still waiting on the council to change the timing of these lights, he says.
The long waiting times for traffic matters to be resolved are nothing new, says Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney.
Heney thinks that the problem isn’t Covid-19, but rather the system of TAG.
The problem with TAG is that they are understaffed, says Heney.
“It’s a lack of traffic engineers it seems to be. As soon as they go in they seem to leave. There is a big turnover of traffic engineers in my experience,” says Heney.
DCC did not respond in time to comment on whether there are traffic engineer shortages.
Jackson says there is an inefficiency in the TAG system that also needs to be addressed. Sometimes similar requests might be made by multiple councillors, yet they are treated as stand-alone issues, which wastes time.
“ [TAG] open three different files on the same thing and that would be a huge amount of repetition,” says Jackson. “Why can’t they just bunch them all together?”
Green Party Councillor Janet Horner has put her requests through the Covid Mobility Programme rather than the TAG team because she finds that transport matters get resolved faster this way, she says.
This can be frustrating because there is not a lot of feedback from suggestions made to the covid mobility team, Horner says.
The council will tell councillors that their request has been ‘noted’ under the Covid Mobility Programme, says Horner.
TAG is a very imperfect system but it did give us a sense of where things were at and what was being considered and what wasn’t, she says.