06 October, 2014

Moore Street's in trouble

Dublin's Moore Street is in trouble. Shops have closed, market traders are facing competition and the plans for redeveloping the street are dated, damaging and dreary. On Monday evening the City Council is being asked to agree to a land swap that will allow the project known as Dublin Central to proceed. Plans for the comprehensive redevelopment of the two hectare site on the east side of Moore Street have been approved by Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála. The Council sees this project initiated by developer Joe O'Reilly and now facilitated by NAMA as a flagship project for the city.  The sweetener to the deal is that the O'Reilly's company Chartered Land proposes to restore 14-17 Moore Street where Padraig Pearse and Easter Rising volunteers retreated to from the burning General Post Office on O'Connell Street. He hopes to restore them for an ambitious deadline of Easter 1916. However the imposition of another soul-less shopping centre is too high a price to pay for a heritage centre.

O'Reilly's plans were first lodged with the Dublin City Council back in 2008 as the Celtic Tiger breathed its last. In keeping with the spirit of the times his company Chartered Land applied for planning permission for an over-sized shopping mall. It was to be thirteen stories high with five basement levels, and featured a dubious north facing Rooftop Park. Little attention was paid to the historic houses on Moore Street that featured prominently in the events of Easter 1916. Under successful pressure from historic groups the Government intervened, and the currently approved plans allow for the sensitive restoration of 14-17 Moore Street and 8 & 9 Moore Lane. However these buildings will be heavily overshadowed by new buildings behind them. In their planning decisions the City Council and An Bord Pleanála put some manners on the scheme and reduced its height and vulgar Celtic Tiger excesses. Nonetheless the overall development still involves shoe-horning a large shopping centre into a restricted city centre site with a large basement car park.  In essence it is a shopping mall with parking for seven hundred cars.

There will only be one shop facing on to Moore Street in the approved scheme. There will be no upper floor residential units over-looking this historic street. Most of the mall will open out on to Moore Lane, where presumable some of the existing cobblestone sets will be retained to lend an air of authenticity to the new shopping mall. It rivals the ILAC centre in its ambiance and architectural expression. This lane will be open to the public but protected from the weather with a rain screen. It is unclear how this area will be policed.

The approved plans feature a massive amount of car parking despite the current construction of a Luas line along O'Connell and Parnell Street. This means many more traffic will travel through already over-crowded streets. This seems to be at odds with Government's 2010 policy on Smarter Travel, but the plans were lodged before it was published.

The need for more housing is currently a burning issue, and it seems extraordinary that the development will only have a handful of residential units. An opportunity has been lost to seriously tackle the city's housing needs. These units will be located in the centre of the block and will not provide any additional passive surveillance of Moore Street or O'Connell Street at night when the shops are closed.

On Monday city councillors are being asked to smooth the development’s passage. It is proposed to sell the Dublin City Council cleansing depot at 24-25 Moore Street to the developer. That building would win no architectural prizes but will be demolished and be replaced by a ramp to the car park similar to the charmless Chapel Lane to the rear of the ILAC Centre. Just around the corner on the south side of O'Rahilly Parade the wall where Michael Joseph O'Rahilly wrote a last letter to his wife before expiring in 1916 will be replaced with switchboards and junction boxes. The battlefield site is not being treated with the respect it deserves.

Thirty years ago when Temple Bar was threatened by plans for a central bus station, artists and others protested and ensured that the area was protected by a Framework Plan that retained most of the older buildings. The area bounded by Moore Street, O’Connell Street and Parnell Street deserves a similar plan today. Such a plan could protect older buildings and shops, and could also provide room for new homes and businesses. Modern infill buildings could compliment the best of the past. Instead of facilitating this development I am hoping that my Council colleagues will turn down the land swap on Monday night, and force the developer back to the drawing board. Almost a hundred years ago a new republic was declared on O'Connell Street. If they were alive today I suspect few of those who fought for Irish freedom would welcome another shopping mall onto the sacred ground where they breathed their last.

22 September, 2014

Reclaim the City - Moving Dublin’s Cycling Plans Forward

Reclaim the City - Moving Dublin’s Cycling Plans Forward - Time for a Radical Rethink?

Dublin Cycling Campaign Annual Lecture 2014. Ciarán Cuffe, Dublin City Councillor, ex Minister of State, and Chair of Dublin City Council Transportation SPC

Thanks to Dublin Cycling Campaign and particularly Colm Ryder and Mike McKillen. Thank Dublin City Council for the use of the hall. It is European Mobility Week and the theme is “Our Streets, Our Choice”.

I love the city. I like the mix of life; the contrasts the sunlight, the noise and the silence. I like the bell of the Luas, the smell of hops, the sun on the Spire on a winter’s morning. I like the street life, the chance encounters, and the buzz of activity.

All of this takes place in public, in public space, and the way we make, shape and manage this public space is an intensely political act. Public spaces in cities are contested spaces. My politicisation came out of that debate.

In the 1980’s the Council that I now represent was systematically destroying that city in order to save it. I don’t want to dwell on the demolition of communities in order to build dual carriageways, but we must always remember and never forget. It will take generations to undo the damage that was caused to communities in Summerhill, on Clanbrassil Street and elsewhere by Dublin City Council. The transformation of economic hubs into wide roads to facilitate car-based commuters was wrong from the start.

It’s important to realise that the battle over the streets of Dublin was not an isolated one. Around the world the same debates played out in city halls and public meetings over much of the late twentieth century. In New York Robert Moses:

“When you operate in an overbuilt metropolis, you have to hack your way with a meat axe.”  

In doing this he displaced hundreds of thousands of residents in New York City.

While he was doing this Jane Jacobs was arguing for a more sensitive approach to renewal and transportation:

 “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

She wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961, and it never ceases to amaze me how long it took for her ideas to permeate through the corridors of power. Of course we still have urban planning heroes like Jacobs. Jan Gehl the great Danish urbanist was in town a few weeks ago. He said improvements in some areas, such as the much wider footpaths on O’Connell Street, but Dublin was still “dominated” by British traffic planning ideas that gave priority to cars.

The take-away from this evenings talk is that cycling needs to be normalised in all aspects of the city’s life. Little things make a difference. On being elected last June I was given a plethora of forms and instructions, and as I leafed through them I realised that the current narrative is to normalise driving. What’s your registration number? Here’s your car park pass; the Civic Offices car park is open for half an hour after the meeting ends. All these messages reinforce the message that driving is normal, and cycling is, different. That’s where we need to start, we need to normalise cycling.

Why cycle
That’s the urban interest that makes me see cycling as important, but there are lots of other reasons why we should be doing this:

There’s been a huge increase in obesity in recent years. 79% of people over the age of fifty are overweight or obese. Cycling regularly can help keep you fit and reduce the risks of obesity, heart disease and mental ill-health for both adults and children.

Climate Change
Cycling has a strong role to play in reducing emissions. The embodied energy in a bike is low compared to a car, and it is a highly efficient way of getting around over short and medium distances.

The costs of running a car featured in the media in recent days. The low entry level and running costs of bikes can help tackle poverty. However there are challenges. The €150 guarantee required for DublinBikes is impeding take up in marginalised communities, and needs to be reviewed.

The news is good.  The number of bicycle journeys in Dublin city increased dramatically from 2006 – 2011. The number of bicycle journeys rose by 82 per cent during the five-year period, jumping from 10 million journeys in 2006 to 18 million journeys in 2011. The number of cycling journeys increased from 2.2 per cent to 3.9 per cent of total passenger journeys.  However the national target set down by the National Cycle Policy Framework is for 10 per cent of all trips to be made by bicycle by 2020, and to do that we’ll need 20% of Dublin journeys to be made by bike. That means we have to do more, a lot more. That’s the statistics, the drier side to my talk, but the more interesting issue is the vision, the vision thing as George Bush Senior put it.

Bike to Work Scheme
The Bike to Work Scheme has helped. If tax incentives for buildings were the major surgery approach to urban renewal than tax incentives for bikes are a form of urban acupuncture that relieves stress and makes good things happen. I like the way it has got a lot of middle-aged people back on their bikes that had stopped cycling twenty years previously. The explosion of bike shops nationwide has certainly been prompted by these measures that we introduced in the last Government, but I suspect the last Government will be remembered for other initiatives, as well as this.

Dublin Port Tunnel
This major piece of infrastructure opened in 2007 and made an appreciable difference to traffic safety by taking heavy trucks of city centre streets.

Free flow tolling on the M50 and the addition of an extra lane improved the bypass function of this road infrastructure. However I am concerned that the provision of extra road capacity will encourage car driving, and more worryingly lead to more development further away from Dublin in the periphery.

I want to be careful how I phrase this one, lest I be accused of favouring prolonged recessions, I don’t, but I do note that the bike is a great way of getting around if you’re strapped for cash, and I suspect the last seven years have encouraged cycling.

30 kph speed limit
We all know about the dramatic improvement in safety resulting from lower speed limits, but just imagine the increased safety if the existing speed limits were enforced. I’ll come back this issue later on, because I don’t feel that the city council can pass this on the Guards as a responsibility. We too have a role to play.

Dublin Bikes
I’m delighted at the success of this municipal bike scheme. Some of you may know that I gave the idea of a Free Bikes scheme a shot back in 1997, but the then City manager said it would never catch on. I applaud the City Council and Cllr. Montague in particular for making this a success. But, I am critical of the reliance on advertising hoardings and sugar drink companies to subsidise the project, it is the equivalent of running cake sales to pay for the running costs of Motorway network, and it is wrong to have to rely on consumerism and sugar to get people around in a health fashion. The sooner we can wean ourselves of these funding sources and receive direct funding from Central Government the better.

Plans, Programmes, Manuals
Finally, we have the guidance, the plans, policies and manuals to make the good stuff happen.  I’m not saying that they’re perfect, but I certainly feel that for many years there was view that more guidance was needed before we could put top quality cycling infrastructure in place. The downside of all of this is that we now realise the weaknesses of much of what was provided in the last twenty years and we have to now go back and revisit them. It’s the painting the ‘Firth of Forth’ Bridge problem. We have the National Cycle Policy Framework, the National Cycling Manual; we have Smarter Travel, and national transport policy that commits us to improving cycling. We also have the Dublin City Council Cycling Action Plan 2010-2015.


Mission Statements
The Mission Statements reveal a lot about an organisation. I am concerned that the environment has slipped down the priority list on the mission statements from the Department of Transport. I am also concerned about the objectives of the National Roads Authority, and I don’t believe that they mainstream environmental concerns, nor are they referenced in their primary legislation. I’m showing my age here, but I did express concern back in 1993 when the legislation was being debated. It is still a concern.

Plans and decisions of other organisations
I said that we have the plans and programs to deliver sustainable solutions. The problem is that we also have a lot of other plans in the back drawer for unsustainable solutions. These tend to emanate from the NRA, and are approved by An Bord Pleanála
The plans for additional car capacity on the Naas Road are flawed, as is their approval by Bord Pleanála. This will lead to more car traffic from further and further away. The free flowing project at Newlands Cross will drive car commuters from beyond the River Shannon. This is unsustainable and wrong. Why is this an issue for cyclists? Well it is an issue because it will drive demand for car parking and road space in Dublin City. It will increase congestion and the demand for car parking will lead to further urban decay in the city centre and in the North Inner City which I represent.

Does Free-Flowing Car Traffic Reduce Fuel Consumption and Air Pollution? 
In  Cities and Automobile Dependence (1989) Kenworthy and Newman,argue from their worldwide survey of cities that the goal of “free-flowing” traffic (through such strategies as road widening) actually results in MORE fuel consumption and air pollution.

Michael Phillips has said “Whatever transport future the city has will not involve more cars” and yet the City Council in 2010 granted permission for the Dublin Central Development with 700 car parking spaces, right beside a proposed Luas stop. In recent years the Bord recently granted permission to the Kerry Group for a large car based campus on a greenfield site beyond the M50. That may not affect cyclists directly in Dublin’s city centre, but it may affect the choices that parents make in Celbridge on whether or not to let their children cycle to school. We need to plan for consolidation of our cities and towns, and a reduction in car journeys. In many instances this is not happening.

We need joined up policy making and decisions.

The highlighter problem
The gun Lobby in the USA tends to blame shooting sprees on criminals, not on guns. The Road Safety Authority over-emphasises the dangers of cycling and walking, and want us all to wear bright clothing, hi-viz vests and helmets. They appear to be blaming cycle accidents on cyclist and don’t sufficiently acknowledge the role of car and other vehicle drivers. As an organisation it needs to focus on driver behaviour rather than on making cyclists look like a highlighter pen. In commenting on a spike in pedestrian deaths they neglected to place sufficient emphasis on car driver behaviour, particularly as we know that in some instances a majority of car drivers are breaking the speed limit. If we want to encourage people to cycle on country roads they shouldn’t have to look like a lit-up Christmas tree. There is a blind spot to cycling and environmental concerns.

An Garda Síochána
Greater attention needs to be paid to enforcing speed limits and bike theft. Neither are being treated with the attention that they deserve. I have also spoken in the past about Garda Vehicles parking illegally, on bus lanes. This appears to have improved and I welcome this.

City Council
This is where it gets interesting, and I am aware of my responsibilities as the incoming chair of the Transport Strategic Policy Committee on the City Council.  I am also aware that I can’t go it alone and have to gain consensus with both my council colleagues and the officials within the Council to effect change.

I still believe that we focus unduly on the need of car-based commuters in the city. I believe that the introduction of bus and or cycle lanes on the South Quays has been delayed by a perceived need to flush the city of these cars every evening. I question this.

I believe multi-lane one-way streets are city killers. They prioritise the movement of vehicles at the expense of the economic and social life of the city. I believe cyclists should also be allowed travel both ways on way streets as they can in Brussels and other cities.

I believe left turn filter lanes are an abomination in the city centre. They are problematic for cyclists and pedestrians alike and need to be reconsidered and removed wherever possible.

Our traffic signalling needs to be reconsidered. Signals are programmed using SCATS Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System. It tries to find the best phasing (i.e. cycle times, phase splits and offsets) for the current traffic situation (for individual intersections as well as for the whole network). However in doing so it tends to priorities the movement of convoys of cars through the city, a bit like a freight train. This needs to be reconsidered. The length of cycle time is in many cases too long and encourages law-breaking. This needs to be reconsidered.

Big Projects and modest interventions
Bruce Katz from Washington’s Brookings Institute stated recently in a talk that he gave at the Dalkey Arts Festival that ‘walkability, cyclability and liveability are the future’.  Walking and cycling certainly make better economic use of valuable city space and should be encouraged for this alone.

To this correctly we need to have the big picture, but we also need to get the small stuff right such as the cycle lanes on the Rosie Hackett Bridge. Whatever happened to the northbound cycle lane on that new bridge? We also need the contra-flow cycle lane that has been planned for upper Camden Street for many years. Contra-flow cycle lanes are important.

A Liffey Boulevard from the Phoenix Park to Dublin bay is long overdue and will be an attraction for Dubliners and tourists alike. Look at how the rejuvenation of the riverside in Bordeaux has transformed that city.

Vision and Ambition
I want to see more civic officials on bikes and less parking underneath this building here on Wood Quay. Let’s have more bikes stands at the civic offices and city hall.

Cycling officer
I want to bring back a Cycling Officer for Dublin. Ciaran Fallon did Trojan work and we need someone who can fly the flag for cycling. That job may include walking, Communication and Education, and if it needs ministerial sanction I will write to Ministers Kelly and Donohoe.

Twenty years ago we had a row about giving over one of the two lanes on a two lane road to a Quality Bus Corridor. Today we’re having the same debate about giving one lane of a two lane road to cycling. I suspect history will be on our side. If we’re scared silly of making these changes then let’s do it on a temporary basis. That’s what was done with the Pedestrianisation of Grafton Street back in the 1980s. It was trialled for 6 months and the feedback was good so it was made permanent.

Cost benefit analyses (CBA) attest to the fact that investments in cycling outweigh the costs to a far greater extent than investment in other modes.
We’ve also got to think of the needs vulnerable cyclists such as women, children and migrants, and listen to their concerns when it comes to cycling infrastructure

So, The Radical Re-think?

Interesting times lie ahead and we need to build on the achievements to date. On Dublin City Council I intend reconstituting the public transport and the cycling fora, but I will add pedestrian facilities to terms of reference of the cycling forum.

I will work closely with my colleague Andrew Montague and like-minded elected representatives on all sides of the political divide.

Let your city councillors and officials know how you feel. Don’t forget the Department of Transport consultation on ‘Investing in our transport future” You have four weeks to make a submission. Read the issue papers and get involved.

Let’s choose a city that’s More Jan Gehl and Jane Jacobs,   and less Robert Moses.

Thank You.

25 June, 2014

Regeneration for Dún Laoghaire?

There was a packed out tent for the debate about the future of Dún Laoghaire that formed part of the Dún Laoghaire Writers Festival last week. The debate was titled
'Dun laoghaire: Slow Death or Rapid Recovery?' Hats off to David McWilliams for organising the event, and coming up with the catchy title. On the panel were Bruce Katz from Washington’s Brookings Institution; historian Peter Pearson, actor Eamon Morrissey and cafe owner Derek Bennett. The discussion was chaired by journalist Ann Marie Hourihane.

Dún Laoghaire has a lot going for it, but has its fair share of challenges. The town has had been linked with Dublin for better or worse for much of its history. Three hundred years ago according to the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, verses were written inviting the ladies of Dublin "to repair to Dunleary where they would find honest residents and could procure good ale."

Dún Laoghaire and Dublin have been connected by rail for almost two hundred years (since 1834 to be precise). Interestingly the good people of Kingstown originally objected, and put together a fighting fund of five hundred guineas to try and stop its construction. However the railway, and the harbour's construction led to the town's expansion.

The release of some of the de Vesci lands for development appears to have precipitated an early version of the Celtic Tiger between 1890 and 1910 when much of the mile-long Georges Street was built, and dates often grace the engravings and plasterwork on the upper floors of these buildings. It could be questioned with hindsight whether a mile long retail street was ever a commercial proposition, and undoubtedly there were winners and losers in the retail market. My memory of Dún Laoghaire as a child in the 1960s and 1970s was of a bustling market town, although new shopping centres such as Stillorgan and Cornelscourt chipped away at Dún Laoghaire's retail base.

The opening of the DART commuter rail service in 1984 brought closer links between the Dublin City and Dún Laoghaire. The dependable regular service allowed workers to choose rail rather than face traffic jams, but it also attracted shoppers out of Dún laoghaire and into Dublin city centre. The town's pleasant location boosted house prices, but high demand and a lack of affordable smaller houses priced many couples out of the environs of the town and towards new estates of semi-detached homes in the west of the County. This shows in the demographic mix today which has 15% less young people and 15% more retirees than the County average. This lack of spending power hits hard.

The creation of the awkwardly titled and shaped new county of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown did little to boost the town although the administrative offices were placed adjacent to the reconfigured town hall. The opening of Dundrum Shopping Centre in the west of the county was a body blow to the town, and its offer of free parking and indoor malls attracted shoppers from the coast. Dún Laoghaire's 1970's shopping centre began to show its age, and its absurd design with a multi-storey park-park blocking the view of the sea failed to attract a new generation of shoppers. Even Marks and Spencers only lasted a few years on the main street before closing its doors as the Celtic Tiger came to an end.

Peter Pearson in his book 'Between the Mountains and the Sea (1998) states that:
"Dun Laoghaire is a residential town and part of the greater suburbs of Dublin, but it has lost many of its commercial enterprises and educational establishments and has relatively few cultural attractions for a place of its size and importance." He goes on to say "It has all the benefits of a town, and ... (it) is always a joy to walk the magnificent piers and see the terraces and church spires against the backdrop of the Dublin mountains."

Perhaps the building of the heavily criticised new County Library on the waterfront will attract more people to the town again, if even to visit and wonder what all the fuss was about. I suspect it will be a bit like the Eiffel Tower - a construction of much controversy that slowly was adopted by the citizens. Certainly the covering over of sections of the railway has been welcomed, and the landscaping is of a high quality. However this has led to a divided town - the Monaco/Beirut effect as Derek Bennett termed it.

Bruce Katz had some good advice. He started off by saying that Dún laoghaire wasn't that bad compared to many American cities. One could hardly disagree! He went on to give three pieces of advice.

1. Form networks to promote the town's rejuvenation. He acknowledged the passion at the debate, and felt that this combined with the strong heritage or cultural memory could only be a good thing. He said that the Public, Private and Civic spheres needed to co-operate.

2. He said the town needs a vision, grounded in evidence. Again, a good clear proposal that met with broad agreement. The County Development Plan is one thing, but you need a vision to get the ball rolling.

3. Set up a series of interventions to move things on. He suggested that what was needed was the infrastructure that attracts the 'Young Millenials' as he termed them. Free wi-fi on the main street was mentioned, but he also said walkability, cyclability and liveability are crucial.

He suggested that maybe a three day 'hackathon' or charette might produce a few good ideas. Finally (and I may have misquoted him), he said a Dolly Parton approach was required - Figure out who you are and do it - be yourself! Regeneration is a multi-faceted challenge - whether it be in the inner city or the suburbs. In the Dublin Institute of Technology I've set up a new Masters programme in Urban Regeneration and Development, and you can find out more about the Programme here.

Derek Bennett of Harry's Cafe asked if anyone from Council management was in the room. One hand went up. He painted a fairly bleak picture, suggesting that footfall was continuing to decline, and that the Council appeared to have a hand-off approach,. However he had met the new County Manager Philomena Poole and was looking forward to working with her. He talked about how he had to reduce the wages he pays his staff by 20%, and suggested that a bit of innovative thinking was needed on parking. He said that the Council doesn't understand the link between parking, footfall and revenue.

Peter Pearson said that the town was always in the shadow of the Capital. It has also been in the shadow of Monkstown, Glasthule and Dalkey. On parking he felt that there should perhaps be two hours free parking in the morning, as they offer in Skibereen.

Eamon Morrisey had some great memories of sea-faring types in the rare old times but he put his finger on the button when he stated that Dún Laoghaire never really had a 'centre' and perhaps this was part of the problem.

In the medium term term perhaps the vision for Dún Laoghaire could start with the preparation of a Local Area Plan and/or Architectural Conservation Area for the town. This could tie in with the making of an Economic Plan for the County that is mandated under the 2014 Local Government Reform Act.  I'd also like to see someone at a senior level within the County Council given the role of Town Manager.

However I'd start with tackling the problem identified by Eamon Morrisey. Sit down with the owners of the old Shopping Centre (apparently a hard-to-contact group of investors from around Galway) and convince them of the merits of blowing up or demolishing their building. 

As part of the re-building I'd suggesting putting in a decent-sized town square just opposite St. Michael's Church that would provide some breathing space in the centre of town. Imagine catching the last of the sun on a Summer's evening as you look down from your balcony at children playing in the centre of a car-free new Town Square with a breeze blowing in the trees...

I'll leave you with that.

21 May, 2014

An Open letter to the City Engineer

Michael, I thought I'd drop you a line just to share my experience of walking and cycling around Dublin with my kids over the last few years. There has been improvements but it still is a huge challenge.  You’re spending €80 million every year on transport in the city and I’m not convinced that the money is being spent correctly.  
We’ve had some good policy documents in recent years: Smarter Travel from 2009, and the Design Manual for Urban Streets and Roads which came out last year. Even if we go back twenty years the Dublin Transportation Initiative promised a significant move towards sustainable travel, and yet things seem to be moving slowly in the city.

 Maybe if I describe my journey from home to school to give you a flavour of the challenge. I live in Stoneybatter, and our eleven year old is in school on Parnell Square. If we’re cycling we leave the house on our bikes around 8.30 am and there’s a steady flow of cars rat-running through the area. There is a right turn ban off Infirmary Road, but it’s not really enforced.  Every few weeks a Guard might pull in a few cars, but if you’re driving you’d be more than likely to get away with it, so there’s a lot of cars streaming through the residential area.

At Temple Street West there’s a footpath on only one side of the road. The road is fairly wide and this means that traffic speeds up on to Arbour Hill before heading down into Stoneybatter itself. A footpath on both sies of th road shouldn't  be a luxury, but hey...

There are no traffic lights where Arbour Hill meets Stoneybatter so we generally turn left on to Arbour Place to avoid the traffic, and get to the pedestrian crossing near Mulligan’s Pub. The only problem is that the cars also follow us to avoid the traffic, so as we cycle down the back lane there are cars revving up behind us trying to get past.

Once we get on to Stoneybatter we press the button on the pedestrian lights. Incidentally why is the default position green for cars? Just asking.  Anyway, after waiting for a hundred seconds (I’ve timed it) we get five seconds to cross. It could be eight seconds, but it feels like five. You should know that people tell me their parents don’t go out walking much anymore, because they don’t have enough time to cross the road. A longer Green Man signal would be good.

North Brunswick Street is a racetrack. Once cars get past Grangegorman Lower they put the boot down. If cars time it right they can be doing about fifty as they pass the ‘Brunner’ - the Christian Brothers School. Thankfully the road narrows and slows the cars as you approach Church Street. However there’s no cycle lane, but there is enough space for two lanes of cars. Turning right can be a challenge, on a bike though. If you’re walking the pedestrian crossing heads off toward Phibsborough, which probably explains why most people on foot run across when they get a chance. Jan Gehl, the great Danish Planner  says that walking routes should follow the ‘desire lines’ but that’s another day’s work. On the right hand side is a derelict site, owned by the City Council, and full of litter. As a matter of fact the Council sometimes puts up ads saying you shouldn’t litter on the palisade steel fencing, hiding the litter and dereliction behind it. Nice.

There’s a left turn filter lane on to North King Street from Church Street. These are a nasty piece of work for pedestrians and cyclists, in fact they’re downright dangerous, but I’m sure the accident figures show you that. They’re great for cars though. North King Street is pretty wide, one of those roads where the City Council pretty much knocked down everything twenty years ago to get two lanes of traffic (and a bike lane I hasten to add) in both directions. The road narrows as you approach Bolton Street, and there’s generally a car or two parked on the cycle lane as people pull in for their morning coffee and paper. I don’t mind pulling out into the traffic, but it’s not that easy for an eleven year old. Incidentally, a loading bay or two might help things? I wish I knew what is it that you have against installing them.

As we head past DIT on Bolton Street there’s another coffee shop and a shop or two. The Guards stopped parking in the cycle lane once I sent several pix to the Super, but the City Council trucks have a habit of pulling in for a cuppa, maybe that’s something you could work on.

We cycle up toward Dorset Street. You used to allow parking on the cycle lane during rush hour in the morning rush hour, but after a year or two of writing to you, you were nice enough to change the parking hours so it is generally clear of parked cars. We’d turn right onto Dominick Street, but the traffic speeds are generally too high. Maybe a 40kph speed limit would calm the traffic, but the existing 50kph limit means cars generally do 60 or 70, so it’s a bit risky.

We pull in on the left near the Maldron Hotel where the Wax Museum used to be, and use the footpath from then on in. There’s generally a taxi parked on the footpath there,  picking up guests from the hotel but we can usually squeeze past.  Did I mention loading bays?

We get back on the bikes at Parnell Square. That corner of the square is a real race-track, Formula One style, if you really want to know. Cars start accelerating once they’ve passed the Rotunda, and because the street gets wider and wider, they’re generally speeding big-time by the time they get to the corner near the Hugh Lane Gallery. The Council has published three or four plans for narrowing the road here over the last twenty years, but who knows, maybe the next one will be implemented. Every year people put flowers up on the railings to commemorate the loss of 16 year old Adam Moran who was knocked off his bike here a few years ago  .

There’s another filter lane as we head down towards O’Connell Street. My biggest worry here is that cars will rear-end us, but so far so good, fingers crossed. We can relax once we get to the school, but I thought I mention one thing: it would be great to have a bikes stand or two outside the door of the school, it might even encourage more cycling.

I won’t bore you with too much detail about the journey home, but I you should know that we avoid Parnell Street. Why you might ask, given that there’s a cycle lane most of the way? Well, the bike lane is actually a glorified parking lot, so it is best avoided. Another thing, people living nearby  in Greek Street flats are concerned about the plans for making the  surface car park permanent where the Fish Market used to be; They’d prefer a soccer pitch for the kids. Thought I'd say it to you.

Oh, one more thing, I know there’s a lot of road works needed on North King Street, to get a new storm drain for Grangegorman, but the sign telling cyclists to get off their bikes sends out the wrong signal to those of us who try and choose a sustainable way to travel.  I just thought I’d say all of this to you, as I notice that one of the bike lanes planned for Rosie Hackett Bridge didn’t seem to make it through the construction process.

One final plea: why not reinstate the post of Cycling Officer for Dublin? You could even throw in responsibility for walking as well. Somebody needs to ensure that walking and cycling are higher up on the City Council’s agenda.