The College Green debacle
Intro. I love cars. I like sitting in them as a bit of peace away from the house, I like them as tools to explore the world, and I'm fascinated by how we manage them by trying to create organised streams where chaos wants to rule.
Just because I see an ugly flyover as an interesting insight into the mind of the 1960s planner, high on the idea of freedom and with an obsession with the future, doesn't mean I think we need more of them. Cars don't belong in cities; even I can see that.
As a newcomer to the city I always found it strange that College Green wasn't pedestrianised. It's a narrow bottleneck outside one of the city's major tourist attractions; it is around the corner from places people choose to dine or relax, and frankly it's not needed. College Green looks unsightly, it's filled with clutter and it turns a pleasant stroll (of sorts) into a chaotic dive between several lines of traffic. Pedestrians cannot fit on the pavement so they walk down the side of the road, becoming a nuisance for cyclists. The cyclists aren't the problem here.
Compare and contrast with what the streets were like after the Pride Parade. Sure, the parade was nice, but it was worth it simply for the joy of being able to amble around Dublin's busiest streets.
What great news it was that Dublin City Council were finally entertaining the idea of giving it back to the people for a bit. Sure, it was for a few token events and there wouldn't be time to turn it into a pleasant place to be, at least they've found the aspiration.
What a disappointment. It was almost as if Dublin City Council felt they needed to be as "on brand" as possible, so they filled the place with metal caging, with signs telling you what you can and can't do and of course they excluded the key part of College Street where some form of crowd control is needed.
I'm delighted to see the pedestrianisation trial of College Green go ahead but security guards, thousands of metal barriers, pedestrians being refused access to the space and no cycle parking is not what I had in mind #StreetsAreForPeople pic.twitter.com/zbmPDPWBlJ— Cllr. Neasa Hourigan (@neasa_neasa) July 21, 2019
Yesterday, campaigners and citizens opened up South William Street to people and it was lovely.— Kevin McParland (@kevinmcparland) July 21, 2019
Today, @DubCityCouncil have succeeded in constructing a barricaded emptiness of forced fun and forgotten to let people enter. And yes, RESPECT THE RULES! #collegegreen pic.twitter.com/hYAtFG4IOT
Now I understand a lot of the metal fencing was down to what we shall call "a misunderstanding" and was later taken away, but this dreaming - this is digging your heels in the sand. As always, there is a lot to learn.
For some reason the idea of not allowing cars to run wild always seems to lead to some-sort of debate. There is no debate. Since the year dot business owners have complained that parking restrictions outside their front door will damage trade, as if people are driving from all over the country to visit them but will only do so if they can stop right outside the door. By and large, it just doesn't happen - if people want to drive somewhere they'll drive to the supermarket.
We should still listen to the legitimate concerns of business owners. The people we should not listen to are the taxi drivers. Taxis exist to do the trips public transport can't cover - whether that's because of accessibility issues or because there isn't the demand. It's an important job, but it doesn't need special protection. Any progressive city should be aiming to make taxi driving virtually redundant, not giving them a spot on every talk show to complain that they aren't being allowed to ride roughshod around the city.
I catch a lot of taxis, because for some perverse reason Dublin doesn't think it needs any public transport after midnight. I might not be welcome any more. But I firmly believe they should have been the first to be removed from the College Green 'bus corridor'.
In summary, I would say car-free College Green is a job that has very clearly been done by the council - any council. I have no doubt that lessons will be learned, I just wish we weren't starting on such a back foot.