NOTE If you like the NEW NORM with reduced traffic and more Kildare people walking and cycling, we invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org (or Shamrock Spring at email@example.com) to demonstrate your support for Change Our Streets. We will add your name to the list of supporters.
Make Walking And Cycling Safer To Go To Work, To Shops And Pharmacies, To Volunteer And To Exercise
Dear Mr. Carey,
We are an alliance of Kildare groups and residents, led by Maynooth Cycling Campaign and Kildare Environmental Network. We live, work, trade or shop in Kildare. We want our Council to urgently Change Our Streets by reallocating space for people on foot and on bikes during this long COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
We want to express sympathy with those who have died of COVID-19, their families, friends, and colleagues. Using our expertise in road safety to help ease social anxieties around social distancing, we wish to give support to people with an added reason to walk or cycle.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that ‘whenever feasible, consider riding a bicycle or walking to provide physical distancing and daily physical activity’ during the COVID-19 emergency. In Ireland, we have seven exceptions to the ‘Stay at Home Order’, including exercising within 5 km from home.
We want safer streets for all ages and all abilities in our ‘new normal’. We are supported by doctors, nurses, health professionals, resident associations, community groups, businesses and associations. [Note: health professionals – to be finalised]
We have two requests to reduce preventable deaths and injuries, and create pedestrian- and cycle-friendly streets:
1. Reallocate road space to people walking and cycling.
2. Temporarily lower the speed limit to 30 km/h in urban areas.
We ask that Kildare County Council arranges a Transport SPC meeting as a matter of urgency and that the agenda be devoted to Change Our Streets. [Note: This paragraph to be finalised]
How COVID-19 Impacts on the Use Of Public Space
- An increasing number of Kildare residents live in apartments with no access to a private garden. Over 9% of households in Kildare do not have access to a car. Children need 60 minutes of daily exercise. Access to green and blue spaces has detectable mental and physical health benefits.
- There is an increase in individuals and families walking and cycling in their local areas, whether for exercise or essential journeys.
- Healthcare workers and other essential workers have reported incidents of feeling unsafe while walking or cycling to work.
- There is a lack of space for social distancing across the county for people walking and cycling. Narrow footpaths and painted cycle lanes do not provide the space to adhere to HSE social distancing guidelines.
- There are road safety issues with the reduced vehicle traffic. Most significant of which is speeding but also red light breaking and phone use by motorists.
- People queuing outside shops that have in-store limits, are lining up on narrow footpaths next to wide roads with multiple parking and driving lanes.
- Public transport numbers are down as people stay home. There is a risk that levels of private car traffic may increase sharply in the intervening period before a vaccine is found and widely distributed.
- With an increase in unemployment, and good summer weather ahead, the bicycle offers an affordable transport option to many who may not have considered cycling to date.
- The demand for parking has drastically reduced.
Kildare County Council has closed or restricted access to playgrounds, skateparks and outdoor gyms, even to people living within 5 km. Residents of places with natural beauty are concerned that people in groups are travelling by car to these pleasant places for exercise.
Make Safer Streets for All – Reallocating Road Space to People Walking and Cycling
Expedient, wide-ranging action will reconfigure Kildare’s public spaces to decrease public health risk, social anxiety and the risk of increased traffic levels as the restrictions begin to be lifted over the coming months and years.
These types of measures have already been rolled out internationally, especially in the German capital Berlin. In Ireland, Dublin City and Fingal County councils have started to reallocate road space.
We ask Kildare County Council to implement temporary measures, including:
- Install temporary cycle lanes along the key traffic routes where feasible.
- Example: Main Street Newbridge, Main Street Celbridge, Newbridge Road Naas and Dublin Road Maynooth
- Widen or introduce footpaths using cones on busy streets, outside lines of shops or areas with queues, or thoroughfares to shops and essential businesses. This may need the reallocation of space from on-street parking and loading bays.
- Example: SuperValu Main Street South, Naas.
- Temporary use of cones, bollards and planters to filter through-traffic in housing estates, and so make roads safe for children playing and people exercising.
- Examples: Laurence’s Avenue and Rail Park Maynooth, and Monread Naas.
- Automate pedestrian signal crossings during daylight hours and increase pedestrian crossing times in urban areas. Add signage to prevent people pressing the buttons.
- Example: as Greystones Municipal District and other councils have done.
- Temporary suspension of extra lanes alongside roads with shared walking / cycling facilities or narrow footpaths. Turn the extra lane into a barrier / cone-protected cycle lane and, if shared facilities are present, temporarily designate the shared facilities as pedestrian-only.
- Examples: New Caragh Road Naas adjacent to the Newbridge Road.
- Removal of turn right lanes where footpaths are narrow and/or there is no cycle facility.
- Example: New Caragh Road Naas adjacent to Newbridge Road
- Revise traffic management arrangements in order to change a two way road with no cycle facilities with a one way road and two cycle lanes (one a contra-flow cycle lane).
- Example Newtown Road, Maynooth
- Temporary pedestrianisation of roads and creating ‘quiet streets’ to connect residences and essential destinations.
Lower the Speed Limits
In relation to urban areas, we request the introduction of a temporary blanket 30 km/h speed limit on all local and regional roads during the pandemic. In addition, drop the speed limit on roads with 60 km/h areas to 50 km/h and 80 km/h to 60 km/h. This will make walking and cycling more pleasant, reduce the risk of collisions, and reduce the severity of injury on impact, should any collisions occur. Professor John Crown of St Vincent’s University Hospital has made a similar call.
The Isle of Man introduced a temporary speed limit island-wide to 40 mph at the end of March, following NHS doctors stating that this is the number one action to ‘lower the baseline’ of critical care admissions.
Brussels will introduce a city centre speed limit of 20 km/h from May 1 until the end of August. Milan’s ambitious Strade Aperte (Open Streets) plan has 20 km/h speed limits at its heart. This is to make living in urban areas more pleasant during the coronavirus.
Change Our Streets – Make Safer Streets For All
The Minister for Health says that physical distancing measures will be with us until a vaccine is available. We know that this will, at least, be months from now.
In general, please:
• Keep stable or expand the resources budgeted for footpath and cycling schemes.
• Bringing forward of timelines for National Transport Authority cycling schemes.
• Include footpath widening as part of footpath repair schemes.
• Include reallocation of space as part of road maintenance schemes.
This COVID-19 crisis offers a unique opportunity to implement and trial low or zero-cost solutions for a more resilient, pleasant and accessible public realm in Maynooth and other urban centres in Kildare. We can create a liveable city whose streetscape is designed with empathy and flexibility for the mental and physical wellbeing of all who live here.
We, the undersigned, strongly request that you consider, plan and implement these measures in the interests of public health and safety.
CC Mr. Tadhg McDonnell, Director of Services for Transportation