In East Wall, Councillors Want Residents’ Ideas for Cutting Down on Car Traffic

For more than a decade, Claire McDonnell has watched as the newest buildings on Sheriff Street and beyond have lifted up into the sky.

She’s also felt it outside her front door on Irvine Terrace, where the builders working on sites park up and down the street, from morning until evening.

“Some of them come in at six in the morning, have a sleep, just so they get to keep their spot,” says McDonnell. “In the evening then, they speed out.”

Irvine Terrace is part of a tangle of little streets and cul-de-sacs near the intersection of East Road and Sheriff Street Upper.

“We’re the last street for free parking before the city centre,” says Elise Connors, who lives on Irvine Court. “I understand, they have to park somewhere, they work here.”

The free-for-all of parking in much of the area around East Wall, including on Irvine Terrace, has led to significant issues, says a council report drawn up in February 2020 as part of efforts to design a new neighbourhood transport scheme.

After meetings between councillors, and on-site assessments in 2019, officials had honed in on parking – including commuter parking and illegal parking – and cut-through traffic, as local challenges.

In the February 2020 report, council officials said that parking-demand management and rerouting would likely be most effective in helping with these traffic issues.

On Tuesday 13 April, at a meeting of their Central Area Committee, councillors agreed a motion to have the council carry out a survey of residents of East Wall to see what they want.

“East Wall was selected for the neighbourhood transport scheme nearly two years ago,” said independent Councillor Nial Ring. “It’s incumbent on the Central Area to carry out a survey of residents.”

A Well-Used Road

Elise Connors’ children play with others from the street on a large patch of grass to the side of the Connors’ house.

It has a swing and slides and a mural of flowers on the wall. “It’s the only place to play around here,” says Connors – a safe space on a street lined with cars.

McDonnell’s kids will race across the road if they see their friends on the grass, she says. Or they might chase a bouncing ball towards the road.

When builders leave en masse in the late afternoon, there is a barrage of cars, says Connors. “Most of them are lovely, but there’s the odd one that goes really really fast and it’s really scary.”

While their kids play, McDonnell and Connors will talk with each other from opposite ends of the road so that they can keep watch from both directions, said Connors.

“We are terrified. We let them play on the grass but we can’t let them play on their own, we have to be there to watch,” she said.

There shouldn’t be such a problem, says Connors. “It’s a closed street, no one has to be on this road.”

Connors made her own “Slow Down – Kids Playing” signs for the neighbourhood. “But they don’t seem to be working,” she says.

Neighbours know to be cautious, but some non-residents continue to speed, she says.

The Parking Problem

Issues around commuters parking all the way down a street, and people coasting along the smaller roads, are common to the wider East Wall neighbourhood.

They’re related too. “The observational evidence suggests that a large proportion of the vehicles that enter the East Wall Area are travelling around the area in search of a parking space,” said the 2020 council report.

Connors says that residents often use bins and traffic cones to protect parking spots for themselves when they’re out. But sometimes these are just moved, she says.

Ray McAdam, a Fine Gael councillor, said that elsewhere in East Wall, the volume of parked cars “led to incidents where ambulances couldn’t get to the houses in order to reach the hospital”.

The 2020 report says that “the most effective solution to preserve residential parking and discourage all-day commuter parking” would be to bring in residential pay-and-display parking.

Since this measure would reduce commuter parking, it would also “likely reduce the necessity for drivers to illegally park on footpaths due to a lack of parking capacity”, it says.

In the East Wall neighbourhood as a whole, there are 0.84 parking spaces per household, according to the report.

Pay-and-display parking could be a solution, says McAdam. “I think it’s around €80 for a two-year permit.”

Ring says he thinks some people in the area would object to paying a fee.

In Irvine Cottages, there is a split, says McDonnell. While she would have no problem with pay-and-display, she thinks some of her neighbours wouldn’t like it.

For pay-and-display to be rolled out, councillors or residents** **would have to seek signatures from at least 25 percent of residents who live on each road, says the report.

Dublin City Council would then design a detailed pay-and-display map for each street that they get a petition for.

Residents of each street would then be balloted to see if they support the scheme. It takes a majority vote for a scheme to go ahead, says the report.

Even if pay-and-display is brought in, though, parkers may still find workarounds.

Abandoned clamps. Photo by Claire McDonnell.

Some parkers bring tools to cut the clamps, says McDonnell. “Even the clampers admit it. The builders unclamp their car quicker than the clampers can.”

So it might not deter them, McDonnell says. “So will they just still park here, not pay for the ticket? We’ll be paying and they won’t.”

Dublin Street Parking Services are out every day clamping people in their area, says McDonnell.

“I did ask the clampers, one day, I said, ‘What happens if they park more than once?’” she says. “He said they are supposed to tow them. But since it’s just constant, they don’t really bother as much.”

Dublin City Council hasn’t yet responded to a query on the repercussions for those who are clamped more than once in the same spot.

Connors would like to see the yellow lines extended further along the road, she says. McDonnell agrees, and says she thinks it would take away around seven parking spots.

“Although people still park on the yellow lines,” she says. “What can you do? They have their tools. Cutting off the clamps is the issue.”

McAdam, the Fine Gael councillor, says that for Irvine Court a filtered permeability scheme would be suitable, like the one in Grangegorman.

There, a series of bollards and plant boxes were put in to stop through-traffic so drivers couldn’t use the road as a short-cut – but local residents could still drive to their houses, and pedestrians and cyclists could pass through at will.

McDonnell said she would like to see a one-way system. “But how would they police it?”

Asking Residents

Paul Kelly, another resident on Irvine Terrace, says he asked the council six or seven years ago for ramps on the road.

The council “said the road wasn’t long enough for cars to pick up enough speed to knock down a child”, said Kelly.

A council spokesperson said Tuesday that the council received three requests for speed ramps “on Irvine Terrace on the system, none of which have been in the last 5 years”.

The road should have a straight run of at least 200 metres, to be appropriate for ramps, said the spokesperson. “The longest road in this area is Abercorn Road which is approx. 150m in length.”

Still, McDonnell says she thinks ramps would be a good solution. “I would put them down myself if I could.”

Says Kelly: “It would be a basic investment. There’s the potential to nurture a community which is fighting unnecessarily against danger.”

McAdam, the Fine Gael councillor, said the council is looking for direction from communities on what is needed to manage traffic.

“We have to think radically about what needs to be done. These measures should be able to really slow down traffic, and make safer residential neighbourhoods,” he said.

Elise Connors. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

The council spokesperson on Tuesday said that the traffic department is “awaiting feedback from our elected members on the East Wall Neighbourhood Transport Scheme”.

“Following a review of this feedback, the development of the neighbourhood scheme will continue,” the spokesperson said.

Ring, the independent councillor, said he wants the council to drop information leaflets into every house in East Wall, explaining possible measures, and giving simple directions on how residents can give their opinions.

He said 11,000 houses were surveyed online for the Grangegorman permeability study, and there are only about 1,500 houses in East Wall.

“It shouldn’t be rocket science. They should commission a survey and find out exactly what’s wanted,” he says.

But it should be door-to-door, so that people cannot vote on it if they are not from that area, Ring says. “I don’t care what the guy living out in Clontarf says.”

“If he says, ‘Well I’d prefer no pay and display,’ because he parks there every morning. It has to be coming from the people, that would be the major difference,” said Ring.

Ring says he has sympathy for people who may not have good transport access from where they live and may need to drive.

“But I represent the people of East Wall, and they deserve to be able to drive to shop and come back and not expect their space gone,” he says.

Says Joe Costello, a Labour councillor, “There is a lot of anger and frustration in relation to all of this.”

“We have to get the community on board for whatever we introduce. There’s not much use introducing a transport policy that people aren’t going to accept.”

There are too many cars around, says Kelly, the local resident. “They are entitled to be there, but have some respect for the people who live there and for the safety of the children.”

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

Reader responses

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Waider
at 23 April at 14:35

That last paragraph is the kicker: the assumption that cars automatically have entitlement to encroach on everything else. They don’t, and they shouldn’t.

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