Showing the love for the bus gate

Two protests against the proposed closure of the College Green Bus Gate were staged last week. The TCD Students’ Union, Union of Students in Ireland and the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, are all opposed to the campaign by city retailers to close the corridor which currently restricts peak-time traffic in College Green to buses, cyclists and taxis.

Trinity students and Dublin professionals were among protestors outside the College, in Westmoreland Street and Foster Place last week. Many arrived with bicycles and signs sporting slogans including “I love Bus Gate!”  

The Bus Gate, introduced in July, aims to significantly reduce journey times for cross-city public transport. The Council says this is “a natural progression in traffic management in Dublin city”, claiming that it has reduced bus journeys across the city from 40 to 10 minutes.

The Dublin City Business Association (DCBA), however, has linked the layout of the Bus Gate to the decreased turnover in Dublin retail outlets late this year. The Association, which estimates an approximate 30-40 million customers pass through that area every year, believe the current layout is “damaging the real economy in Dublin City centre”, stating that “jobs will be lost”. Director of the Association, Tom Coffey is calling on the city council to increase the width of the cycle lanes, decrease the number of lorries in the city and to create an integrated Luas network.

“We don’t accept the safety of the cycle lanes,” says Coffey, who is calling on the council to follow the layout similar to those in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Barra Roantree, a Junior Sophister who protested in favour of the Bus Gate, disputed Coffey’s claims, pointing out that DCBA figures showed year-on-year sales to be down by 25 percent, even before the Bus Corridor was introduced. Roantree compared the DCBA’s campaign to traders’ complaints against the pedestrianisation of Grafton Street a few years ago, stating “they were wrong then and they are wrong now.”

“Footfall around the College Green area is up six percent during the biggest recession this country has seen, which is good news for our businesses,” says Roantree, who described last week’s rally as “remarkably successful”. Chris Grieve, proponent of the Bus Gate and employee of Velocity Ireland, said the Council’s decision to review the Bus Gate has “absolutely no validity”.  Grieve and his colleagues, many of whom cycle through College Green every day, say their journey to work has been made much quicker and safer by the Bus Gate.

The Students’ Union is calling upon students to “put the pressure on” Dublin City councillors. It has provided a list of councillors’ email addresses on its website, encouraging students to contact them to let them know their support for the Bus Gate. A pro-Bus Gate Facebook group, created last week, has gained 719 fans from Trinity.

“If the bus corridor is stopped it will be a huge blow for Dublin City transport policy. We showed that students are a force to be reckoned with on the college fees issue, and let’s show it again,” urged SU President Cónán Ó Broin, who has been instructed by the Students’ Union Council to fight to keep the Bus Corridor open. Martha Dalton, Chair of Dublin University Greens, emphasised its role in creating a “cleaner and less congested city”, highlighting the 64 percent increase in bicycle use in College Green.

City Councillors will meet next week to discuss the fate of the Bus Gate, which the DCBA say must be suspended to “save city centre jobs”.  A proposal to introduce free afternoon parking in College Green will also be considered.