10. Walking, Accessibility and Public Realm

Uimhir Thagarta Uathúil: 
Carolyn Moore

10. Walking, Accessibility and Public Realm

Walking and cycling


Figures in this strategy showing an increase in cycling are welcome and must be built on, but plans for rolling out cycling infrastructure must be predicated on routes being segregated, designed to international best practice standards, and designed with inclusivity in mind, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes. Cycling Infrastructure has to be safe, connected, 24 hour, and not leave people facing difficult junctions or trying to plan their routes around avoiding challenging areas or infrastructural black holes. Ideally, it should be along existing desire lines to ensure that more people can chose cycling as their primary mode of transport, and – where possible – that cyclists can safely choose the most direct routes.


The hierarchy of the street should be acknowledged and referred to throughout the strategy, clearly illustrating a commitment to prioritising the most vulnerable road users. With that in mind, the NTA must also acknowledge the degree to which school drop offs and pick ups contribute to the traffic levels on our roads, and the degree to whuch active travel contributes to children’s well-being and independence, and ensure that safe walking and cycling along routes to schools is prioritised.


Critically, enforcement of dangerous and/or illegal parking in cycle lanes and on footpaths must be robust and should have its own strategic response across multiple agencies. Likewise, there needs to be a significant increase in enforcement of HGV bans on roads to improve the safety of vulnerable road users.


Some other factors to consider:


  • In urban villages and in the city centre, attention must be paid to quality pedestrian infrastructure, enhancement of public realm and provision of pedestrian crossings.
  • Cyclists must be accommodated as road users with infrastructure that is connected and not piecemeal, and drivers must be educated on sharing the road safely and respectfully with other road users.
  • The focus of the GDA strategy has to be on the reallocation of road space to facilitate walking and cycling and e mobility first.
  • The plan needs to significantly increase the cycling targets beyond 12% and introduce walking targets if we are to reach our climate targets.
  • In addition to clear and ambitious targets, it’s important to set out clear timelines for active transport and infrastructure projects.
  • The plan should prioritise the key cycling schemes that can be developed quickly and will maximise cycling numbers and facilitate the maximum modal shift.
  • The plan should establish Safe Routes to School targets for existing schools, rather than just focusing on new schools as the draft plan does.
  • Cycling must link in with other modes of transport, with ample accommodation for bikes on train carriages and ample secure, well-lit bike parking at transport interchanges and public transport stations.
  • In order to enhance safety and ease of mobility for pedestrians an increased use of zebra and pelican crossings should be considered 
  • In order to prioritise pedestrians in line with the hierarchy of the street, we should increase pedestrian crossing times at all junctions so that all pedestrains, wheelchair or mobility aid users can cross the road comfortably and safely.
  • The plan should set clear targets for pedestrianised streets, particularly in the City Centre.
  • The plan should commit to introducing a Car Free day in Dublin City Centre once a month.
  • The NTA should consider subsiding active travel sharing schemes (Dublin Bikes, Moby, Bleeper etc.) in suburbs, where currently no sharing schemes exist, prioritising areas of social deprivation first.

Additionally, with so much emphasis this decade on upgrading the bus system, careful consideration must be given to the interplay of bus stops and cycle tracks in order to minimise potential conflicts between passengers and cyclists. Likewise the integration of disability access parking spaces should provide no opportunity for users of those spaces to find themselves navigating a cycle track as they exit or enter their vehicle.


Finally, during the BusConnects consultation process, many people expressed concern that the frequency and speed of busses may present a danger to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. In many instances these concerns have manifested around pinch points or junctions where heavy volumes of traffic already present a significant danger to other road users, and there is little evidence to suggest that frequent busses would have any more or less impact. However, the opportunity exists to mitigate these concerns with the addition of more and safer pedestrian crossings, and by widening footpaths or introducing traffic calming measures. BusConnects plans should propose wider footpaths, where possible, with crossings and timings designed to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can safely cross the road; and crossings that prioritise pedestrian movement over other forms of transport.


Roads / car use


In the strategy, the NTA makes the following commitment: “We will put things in place to make the roads safer, for example, speed limits, car-free zones, and the Safe Routes to School programme.”


We strongly believe this has to happen in conjunction with significantly increased enforcement. The NTA must acknowledge its role in  tackling dangerous and illegal parking, and consider a major awareness campaign around the dangers and impacts of inconsiderate parking,  ensuing that members of the public come to see this as the anti-social activity it is.


With that said, we welcome suite of measures related to parking and would like to indicate our

support for measures like car-free residential developments, public sector car parking reduction and removal from all office locations in Dublin City Centre, and a recommendation that zero car parking be provided for commercial development in Dublin City Centre. We would welcome also that employment development close to major public transport interchanges or Mobility Hubs which seek to provide car parking would be required to demonstrate the necessity for such parking.


Other considerations:


  • To accommodate deliveries, we need not just a goods delivery plan for city centre, but for urban villages too, and we need to minimise disruption on key bus routes.
  • We must acknowledge the role of park and ride in encouraging a modal shift and long term behaviour change, while in the short term reducing the negative impact of traffic in urban villages and suburbs.
  • For the safety of pedestrians and cyclists we should support the move to reduce the default speed limit in the city to 30kmph.
  • With benefits for climate, costs and convemience, car sharing schemes have a vital role to play in the development of low traffic or traffic free neighbourhoods and commercial developments.
  • Provision to accommodate the government’s ambitious goal to get 1m EVs on the road by 2030 should be cognisant of the fact that Electric vehicles, while still much lower emitters than petrol or diesel vehicles, are emissions intensive to produce and dispose of. These emissions are not counted in a tailpipe calculation. The plan, particularly around stated targets for EVs, should demonstrate an awareness of this limitation and encourage private car use as a last resort.
  • For those who wish to and do make the switch to an EV, charging infrastructure should be convenient, fast and widely available.

Built Environment, heritage, natural solutions


It is a stated objective of the plan to achieve: An Enhanced Natural and Built Environment - To create a better environment and meet our environmental obligations by transitioning to a clean, low emission transport system, reducing car dependency, and increasing walking, cycling and public transport use.


As it redraws our city, our towns and urban villages, this strategy must seize the opportunity to  improve our built and natural environment. The NTA’s efforts to minimise tree loss in the revised BusConnects plans are welcome, and additionally we believe landscaping and softening of cycle routes and light rail infrastructure through greening must be central to designs, and efforts to enhance the public realm – making it, cleaner, greener and more people friendly – must be taken at every turn.


The Dublin Tree Strategy recognises the numerous benefits of mature trees to our cityscape, from air quality to amenity value to heritage and placemaking. The NTA must strive to protect every tree possible, and planting schemes should take a holistic approach to biodiversity, with a focus on native varieties suitable for long-term retention, accompanied by pollinator-friendly plants, shrubs and flowers. Likewise, greenways should be green - they should not lead to the unnecessary removal of trees or established biodiversity-rich planting schemes, and new routes should be greened with the addition of native shrubs and no-mow or wildflower verges.


The Covid crisis has fostered a greater sense of community in many areas, and local access and connectivity has never been more vital. It is essential that every opportunity is taken to improve the public realm and make our villages and communities liveable, walkable, clean, safe places. Public realm improvements should aim to widen footpaths and provide civic spaces and safe cycling infrastructure - not just to enable people to commute by bike into the city centre, but to facilitate safe cycling for people of all ages and abilities in, around and between our communities.


We must take this opportunity to allocate the maximum space possible to people; to design our public spaces inclusively and with The Hierarchy of the Street in mind; and to pave the way for a future where our streets and urban villages are not dominated by cars. To that end, any reallocation of space should also make space for seating areas and parklets, enhanced by biodiverse planting schemes, and public transport hubs should be age-, gender- and disability-proofed; they should provide seating, they should be well lit, welcoming and safe, and in the case of bus shelters they should not impede access to footpaths, and they should face the direction of oncoming buses.


Disability access should prioritised in any on-street parking plans, and age-friendly parking bays should be introduced to accommodate those with reduced mobility or no access to alternative modes of transport.


Any changes must prioritise the safety and mobility of our most vulnerable street users; they must be inclusive and of a very high quality; and our city’s heritage must be recognised and respected. All care must be taken not to turn our urban villages into places to pass through rather than stop in, and above all we must not miss the opportunity to align this strategy with the key objective of the next Dublin City Development: delivering a 15 minute city..