Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
The Irish capital aims to ensure its future is pedestrian-focused
Dublin, Ireland, is considering a new approach to its dense downtown core that will prioritize space for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit. As the The Irish Times reports, car through-traffic would be strongly discouraged in the city’s center under a new plan developed by city planners.
Titled Your City, Your Space, the draft strategy notes that more than 500,000 people access the city centre daily – 235,000 workers, 45,000 students, 120,000 shoppers or other visitors and 116,000 inner city residents.
Notwithstanding the recession, it states that projections for 2020 suggest figures could increase to 350,000 workers, 70,000 students and 180,000 residents. This would “put pressure on the public realm”, requiring reallocation of road space.
Though car traffic and service will still be a logistical reality for many businesses in the city center, Dublin’s planners foresee that most of the future movement within the area will be on foot. The report notes that “Dublin City Council has reduced reliance on the private car for commuting to 34% and aims to further reduce it to 20%.” Limiting road space for automobiles is intended to improve the flow of non-car traffic, an idea that’s aimed at improving the public realm. The idea is also, by extension, about improving the economy by increasing the efficiency of movement in the central business district.
But the economy itself may be what prevents such a proposal from taking hold. City officials acknowledge that making public space improvements like removing erratically placed street furniture to reduce pedestrian congestion or building more space into sidewalks for tree plantings are highly desirable. With such improvements, though, come the inevitable maintenance costs. The report suggests privatization as one option. “The potential, for example, for publicly accessible areas to be privately managed needs to be encouraged."
The city is also considering an “outdoor advertising strategy” that's intended to subsidize some of the proposed street-level improvements, like the provision of ad-covered street furniture. This, coupled with the privatization suggested by the report, may provide the funding needed to create the sort of public realm Dublin planners envision. But such private control inherently reduces the public-ness of the space, and that should be a consideration as the public weighs in on the plan between now and January 25.
Photo credit: Flickr user infomatique