Dublin City has presented two options for how traffic should be managed in a future creation of a College Green Plaza. Option 3 allows 24 hour deliveries through the plaza – option 4 restricts them to before 11am (as with Grafton Street).
The ten Green Party councillors on Dublin City Council have made the below joint submission as part of the process. The inital answers respond to the direct questions on which option should be chosen.
In the final section, we set out some of the broader measures that should be considered in the next design stage. This is absolutely a non-exhaustive list!
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Which option 3 or 4 would work best for you and for this area of the city?
Option 4 (strongly!)
Do you see any positives or negatives in Option 3?
Option 3 is positive in the sense that the broader scheme is welcome and it would represent major progress on the status quo.
However, it is a substantially weaker option than option 4. It runs the risk of creating a space that is “neither one thing nor the other”, where traffic is restricted, but so too is pedestrian freedom and safety.
Allowing 24 hour deliveries will (a) mean regular disruptions to the pedestrian space throughout the day and (b) mistakes as vehicles drive through the space, perhaps following delivery vehicles.
This disruption would be particularly acute as delivery traffic turns left, across a large (nominally pedestrianised area) onto Anglesea Street.
In practice, having regular vehicular traffic would bring with it the attendant clutter of road signage, street markings and warnings which would undercut the aesthetic appeal of a pedestrianised space. Pedestrians don’t need lanes or much signage – frequent motor traffic does – especially when routes like this are uncertain or counterintuitive.
From experience on Dame Street, 24-hour delivery would also mean 24-hour delivery parking. Vans will pull in for “just a minute” each, with a cumulative effect of idling trucks and vans in the pedestrian zone constantly. It’s not just that traffic would be flowing through the area – it’d be stopping there too.
One of the big benefits of the College Green Plaza plan is that it frees up a chunk of the very busy Dame Street/George’s Street junction. In Option 3, there will be three streets approaching the junction, with the need for mixed light signals. In option 4, after 11am, this would be much simplified – having only traffic flowing around a single corner, with lights needed only for pedestrian crossing or cycling. This is a benefit on the edge of the project which should be considered.
Option 3’s setup could also create confusion with the nearby Grafton Street area, creating two traffic-restrictive delivery regimes beside each other, rather than integrating into a single, easy-to-understand one.
Option 3 should be rejected as an unsatisfactory compromise, which undermines the wider objectives of the scheme.
Do you see any positives or negatives in Option 4?
Option 4 is a much more coherent, consistent design than option 3. It creates a meaningful pedestrian space, which is easily understood (as with Grafton Street) by business, pedestrians and drivers alike.
It delivers a simplified junction at Dame Street/George’s Street. It fits in clearly with a well-established delivery restriction timetable. It creates a space which is far safer for younger people to roam and for those with disabilities to enjoy more safely.
Option 4 would also allow more consistent public realm design, not having to accommodate anything but morning motor traffic.
It is the far superior system. This project should not aim to be traffic reduction or traffic calming – it should be to create a genuine pedestrianised civic plaza. That will not be possible with (even delivery only) motor traffic driving through.
Option 4 is far closer to what people think of when asked about a public square.
Do you have any suggestions for how these options could be enhanced?
1. Active management:
The area should have some continuous stewardship presence there, to ensure that the space is well used, anti social behaviour doesn’t occur, and that it is a safe, welcoming space both during the day and at night time. This would also help with any problems of the space being misused by vehicles etc.
A similar approach is taken in St. Audeon’s Park in the Liberties, which creates a far better space which has exceeded expectations.
2. Local buy-in:
Some form of advisory committee for the plaza should be developed. It could be done early on in the process to act as a sounding board for design ideas as the plans progress. It could include local business representatives, charities/outreach organisations, local councillors, community Gardaí and others. This would not only improve the project design, but give some focused oversight to the plaza in the future. The advisory committee should be communicated with regularly so they have a clear idea on a week by week basis what is due to happen and they have a clear contact point to direct any queries to.
A similar model is in place for many parks where a “Friends of X Park” association offers advice on improving a space and represents the interests of the most keen and engaged users of the park. This would also be a useful body to advise on any public events taking place in the plaza.
For the space to work, it will not only have to be pretty, but have some uninterrupted local space. The next phase of the design process should have a specific module aimed at reducing the number and intrusiveness of junction/utility boxes (perhaps by undergrounding) and changes to the unsightly and oddly planned poles for the Luas. These could either be moved to be unobtrusive, or a more artistic approach taken to feature new poles.
(Noticeably, the excellent artistic renderings of the planned space didn’t include wires or poles for the Luas, reflecting how much cleaner the space is without them.)
New lamp posts for lights should either be mounted directly on buildings or done in a classical style, rather than the standard kind.
It is important that the space is designed with flexibility in mind, that it is somewhat of a chameleon plaza accommodating both daily standard activities, but also small scale and large scale events such as markets, performances, family events concerts etc. Thought should be given at this early stage about how such events could be integrated, along with things like an annual placing of a Christmas tree etc.
When the space was temporarily pedestrianised for events in 2019, there were a number of stalls and events in the central area. For power, they relied on noisy and polluting diesel generators. The redesign of the plaza should include some kind of wiring/power connection to allow access in the middle of the plaza to a zero-emission power source. Should the space be used for Christmas markets etc, this will be much needed in future.
The green infrastructure should be maximised and include some grassy and green space. Trees and planters will certainly be used, but changes to busy city roads in other areas have integrated bushes and grassy areas. These can be nice places to sit and add to the softness and visual appeal of the area. Flowerbeds could be a welcome addition too. They also have the benefit of absorbing rain water.
Where possible permanent green infrastructure rather than simply planters should be used. Biodiversity should be at the heart of the green infrastructure design, ensuring native species are used and pollinators are included.
In Brussels, for example, previously high-traffic junctions such as Place Fernand Cocq and the Bourse have brought in small parklets and pleasant spaces. This is a nicer approach than a purely hard surface. Consideration should also be given to a general choice of surface which is a bit lighter than the usual grey, as in the drawings which accompanied this consultation. There should be a high level of ambition for good quality, permeable materials in line with SUDS, rather than just blacktop. Yellow box and white paint road markings are not appropriate.
More broadly, a clear placemaking strategy should create an attractive safe place where people of all ages and abilities feel safe to spend time.
7. Street furniture:
While decluttering is important, it is also important to have decent seating options to ensure a non-transitory presence in the plaza. Permission should be granted for outdoor seating and small stalls at times.
Street furniture in the space should also be designed with potential events in mind, perhaps designing them so that they can be easily moved and stored when accommodating larger events.
Plinths could also be installed, with artwork on rotation. This could follow the model of Trafalgar Square’s “Fourth Plinth” project, or Dublin City’s upcoming project for the City Hall plinth.
A city should be a place to live, work and play. The design should also consider something fun – especially for kids. This need not be a formal playground, but perhaps simply a soft play space which is more interesting than just open space. This could include, for example, a fountain built into the footpath. Something similar is in place in Place Flagey in Brussels or Granary Square in London. The city could commission a play sculpture for children to climb on, as seen in other cities. It could even include space for chess or table tennis to the sides.
8. Timely delivery:
It is important, in the context of the pandemic and in the context of multiple previous plans which did not manifest that this project is implemented as soon as possible. Dubliners are eager to see improvement in their city and we need to honour that by delivering as soon as possible on that and assuring people that the Council is a dynamic body and capable of responding to the needs of the city.
9. Equality proofing:
The city should engage with experts in age, gender and disability inclusive design to ensure that the needs of all are catered to in the design, particularly to ensure that the cycle lane is safe for all to use – physically segregated, wide enough for those using mobility aids and tricycles and safe for pedestrians, including children and those with vision impairment to cross. Nearby high-quality disabled parking and taxi access is also key to making the plaza accessible.
The potential for conflict between pedestrians and vehicles must be minimised. We should this opportunity to design the plaza in a way that acts as beacon of international best practice in inclusive design.
Lighting should be very considered in the space, ensuring the space is as welcoming at night as it is during the day. Responsive lighting should be used that changes according depending on time and usage patterns of the public realm after dark
All cycling infrastructure should be segregated with clear signage the compliments the overall design
Good quality on-street cycle parking (inclusive of cargo bike and alternative disability-friendly bicycles) should be provided throughout the area in addition to off-street parking.
12. Overall Public Realm Design:
There is an opportunity for a coordinated and well-designed public realm including lighting, signage, materials, green infrastructure and seating – not just in the proposed civic space but also in the wider environs. This must involve a multi-disciplinary team to include landscape architects, urban designers and others with public realm specialisms. College Green must be a civic plaza designed for the people – not just a space defined by an absence of cars.