Since the removal of the slip lane at the Staffan Road / Celbridge Road junction, the residents of Railpark have been concerned about the significant increase in motorised traffic which passes through the estate on a daily basis. Most of this traffic is only using the route for convenience – they are not stopping to visit. T hey are merely passing through and using the route as a “rat-run”. Traffic levels are reported to be as in excess of 4000 vehicles (?) per day which is greater than the threshold for a “major” road, as defined in the EU Environmental Noise Directive.
Rat-running is not a new phenomenon and the way to eliminate it is cheap and readily available. It consist of stopping motorised traffic from passing through by blocking one or other entrance or by blocking passage in the middle. This is termed “filtered permeability” whereby pedestrians and cyclists are permitted to pass but motorised traffic is not and is widely used in other European countries.
Kildare County Council suggested that it would introduce filtered permeability at Railpark but a number of the residents objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would inconvenience driving. Other residents, who were concerned about the risk to children playing in the estate, supported the proposal. The position of councillors is unclear at this time – they appear to want to introduce filtered permeability but do not want to antagonise vociferous residents.
The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS) establishes a road user hierarchy with pedestrians and cyclists at the top and private car users further down so filtered permeability is in accordance with the principles of DMURS. The position of Maynooth Cycling Campaign is clear – we consider that the safety of vulnerable rod users takes precedence over rat-running.
In the UK, the debate is framed about Healthy Streets where car use is discouraged as opposed to streets which cater for large volumes of traffic. Healthy Streets developed out of concerns about issues such as road safety, child obesity, air and noise pollution and lack of sustainable development – problems which all affect Maynooth. In particular, there is increasing concern nationally about the effects of air pollution from traffic and the EPA has estimated that nearly 1200 premature deaths per annum are caused as a result.
The selfishness and sense of entitlement of some people who drive – that they would place their convenience of driving over the safety of their neighbour’s children – is mind-boggling but we have already seen such attitudes in parts of Dublin. In the 19th century, when local authorities decided that clean water and sewage systems were required to avoid preventable deaths, they did not have to consult with the public. One would have hoped that if they had, they would have ignored narrow self interest and thought of the interests of the wider community. Local politicians should do likewise today.