20 August, 2016

Debtors' Prison Occupation

Called in to the Debtors' Prison today and had a chat with Ania, James and some others who've been squatting there for the last week. They seem to have moved there from the Grangegorman squat on North King Street.  That site is due to become student housing. Back in the 1990s as a member of the Green Street Trust I worked with some creative people to save the building.  At that stage it was due to be demolished for road widening, but thankfully things have moved on. It's good to see another occupation drawing attention to the significant number of underused and empty buildings in the city while we're in the midst of a housing crisis. Here's a few scattered notes of my thoughts at this stage.

1. It's good to see new life in this historic old building, and hopefully this action will put pressure on the Office of Public Works to find a new long-term tenant for the building.

2. On 15 August 2016 Mr Justice Michael Hanna granted Department of Public Expenditure and the Office of Public Works (OPW) an injunction compelling the group to leave the building so it looks like eviction may happen soon.

3. The building currently has electricity, but not working toilets, so a long-term occupation would be challenging.

4. Although the building has been empty for the best part of a generation, the OPW has undertaken some much needed lighting, drainage and structural improvements over the last ten years. Income from filming has contributed to funding this.

5. Over the last couple of years I've been in the building several times. Several arts organisations such as Block T and Broadstone Studios may be interested in taking space in the building. It would be worth meeting with them to further the project.

6. Build alliances with local representatives and residents.  It is  worth seeking support from the eight local city councillors, and the three local TDs, as well as Minister Seán Canney, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief.

7. Show that you're safety conscious. The building has holes in the floor, and doesn't have a working fire alarm system. This probably means that the City Council will want to move you out sooner rather than later, and this may be an insurmountable problem. Unless you can show that you're on top of this you'll be moved out really quickly.

8. Produce a clear vision for what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. People will find it difficult to support you unless you have clear aims and objectives.

9. Once you have a clear idea on what you want to achieve, move quickly to establish a structure to achieve this. This may be a cooperative, a company or a charity, but unless there's clarity on this it'll be hard to convince others to support you.

10. Spread the word. Flyers and a Facebook page with lots of likes is a start, but you'll need a website, a spokesperson and a clear concise message for the media, the general public and everyone else.

They're having an open day on Sunday 21st August 2016 at 4pm.

I hope it goes well for them.

05 August, 2016

Any thoughts on improving road safety?

A few days ago I tweeted “At @DubCityCouncil Road Safety Strategy meeting. Any thoughts on improving road safety? Fatalities up nationwide, but down in Dublin”. The replies came flooding in.  Thanks for the comments, I’m going to try and incorporate them into the strategy. You can see our old Road Safety Plan here if you'd like to read further on this. When we talk about road safety we usually mention the three E’s. That’s engineering, education and enforcement. Most of your comments fell under these categories. 

Under enforcement you suggested that cyclists wear lights at night, that speed limits must be adhered to, the five-axle ban in the city centre upheld and clearways respected. You also wanted more use of red-light running cameras. There were lots of comments about making sure speed limits are respected. This is crucial. All of this should  figure in the Strategy. 

There were lots of engineering suggestions. Everyone it seems wants more zebra crossings, and I am pushing to make this happen. The only downside here is that people with restricted vision can find it hard to feel confident using them. Maintaining road markings also came up, and I have no doubt that faded markings are contributing to to accidents. 

Education is also crucial. The ‘Staying Alive at 1.5’ campaign to ensure cars stay 1.5m away from vehicles could get greater prominence in Dublin. The suggestion that we should all experience what it is like to use other modes is a great idea. I’d love to get taxi-drivers behind the handlebars, and it would be great for pedestrians to see what the view is like when you’re driving a Luas.

A crucial element of the strategy will be a fourth ‘E’ - evaluation. We’re already looking at where accidents happen and what the contributory factors are. This will inform the strategy itself. Certainly lower speed limits seem to be reducing the number of serious accidents in places like Marino and the City Centre, but narrower roads also help in these areas. To roll out the Strategy we’ll need the Road Safety Authority to help out with key messages, and in that regard we have to move beyond the more high-viz vests approach to vulnerable road users. More funding for traffic calming would also help. The emphasis in recent years has moved away from speed bumps towards carriageway narrowing and tighter curve radii at junctions. Even the planting of street trees can send out a subtle message to slow down that can compliments signage and safer speed limits. However this requires money, and I’ll be looking for Minister Shane Ross to move money out of gold-plated new road projects such as the New Ross Bypass, and into area wide traffic calming which save lives at less cost. We’ll also require An Garda Síochána to focus more on offences, particularly those that impact on the more vulnerable such as speeding, and parking on footpaths and cycle lanes.

Finally someone suggested that we should ‘ban culchies’. I won’t be trying to roll that out anytime soon, but I think what it does show is that the public realm has become overly complicated in recent years. Simple signage, and less visual clutter can make our streets safer for all. @CoasainGalway said ‘Think environment not individual’. That brings us up to five ‘E’s: Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation and Environment. As Stephen McManus pointed out we need to move focus from safe to livable. That to me is a clear message to feed into the strategy.

With thanks to @conankwrites @cosaingalway @cosaingalway @lorcansirr @maerkelig @OnlyOneMUFC @Servicecharged @surball @tampopo2236 ‏@tdlegge ‏ @TheKavOfficial @Virginian_x @zynks