“It’s time to fight back against the dominance of motor vehicles in our towns and cities,” groups say.
Environmental and transport campaigners have set a plan in motion to liberate Dublin’s South William Street from cars for the day.
As the above photograph, provide by the group shows, South William Street is currently closed to through motor traffic. IrishCycle.com understands that the group of protesters will not get in the way of local access, including cars exiting from the Brown Thomas Car Park.
Organisers who canvased the businesses on the street said that 19 out of 21 were “positive or super positive” and the remaining two were “indifferent”. Several years ago, a local business-lead campaign to make the street car-free failed after car park owners and larger retailers in the wider area objected to it. Campaigners also claim that there’s only a very small percentage of motorists who have expressed annoyance at them.
Then in 2015, city councillors voted to include a call to pedestrianise the street in the Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022. The current city development plan states that it is an objective “To introduce traffic-free areas on sections on Drury Street, South William Street, Exchequer Court, Dame Court and Dame Lane while ensuring that access to car parks and deliveries is still provided for.”
Today, Cllr Neasa Hourigan (Green Party) said: “A viable pedestrian plan has been stalled for almost a decade on this street”, while Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said: “South William Street really is ripe to be pedestrianised. Would love to see this progressed and made official in near future.”
SOLE Seafood & Grill, a business based on the street, said: “We think this is wonderful! There is such an amazing buzz on South William Street today and we for one would love to see it pedestrianised permanently.”
Protest was underway at 10am
The protest action which got underway at 10am is described as being implemented by members of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, the Dublin Commuter Coalition and the Irish Pedestrian Network with support from Extinction Rebellion activists.
A statement released to the media by organisers said: “The action was prompted by the recent release of Environmental Protection Agency data which showed that air pollution in Dublin is regularly exceeding the levels deemed safe by the EU. In Ireland, the number of premature deaths attributed to air pollution annually is estimated by the EPA as 1,510 people. This is ten times the number of people who died in 2018 as a direct result of road traffic collisions.”
The statement from organisers added: “Activists wearing anti-pollution masks installed traffic-prevention measures on South William Street at 10am on Saturday and have said they will continue a series of similar actions on streets around Dublin. These would continue, they promised, until the immediate actions, not words, of Dublin City Council and the government show they get the message that “streets are for people, not cars.”
“Poisonous air harms all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable”
Janet Horner of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said: “We are extremely concerned about the toxic levels of air pollution being created by motor vehicles on a daily basis,”
”Poisonous air harms all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable. This is a public health emergency and we need to take immediate action to reduce motor traffic and to create clean air zones throughout the city. People have a right to clean air,” Horner added.
Cllr Hourigan, who is also a founder of the Irish Pedestrian Network, said: “We are calling on the authorities to create public places for people, not cars. South William Street should have been pedestrianised years ago, and today we intend to show how even our most urban streets should be a place where people with disabilities and young children can access the public realm with ease.”
Kevin Carter, acting chairperson of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, said: “The vast majority of people moving in the city centre are walking, on bikes and on public transport but they get a minority of the space. Air quality and the environmental impact of cars are going to be election issues at the next general election.”
Carter said: “Politicians need to realise that people want cities that are clean, attractive and liveable. This isn’t possible if the streets are dominated by cars, so something has got to give.”
Robin Cafolla of Extinction Rebellion Dublin said: “Transport emissions account for about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions and the rise of the private motor car has been a contributory factor in the acceleration of climate collapse. We have to take radical action to reduce our dependence on cars and enable more people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”
More images at link below