Detailed comments for Howth Traffic Management

As part of the input to the consultants working on the traffic and parking management for Howth, I have made comments in particular in relation to ensuring the streets are pedestrian-oriented.  I would be interested in any feedback.  My comments, are below, generally working from West to East and then North to South along the main bus route through the town. 30 km/hr speed limit  

This should start at the Dart Station, at Nashville Park/Thormanby Rd. Junction, and  at Balkill Rd./Balkill Park junction.  This should also be the area within which the roads are examined for design changes.  

Entry to Howth area.

The previous design contained a gateway feature just to the west of the Dart Station. This was removed when a Garda vehicle travelling at speed collided with it.  I note similar complaints are made about the buildout beside the West pier junction, which I refer to in more detail below.  There appears to be a particular issue with the start of any deliberate road narrowing leading into a slower area.  Nonetheless, a design is required which will bring the narrower, slower, more pleasant and pedestrian friendly environment which starts on Harbour Rd at the West pier junction back to the west of the Dart Station.  This will then lead to logical road layout changes outside the Station itself.

Dart Station

A preliminary design needs to be worked up for the open area with bus interchange outside the station for discussion. Technical input on design and landscaping would be of use.  I feel that the kind of open pedestrian oriented layout seen outside the GPO or in Georges’ St. in Dún Laoghaire would be appropriate for an area which as we all know on summer weekends is thronged with pedestrians.

I welcome the information from the Department of the Marine that they are also unhappy with the design of the road/parking to the south of the  platform extension.  The design here now leads to pedestrians walking behind cars parked nose to kerb and distinctly ignores the needs of pedestrians.  This area should be included in the design for in front of the Station.

West pier

I feel that the delineation proposed is likely to increase speeds  At the moment the lack of marking and open layout leads traffic to slow as it travels through the Pier area.  It is clear to all road users including trucks and pedestrians that this is an area of mixed character (fishing trucks, shops, markets, leisure access by foot and by car for walking, visiting restaurants, sailing, angling, viewing seals etc). and that therefore all road users need to exercise caution.

I think that there should be better indication from the design of the entrance to the West Pier that this is the Harbour Area and that a 30km/hr speed limit would be appropriate.

West pier/Harbour Rd. junction

There have been suggestions that existing buildout at Harbour Rd/. West Pier should be removed.and replaced with a curve radius of 15m.  This buildout is the start  (going east) of the slower environment on Harbour Road.  It narrows the carriageway and slows the traffic.   The narrowness is maintained as you move east by parked cars.  This is of particular value to cyclists as it requires cyclists to occupy the lane and thereby facilitates them in turning right up Church Street.  This right turn would be the means of access for cyclists to the main residential areas of Howth.

Harbour Rd. from West Pier to Church St.

At Findlaters, there are tables and chairs on the footpath. This is very welcome, and is exactly what we should be encouraging.   (Of itself, it slows traffic.)  However, the footpath at this location is busy and is too narrow between tables and chairs on one side and car side mirrors on the other.  I suggest it be widened.

Between Findlaters and El Paso, the footpath is wide enough, although there is a terrible slope at one section.  The parking is nose to kerb and I’m concerned about the risk here, particularly as it must be very difficult for someone trying to reverse a car from a parking space to see and judge the speed of traffic coming down the hill on Church St as well as traffic coming around the corner on Harbour Road.  (Is this layout in compliance with the planning permission for this development?)  I wouldn’t like to see a wider carriageway here.

Harbour Rd. from Church St. to East Pier

I feel that this area is mostly a success.

Harbour Rd./Abbey St. junction

I note that the roundabout idea involved– raised pedestrian platforms (not crossings or rights of way?) at entrance to car park and across Harbour Rd. east of roundabout, but nothing on Abbey St.

I feel that the current layout contributes to reducing speeds and preventing motorists turning the corner in a manner which would lead them to collide with anyone crossing the road or with any vehicle stopped in the road.  I think it does this in two ways:

  • requiring traffic coming down the hill to yield to traffic from its left
  • requiring traffic both coming down and going up the hill to negotiate with traffic coming in the opposite direction
  • The proposed design would maintain the requirement to yield.  However, by separating downhill from uphill traffic it would remove the second feature and therefore I think lead to increased speeds and risk.

The main pedestrian route which needs to be provided for at this junction is along the South side of Harbour Road crossing Abbey St.  I’m sure that traffic counts including pedestrian traffic would substantiate this.  The proposed roundabout would deny pedestrians right of way as they cross and further increase by facilitating increased speeds as outlined above.

New car park at East Pier

There have been suggestions of a car park on the green space at the start of the East Pier.  I think that there is adequate total car parking and what is required is parking management.  The green space in question is compacted and the Parks Department has committed to ploughing and reseeding it as well as wider landscaping measures in the area as part of the Promenade Renovation.  The current parking area seems generally appropriate to me.  The only exception are the few spaces just to the east of the current green space which form a bit of a barrier between the open area where the Pier ends and the open space beside it.

In particular the design shown would significantly come across the access to the East Pier.  This area should be included in the plan for renovation as a pedestrian-oriented area ensuring openness to the green space/promenade, the Pier, Balscadden Rd. and the carparking area in front of the Pier House.

Abbey St.

Abbey St. is problematic.  Vehicles which have travelled slowly along Harbour Rd often speed up on Abbey St.  Footpaths are particularly narrow making it somewhat unpleasant for pedestrians and difficult for pedestrians to walk side by side.  I wonder do they comply with accessibility standards for wheelchairs.  I would be interested in proposals for this area.

Abbey St./Church St. junction

Pedestrians coming up Abbey St. find themselves crossing a wide carriageway junction here.  I wonder is there any need to facilitate a left turn from Church St. to Abbey St?  Could the pavement be extended and a pedestrian platform provided here?

Core of Howth

The proposed design was described as “delineating the traffic movements through the area in order to provide a safer environment”.   

There seems to be good evidence (references below) that delineating traffic movements encourages greater speed and less consideration between road users.

A contrary approach would be to assert that this is a pedestrian-oriented area and motorists, cyclists, buses etc. should all be expecting pedestrians to be using the road.  This leads to removing markings etc.

If I understand it correctly this is the design principle behind recent pedestrian-oriented street design such as outside GPO, at George’s St., Dún Laoghaire.  

But it goes further than making a good environment for people to walk through.

The purpose of the streets in the core of Howth is not primarily for movement.  It is a place and the core of the community.  Most times that I am in the centre, I bump into people and stand and talk.  I always see people standing and talking in the centre of Howth.  (This interaction, of course, is the “Social Capital” the Taoiseach is rightly concerned about.)  Contributing to this of course is outdoor seating in front of the Baily Court Hotel (although somewhat obscured by parking.)

The Council cannot and should not look on the centre of the town as primarily a place for moving through or parking vehicles.  It is a place to be in.  It is the shared living room of the community and needs to be treated as such.

At the moment, pedestrians cross Main St. and Thormanby Rd. in a range of locations depending on their destinations.  I am struck by how well Harbour Rd. works:  a combination of zebra crossings and a narrow carriageway leads traffic to travel at a low enough speed so that although most pedestrians use the zebra crossings, it is also possible to cross the carriageway between them.  It would great to have that kind of environment in the core of Howth.

The issue of the nose-to kerb parking outside the Baily Ct. Hotel and lack of a safe pedestrian route at this location also needs to be addressed.

Some references in relation to the above thoughts:
SharedSpace (pdf)
Naked Streets (London Times)
Shared_space (Wikipedia)
Notes on Kensington High Street 1  2,  3

Church of the Assumption

If there is to be an alteration to the current design with the minor carriageway in front of the church, then provision needs to be made for hearses at this location.

Nashville Pk./Thormanby Rd.

Lights at this junction seem appropriate. This is the other entrance to the village and traffic should be made to slow at this location.  More than lights will probably be necessary.  Possibly a narrowing of the carriageway on Thormanby Rd. between Asgard Rd and Nashville Pk. would also be a good idea.  Hatching in the middle of the road does not seem to have much of an effect.