Since Aidan Regan started to walk his newborn baby around his neighbourhood in Cabra East, he has noticed the footpath parking much more.
“I’m just fed up pushing the pram on the path and having to navigate between cars,” he says.
Many of those parking up don’t live around there, he says – the clue for him being that the streets are empty on Sundays.
When there’s a funeral at the nearby Christ the King Church, the road are choc-a-bloc with parked cars, says Regan
As Regan sees it, the roads are just too narrow for two-way car traffic. Cars end up idling as they wait to squeeze past another car, which may be trying to squeeze between another two cars parked on either edge of the road.
Regan has written to the council about this with a possible solution, submitted as a “Covid mobility” request under the council’s Interim Mobility Intervention Programme which aims to collect traffic suggestions from the public on how to help them get around safely during the pandemic.
He’d like to see a one-way system around Imaal Road, Offaly Road, Annaly Road and Dowth Avenue and narrower roads to enable it, he says. He has had zero response from the council, he said.
Regan is one of at least 62 people to suggest one-way roads to the council as a solution to traffic problems in their neighbourhoods.
However, both academics and local councillors say that simply turning two-way streets into one-way streets is unlikely to improve the situation much – if it’s not accompanied by other changes to the area’s transport infrastructure.
Across the City
“To me, it’s an absolute no brainer that the inner city would move to one way streets, in order to facilitate street parking and to remove illegal parking,” says Regan.
“The community is perfectly designed for a one-way traffic system,” he says.
Two-way motor traffic, street parking, footpaths and cycle lanes are too much to jam in together in the narrow streets around where he lives, he says – as is also the case in other inner-city areas.
“For years, priority has been given to motorists, with cars parked on footpaths,” says Regan.
The density of parking means two-way streets operate as one-ways anyways, he says. “So why not just put a bit of organisation in order, to use one-way streets and have residential-only on-street parking?”
It could be easily implemented, Regan says. “It may mean that some drivers have to spend an extra one minutes, two minutes to access.”
Regan isn’t alone in turning to one-way systems as the way forward.
One person who sent a Covid mobility request to the council asked for a one-way system along the length of East Road and New Wapping Street in the Docklands. It’s a busy road and unsafe to cycle along, their submission said.
One pedestrian said in their request that social distancing is impossible on Vernon Avenue in Clontarf because of cars parked on double-yellow lines. Widening the footpath and making the road one-way would reduce chaos, they wrote.
Said another requester: “It is impossible to navigate around Drimnagh as a pedestrian without being forced onto the road. Footpaths need to be for pedestrians.”
Their idea? “A one-way system may allow adequate space for cars to park on the road instead of the footpaths,” they said.
Regan says the difficulty lies in how to meet two different needs.
“How do you take care of footpaths to allow people to walk – to help people with disabilities or mobility issues, and small children – while also recognising that many people don’t have their own driveway?” he says.
On One-Way Systems
Just putting in a one-way system, though, may have unintended consequences, says Alan Tapp, a professor in social marketing at UWE Bristol. Other changes would likely be necessary too.
“If you’re a resident who likes to walk around and have a quiet street that doesn’t have cars rushing down it, then a one-way street is a disaster,” says Tapp, who has worked on driving behaviour campaigns for the UK’s Department for Transport.
Having lots of cars parked on narrow streets slows the traffic down, says Tapp. “It solves itself because it’s such a tight squeeze, the traffic is all moving much more slowly and in fact local residents quite like that also.”
Regan says people drive fast on the two-way road outside his house anyway. “One way or two-way it doesn’t really make a difference.” A contra-cycle lane on one-way streets could be a solution to speeding, and speed ramps, he says.
Neil Galway, an urban planning lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, says that a benefit of one-way traffic is that it means the road can be used differently. “Whether that’s widening footpaths, making parking easier,” he says.
But one issue with a one-way traffic system is that, as a solution, it doesn’t deal with the wider challenge of getting people to use more active transport, says Galway.
In the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, planners designing residential streets draw from a Dutch urban design concept called Woonerf, says Tapp.
Woonerf aims to cut motor traffic in residential areas by pedestrianising more of the street, he says.
“Woonerf is basically saying, the space outside your house is a social space and it’s a living space. So why should we be dominated by motor traffic? Therefore, we redesign it,” says Tapp.
The system has to be backed up by public transport and cycling networks, says Tapp. “There are obvious downsides to it if you’re addicted to cars.”
What Some Neighbours Think
Maria McSweeney, standing in her driveway on Annaly Road, said she would be open to a one-way system there.
“It would probably be more of a benefit than a hindrance, to be honest, because you’ve got more structure to the traffic,” she says.
Drivers take short-cuts through Annaly Road to avoid traffic on Fassaugh Road, a bigger thoroughfare just to the north.
“They whizz in,” she says.
The ramps on the road aren’t tall enough to slow cars down either and should be higher, says Joe McSweeney, her husband.
All the roads are quite tight in the area, says Joe McSweeney. The Cabra Luas stop is nearby so “you’ve got lots more people parking. It’s all free parking.”
Chains of parked cars in Cabra’s residential areas are partly due to the design of the streets, says Colm O’Rourke, a Fine Gael councillor. “It just was not designed to hold the amount of cars that it does today.”
Green spaces in front of houses were replaced with tarmac in the 80s for parking, he says.
Some drivers park in the residential streets, and go use the Luas line, or shop at the cluster of outlets known as the 17 Shops around the corner, he says.
Regan says that one house on his street has six cars. “Do you really need six cars to live in the inner-city? No, of course you don’t.”
“So there’s a bit of cultural change and behavioural change there that needs to happen,” he says.
A council neighbourhood transport scheme would be part of the solution, says Séamas McGrattan, a Sinn Féin councillor.
The idea of neighbourhood transport schemes is to look at transport issues across an area and consider solutions for the area as a whole rather than for each road individually.
The goal is for calmer and safer residential areas, and walkable communities, says a 2019 council presentation.
Schemes so far have included putting in bollards in Grangegorman to stop rat-running by cars, but allow pedestrians and cyclists through, and let local residents drive to and from their homes.
Also, in East Wall, the council is working on a scheme to tackle footpath parking and rat-running.
Councillors have agreed that Cabra East and Cabra West should be on the list for such a scheme.
Who Should Act?
A collective approach is the right one for traffic problems, says McGrattan. “If an overarching body dealt with all of this, could be a lot easier.”
The council are firefighting challenges on the ground, says McGrattan. “It’s difficult for them. The likes of Irish Rail and the NTA, they have to accept that they have a responsibility in this as well.”
Better transport links are needed to the area, says McGrattan, such as building the DART+ SouthWest station at Cabra.
Parking bays at Luas stops would mean less parking on residential streets nearby, says McGrattan. “There has to be accessible links for people to use – and that means car parking links. People have to drive cars.”
Car parking is contentious, says Galway, the lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast.
“Places that have made these interventions” – to support active mobility – “are where you have elected mayors with very strong mandates to make these changes and people are actually voting for these changes,” he says.