Posted tagged ‘traffic’

Clogging up Dublin traffic

October 6, 2009

Last month I wrote a post on the new traffic restrictions in College Green in Dublin’s city centre. I took the view that closing College Green to traffic seemed to me to have very little point – but a number of readers disagreed with me. I now see that traders have been complaining to Dublin City Council in the matter, and that there may be a review of the scheme. You can read more about this here.

I confess that I am still wholly sceptical about the whole measure. If the purpose (as has been suggested) was to free up Dame Street for buses, then that could have been achieved by closing Dame Street rather than College Green, which would have caused fewer traffic problems elsewhere. Or more logical still might be to close off the entire city centre to private traffic and to make proper park and ride services available. But what has actually been done seems to serve no particular purpose.

And my apologies to anyone from outside Ireland reading this – let me assure you that traffic problems are a de rigueur topic of conversation at any Dublin dinner table. Indeed, maybe that is what the Council have wanted to achieve with this measure in the first place, now that I think of it.

How exactly is this helping anyone? Traffic management oddity

September 12, 2009

This brief interjection will only be meaningful to those familiar with Dublin – apologies to everyone else.

I cannot help wondering what exactly is the purpose of the new traffic management system on College Grren, under which only buses can pass through at rush hour. Who is helped by this? The traffic is as a result backed up more than ever all around the area. And in any case, before this particular rush of blood to the head occurred I don’t recall College Green itself being a public transport trouble spot. The only other effect I can think of is that the Provost of Trinity College can no longer drive home; can’t say whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

It just seems to me that a new system has been set up at some cost and considerable inconvenience that doesn’t really help anyone at all. Unless I’m missing something. Maybe someone reading this knows the answer.

Stopping the traffic

November 10, 2008

Anyone who knows Dublin knows that we have a really big traffic problem. Attempting to move around Dublin by car can be frustrating at absolutely any time – I was recently caught in a traffic jam at 2 am. Journeys that should take 15 minutes can take nearly two hours. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that Dublin’s streets were designed for very different modes of transport and they simply cannot accommodate the traffic volumes we now have. The relatively inadequate state of public transport doesn’t help.

But one key contributor – and moreover one that would be comparatively easy to address – is the traffic light system. Dublin came relatively late to traffic lights: in the 1960s there were virtually none, and major junctions were either managed by a Garda (policeman) on point duty, or else not at all. As late as the early 1980s one of the busiest – at O’Connell Bridge – was still controlled in this way.

When traffic lights were introduced, they were totally uncoordinated. You could crawl along a street or road and find that at every intersection the light would be on red, no matter how you drove. Now that Dublin’s traffic lights are computerised and controlled centrally, this has not changed significantly; it is very hard to see any synchronisation of lights.

In addition, the settings at some junctions are plain crazy. Let me provide one example. Where the North Circular Road crosses Sherrard Street and Belvedere Road, the light turns green for Lower Sherrard Street once in each cycle, but stays on green for longer than for the other roads; in fact, Lower Sherrard Street is the least important of all those roads crossing here, as it is essentially a cul-de-sac and usually has no traffic waiting to exit at all. In the meantime, while the lights are on green for them in the hope that someone may come, the much busier North Circular Road and Belvedere Road are kept waiting with significant traffic build-up. I mention this example because it is all too typical.

Furthermore, Dublin is the only city I know that has pedestrian lights that turn red, amber and green. This means that the cycle of a pedestrian light is long, and as they are also almost never synchronised with nearby traffic lights, the disruption they cause is huge. And then there is the oddity of the filter lights – there are far too few of them, and where they exist they are often hugely confusing as they are often placed directly below the (normal) green lights, so that when only the filter light is on green and the red light is on, the traffic light appears to be giving the motorist a choice between red and green.

Dublin traffic problems will not be solved overnight. But there are some things that could be improved relatively easily, and traffic lights are amongst these.

On two wheels

August 13, 2008

Over the past ten days or so, I have been on vacation in the United States with my family. We have been staying in a coastal area of South Carolina, where it is impossibly hot and humid at this time of year. Nevertheless, we have greatly enjoyed ourselves, and I for one have been getting some much needed exercise by cycling some 20 miles or so every day – despite the heat, a rather pleasant activity.

What has struck me here as a cyclist is how well behaved my fellow cyclists are. They stop at a ‘stop’ sign, they do not cross a red traffic light, they stick consistently to the correct side of the road, they stop to let pedestrians cross. In short, cyclists here observe the traffic regulations and behave with great courtesy and consideration.

In Dublin, I routinely see cyclists behaving as if the rules of the road did not in any way apply to them. They cross red lights as a matter of course, cycle on pavements, go the wrong way down one way streets, and so forth. Just before I left on holiday, I saw a cyclist in Dublin go through a red light at a pedestrian crossing and collide with a pedestrian just going across the road; and rather than apologise or act guilty, he berated the (elderly) pedestrian. I acknowledge of course that there are many cyclists who do not behave in this manner, but on the whole we do not recognise sufficiently that cyclists can also be a danger both to themselves and to others.

I believe that, in the interests of fuel conservation, far more people should be encouraged to take to bicycles. But it is time that cyclists in Ireland learn that they too must be responsible road users and adhere both to the rules and also to the desirable practice of courtesy towards others.

Getting the speed limits right

July 26, 2008

All over Ireland – and many other countries – every hour of every day, thousands of drivers completely ignore the speed limit, whatever it may be, and drive at whatever speed they fancy. People are constantly taking the most absurd risks with their own safety, and more significantly with the lives and safety of countless others. Here on the campus of Dublin City University – where we have a 30 km/h or 20 mph speed limit – I regularly see drivers (almost always young men) tearing past at 50 mph or sometimes more. When I stop them, as I sometimes do, and lecture them on this, what they say to me is usually unrepeatable. I let them drive on but occasionally see to it that their cars are clamped…

However, I cannot help feeling that one of the disincentives to careful driving are the speed limits themselves. Today I was approaching a toll plaza well known to Dublin drivers, and noticed again that a speed limit sign requires drivers to proceed for the last 100 yards or so before the toll booths at 10 km/h (about 6 mph). This is walking speed. I tried to do it today, and I can report that the cars behind me were not amused. And I cannot blame them. It is clearly idiotic to impose a speed limit that nobody is even going to consider observing; by having this limit, drivers are actually encouraged not to take speed limits seriously, and the result is that they drive well in excess of limits elsewhere that are rational and essential for safety. The same is true occasionally where there are 60 km/h speed limits on open roads, for absolutely no apparent reason; again, drivers ignore these.

Road safety has become a pressing issue in this country, and we need to stop reckless and mindless behaviour by drivers who seem to become insane once they are behind the steering wheel of a car. But part of the programme for getting this right must be to ensure that traffic regulations are also sensible.


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