The government has just published their report into the consultation for mobility changes in the Phoenix Park.
I reckon it’s progress, but a mixed bag: there are some big wins, some bits which are hard to judge at this stage, and at least two decisions where they have clearly bottled it.
This report follows public consultation on a draft plan which was published earlier this year. You can read that original study here and my own submission here. Here’s an excellent one from Neasa Hourigan TD too.
The below is based on a quick first read, so forgive any errors or omissions!
The Good Stuff
- The new walking upgrades are being implemented as proposed. They include proper crossings over Chesterfield Avenue (bizarrely there are none!). That’ll start in the last quarter of 2021.
- The cycling proposals are also being included as proposed. This includes 14km of new dedicated routes, upgrades to existing ones, and access improvements at the gates.
- The out-of-date bye-laws for the park are going to be reviewed and redone. As Ciarán Cuffe pointed out, they’re so old that they still refer to charabancs! This will also start in Q4 2021.
- They’re going to push ahead with 30kph speed limit across the park. It’s currently a mix of 30kph and 50kph. Enforcement and traffic calming are key here.
- There will be no more through traffic on the Upper Glen Road, which will be converted to a cul-de-sac. The Upper Glen Road is the one that runs along the south of the park, from Furze Road, past the Furry Glen, all the way to the Chapelizod Gate (pictured below in red). It’s a big win for that part of the park, I think. This will be a nine-month trial starting at the end of 2021.
- Public transport is coming to the park. There will be a bus service starting in Q1 2022, which will link Park to Heuston and Broombridge Stations. That’s good news for accessibility. It is listed as “subject to funding”, so I’ll be following up with Eamon Ryan’s team in the Department of Transport to ensure that it gets the funding it needs.
- The recent removal of parking on Chesterfield Avenue is being made permanent, to make space for improved cycle tracks. The roundabouts will also be redone to be cycle safe.
- The Cabra gate will become a bus-only gate (and bikes and pedestrians too!). This was a little uncertain in the study, as there was a proposal to make it just an exit for car traffic. I think this is a positive change which will reduce traffic through the park.
The Bad Stuff
While some of the above strengthens or recommits to the positive proposals in the study, some big aspects have been significantly weakened.
- Ashtown gate was proposed to become an entry-only gate. That change has been deferred and it will remain a two-way gate for all traffic.
- Something similar has happened with the proposal to make the Knockmaroon gate essentially a cul-de-sac – a proposal which is also “deferred”.
In both cases, the plan has been deferred while “further data collection and traffic modelling is to be undertaken”, with a loose timeline of three to seven years.
I and others will keep up pressure for both things to happen, but these two changes strike me as a clear exercise in kicking the can down the road, and are things which could have made a big difference in making the park a better place.
I think they bottled it on these two gates – presumably in the face of pressure from some Dublin West TDs. (Judging by the submissions, I’m talking about Leo Varadkar and Jack Chambers.)
If you are a constituent in Dublin West, I would strongly suggest emailing your TDs to say that you would like to see these gate restrictions go ahead as at least a trial, and to ask for a timeline on it.
The Mixed Stuff
Some of what is announced today is a mixed bag. Either it’s not entirely clear what it will mean, or it’s something which is worse than the draft plan published earlier this year, but a likely improvement over the status quo.
The main points for me in this category are:
- The cul-de-sac proposed for the North Road (pictured below) will not be proceeding. In its place, they will pilot a one-way system from Cabra to Garda HQ. This is worse than what was proposed earlier this year (an end to through traffic), but I suspect it would be an improvement on what’s currently in place, especially if parking levels are reduced and the pedestrian infrastructure is improved. I live and represent an area closer to the south of the park, so might well be wrong on this. I’d be keen to know what Neasa Hourigan TD, Cllr. Darcy Lonergan, and Cllr. Janet Horner make of it, and will update this post once I hear from them.
- There will be a parking strategy for the park commencing at the end of the year, with implementation within three years. I can think of lots of positive things that should go in there: enforcement of existing rules, some kind of free parking time limit (to stop people using the park to dump their car for the day), and measures to stop nearby residential streets being used as overflow carparks.
But to be honest, I can also imagine a lot of bad things going into it, such as further encouraging of car travel to the park for the general public, additional parking spaces, and further paving over of the park.
We simply don’t know what will come out of a parking strategy: it’s good that it’s happening, but we can’t tell what its impacts will be until we see it. A future battle to fight, I suspect.
I’m delighted to see more decent cycling and walking routes, a speed reduction, and the introduction of some public transport to the park.
I’m really disappointed with the gates issue, though. It’s a massive missed opportunity – I think they bottled it on that one.
On the whole, I think that this report will make a positive difference to the park. Neither it nor the earlier study went as far as I would like, but I think they’ll improve things quite a bit.
There’s a lot more to to be done, though. The next likely fights are around the parking strategy and ensuring that the “deferrals” for Knockmaroon and Ashtown gate changes aren’t cancellations by another name.