Mairead White wants her son, who is in second class, to be able to walk alone to get to school, she says. “I really want him to be able to be independent.”
After all, it’s just a seven-minute stroll down Mount Prospect Park and Seafield Avenue in Clontarf. Yet in between runs Mount Prospect Avenue, which has no pedestrian crossing.
“He’s dying to cross that road. But I have to watch him like a hawk because it’s just so dangerous,” she says.
White says she’s asked councillors for a crossing many times as her three children have grown up. “I don’t know what happens to the issues, why they never go anywhere.”
Complaints that the council is too slow to put in crossings are not new – and not limited to Mount Prospect Avenue, say councillors, who seem to come up against the same two barriers time and again.
An update on city transport measures given to councillors at Monday’s monthly meeting said that: “Design work has begun on a number of pedestrian crossings across the city, which are due to be installed later in the year.”
But it didn’t give details on where, and Dublin City Council didn’t respond to queries sent Friday about how roads are prioritised when installing crossings.
On Mount Prospect Avenue
Mount Prospect Avenue branches east off Vernon Avenue before turning northwards for a stretch, and then turns eastwards again to join Clontarf Road and the bay edge of the city.
It is just under 2km long.
There are crossings with lights – what transport geeks call “pelican” crossings – at both ends of the road. “But no one would walk up that far just to cross the road,” says White.
That means that elsewhere along Mount Prospect Avenue, people typically jaywalk across, between gaps in the traffic.
White says that her son will scoot ahead and start to cross with other pedestrians. Until he sees she hasn’t caught up, she says. “And he stops in the middle of the road.”
On Thursday, Ciara O’Flaherty sees what looks like a gap in the traffic and sticks her foot out – only to recall it again, when she spots another car heading towards her.
She’s not sure how long she usually waits to cross Mount Prospect Avenue. But it’s a while, she says.
Cars whizz up and down, says Audrey Kennedy, who lives on Mount Prospect Avenue. Yet there are often kids, people with buggies, and elderly pedestrians waiting to cross, says Kennedy.
She winces at the idea of her children, who are peeking out the front door behind her, running out onto the road.
“Cars go down really quickly even with the speed bumps on it,” she says. “It’s a main road, but it doesn’t feel like a main road.”
What to Do?
White says she’d like to see a crossing with a light. A long road invites speed, which ramps can’t dampen, she says.
“A light is what works to stop traffic,” she says. “A zebra crossing doesn’t work.”
O’Flaherty says the council needs to do something, as she wouldn’t bother walking all the way up to the traffic lights that are there. “That’s why they really need a zebra crossing, or something.”
That said, she’s used to needing to jaywalk, she says. “We all cross the Howth Road the same way.”
There’s only one set of traffic lights on that as well, she says. “And it’s miles up so most of us don’t bother walking to the traffic lights, and just wait for a break in the traffic.”
But cars so often enter and exit Mount Prospect Avenue from side roads like Seafield Avenue and Seapark Road, says O’Flaherty.
That, she says, may make it awkward to find a good place for a crossing because the cars could pile up at a red light.
“Either way, you’re going to hit traffic,” she says. “It’s a residential area, so you have a lot of smaller roads, so I don’t know where you’d put it.”
Kennedy says she’s not sure where to put it, either. Maybe halfway down the road, she says. “I don’t know.”
White says she thinks the crossing could go anywhere around Mount Prospect Park, such as in the short stretch between it and Seafield Avenue, where her son’s school, Greenlanes National School, is.
“Or literally anywhere around Mount Prospect Park would be good,” she says “There’s so much traffic going by there. There’s more than one potential for a crossing.”
Dublin City Council did not respond to queries sent Friday on whether it had done any traffic survey on Mount Prospect Avenue or planned any traffic calming measures.
Delays and Stop Gaps
A long wait for a new pedestrian crossing is not new. It took 16 years of requests from councillors and residents at Mountjoy Square.
Pat Dunne, an Independents 4 Change councillor, says he put forward a motion last year, in which he asked for traffic signals on roads along the Grand Canal.
He highlighted intersections with Clogher Road and Herberton Road, he says. But he came up against a problem flagged before – that the changes would be part of bigger future projects.
“There has been procrastination in relation to similar requests in the past on the basis that these works would be incorporated into the Grand Canal Cycleway project, but we cannot wait any longer for action on this issue,” he said, in the motion.
In March 2020, the council said that installing traffic lights at he junctions are part of the South Grand Canal Cycle and Walking Improvement Scheme by Waterways Ireland and the council for a safer passage along the canal, says Dunne.
“The scheme is now at its preliminary design stage with a plan to commence some of the work along the route this year,” the council said in their response at the time.
Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland did not respond to queries sent Friday about plans to install pedestrian lights as part of the South Grand Canal Cycle and Walking Improvement Scheme.
Dunne says he remembers the council presenting the improvement scheme. “At least seven years ago. And it’s gone nowhere.”
Dunne says he has also pressed for a crossing on Kimmage Road West and Sundrive Road in Kimmage.
“I regularly get messages and complaints from people, particularly parents of young children, about the fact that it’s unsafe to cross the road at all those intersections,” he says.
The council told him they couldn’t do those crossings for budgetary reasons, he says. And that the council had to wait to see what changes BusConnects, the rehaul of the Dublin bus network, would make to the junctions.
Donna Cooney, a Green Party councillor, says that zebra crossings should be put in as an interim measure on Mount Prospect Avenue, if pelican crossings are taking too long. “Because you can put them in fairly quickly.”
Cooney submitted a motion to this month’s council transport meeting that zebra crossings should be used on residential roads to aid crossing in 30km zones, especially on school routes.
In response, Antonia Martin, a Dublin City Council engagement officer for active travel, said that the council is not putting in new zebra crossings, after observations and representations to its transportation department.
Drivers tend to take less notice of zebra crossings than red lights, she wrote. “And pedestrians do not feel as safe as they do with a signal telling them when to cross.”
They don’t slow down traffic and are hard to enforce, she said. Plus, the National Council for the Blind Ireland has found zebra crossings undesirable for the visually impaired.
“In cases where it is felt a recommendation should be made we would look at other more suitable traffic calming measures if needed, on a case by case basis, considering the criteria for approval for such measures,” she said.
Cooney says she doesn’t understand why the council isn’t for zebra crossings. It contradicts their roll-out of school zones, she says, which are painted colourful spots on the ground to alert people that primary schools are nearby.
They say nobody stops or notices, she says, yet they seem to work in other countries and they’re saying people will pay attention to school zones.
“Is that not a contradiction?” she says. “They could even make them colourful if they want.”
White says she would take anything to allow safe crossing on Mount Prospect Avenue, but would prefer a pelican crossing.
She says that she used to live on Gardiner Street, where traffic was thick and there was no safe crossing in the centre of the street.
Someone was knocked down, she says. “It took a person dying for them to actually do something.”
The crossing was installed soon after, she says. “But at that point I had moved. I’d made the decision to move out of town, because you know, all that type of thing made it dangerous.”