Before the bollards, the traffic would be stagnant at five o’clock, says Jacinta Murphy, leaning on the porch door of her house on Pigeon House Road on Friday.
It’s a long, straight road of mostly small cottages and some two-storey houses with doors facing the heavy traffic on the East Link Road, and the loud landscape of ferries and shipping containers that lug supplies in and out of the country every day.
It had been a rush-hour shortcut between the Sean Moore roundabout to the East Link (Tom Clarke) bridge for commuters getting to and from work, letting them avoid the main road, which was often choc-a-block, says Murphy.
“They’d come into Ringsend and come straight down this road,” and clog it up, she says.
“They were taking up the whole road. You couldn’t get into your car.”
Murphy says the bollards worked, though, and the road is much quieter now.
Councillors discussed the success of the trial at a meeting on Tuesday, and whether some complaints of congestion elsewhere in Ringsend would be enough to scupper the bollards on Pigeon House Road.
There’ll next be a public consultation to get people’s views on whether the changes should be made permanent or not, said Andrew Duff, southside neighborhood engineer for Dublin City Council, at the meeting.
The scheme at Pigeon House Road had originally been planned as one of the city’s neighbourhood transport schemes, small interventions mooted before Covid in different spots across the city to tackle rat-running, speeding and congestion. In the end, it was done under the Covid mobility stream of measures instead.
But, as things tick back towards a new normal in the city, those neighbourhood transport schemes are coming back too.
Busy looking back
When the council first came up with the idea of neighbourhood transport schemes, they went through the process of ranking which would come first. Pigeon House Road was fourth in line in the south of the city.
Those schemes mostly paused as staff switched to focus on Covid mobility measures, like widening footpaths, and installing more cycle lanes. But the Pigeon House Road scheme snuck in under the Covid measures too, says a report to councillors.
On Friday, Colm and Billy Hughes squinted up the long Pigeon House Road, remembering the chaos of before. “We don’t know ourselves,” says Billy.
The bollards were put up in August 2020. After asix-week trial, the council said that local schools felt positive about the scheme, reporting less traffic and congestion on the streets in the area.
“An increase in children walking and cycling to school has also been reported,” they said. That November, councillors agreed to extend the trial for a year.
The planters and bollards keep motor vehicles from driving through a section of Pigeon House Road, preventing their drivers from using the road as a rat run between the bridge and the roundabout – and opening it up for more use by cyclists and pedestrians.
It was a nightmare before, says Colm, rocking his daughter in a buggy back and forth. “It was quite difficult, at any rush hour, pretty much everyone used this as a rat run to the East Link so it was pretty much jammed up.”
He laughs at the idea that he would have let his daughter play on the road before. “Absolutely not.”
There was also the worry that an ambulance or fire truck wouldn’t make it through in an emergency, he says.
“I don’t think it happened. It’s possible, but just more the inconvenience of it all was pretty difficult. So I’d rather put up with that small inconvenience,” he says.
Murphy says residents’ cars would be scraped and damaged by the two lanes of traffic squeezing by in the limited space.
“My car, not only my car, many cars have been damaged by drivers trying to cut through the two lanes. It was only brand new, my wing mirror and the whole side of it,” she says.
Residents had raised the issue for years but no one had listened, he says. “The only people it was affecting was the cottages here.”
Murphy said residents of the road signed a petition to the council in around 2008. “It was just before the crash. But nothing was ever achieved,” she says. “It was too long to wait.”
Now, with the bollards put in, the issues on Pigeon House Road from before have significantly reduced, says Duff, the council engineer. “Actually, in most cases they’re eliminated because rat running can’t actually happen on that road anymore.”
There’s less noise pollution and air pollution, he says, since there are fewer cars travelling up and down the road. Resurfacing the East Link road helped with noise too, he says.
At the council meeting, Duff said a public consultation would be posted on the council’s consultation hub towards the end of this month, for up to two weeks.
There’ll be three options: making the scheme permanent, extending the trial for another year, or removing the bollards and reverting the road back to the way it was.
Afterwards, councillors will be told the results of the two-week consultation, and will decide on what option would be best, he said.
Over in Ringsend
“Now, not everybody agrees with it,” says Murphy, her eyes flicking down towards the end of the road, where the roundabout first leads off towards the bollards, and then into a cul-de-sac.
Desmond Flanagan lives in Cambridge Park, a cul-de-sac off Pigeon House Road, and says some of his neighbours aren’t keen on the bollards.
“They’d be more Sandymount kinda people, so they’d be going to Mass over in Sandymount, they’d be going to the shops up in Sandymount, they wouldn’t be going that way,” he says, pointing up Pigeon House Road from the cul-de-sac entrance.
A right turn towards the Sean Moore Road would suit them better, he says. But, “it’s far, far better the way it is. They want the best of everything. They want to have it both ways.”
Danny Byrne, a Fine Gael councillor, says the traffic measures have transformed Pigeon House Road.
“It’s much more livable for the residents there. Of course, it took a bit of getting used to,” he says, since locals have to now go the long way around.
Joe Whelan, a resident on Pigeon House Road, says now, it’s quiet. “Children can come out and play across the road in the summer.”
“Now it’s not convenient for me to get onto the Link, I have to drive around Ringsend and down through Irishtown to get onto it, but that’s no problem. I’d prefer that, than what was happening before,” he says.
Daniel Céitinn, a Sinn Féin councillor said at the committee meeting that some residents from Poolbeg Quay and elsewhere in Ringsend had experienced issues, although he didn’t say what kind.
“But I think broadly overall it’s been a very successful project,” he said.
Paddy McCartan, a Fine Gael councillor, says he hasn’t heard any negative comments about the scheme.
“If there were to be negative comments, I would have certainly heard them, but I’ve heard minimal negative comments about this project,” he says.
The scheme is pretty well known, he says. “There’s not anyone I know in Ringsend that is unaware of all what has happened. A project like this has been very favourably received.”
Claire Byrne, a Green Party councillor, says when the scheme was first proposed, there were a lot of residents who expressed concerns.
After the trial, though, it was well received. “I think we can all say with confidence, those that do represent the area,” she said, “people’s minds were changed very quickly when they saw the absolute benefits of it.”
This trial was a success story of trialling traffic schemes, she said. “How things can work out and might be of benefit for others to recognise that when we’re considering other cycle lanes.”
Byrne, the Fine Gael councillor, says that this filtered permeability scheme was less of a flashpoint than a similar trial on Grangegorman Road Upper because most of the traffic that used to choke Pigeon House Road wasn’t local.
“It was going elsewhere, like it was commuter traffic. And of course, that has to happen,” he says. “The other one maybe had more inconvenience to local people, and this one had some, but not as much.”
Pigeon House Road couldn’t handle the level of traffic it was subjected to, he says. “I think definitely the positives far outweigh the negatives.”