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Deputy Matthews calls for greater fairness in the share of road space for pedestrians and cyclists

Date: 20 January 2022

Deputy Steven Matthews was speaking following his engagement with the National Council for the Blind Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind during the Oireachtas Transport Committee which was examining the upcoming Road Traffic Bill. Discussing his concerns, Deputy Matthews said:

“What we have in some towns and villages is a battlefield for space on our pathways. Vulnerable pedestrians including wheelchair users, elderly people, those with visual impairments, people with buggies amongst others are all expected to share narrow footpaths. However, in the same location, the road design often allows enough space to fit parking and ridiculously sized SUVs in both directions – this isn’t fair and reflects decades of bad planning. If you look at the ratio of our town streetscapes given over to cars as a percentage – I don’t think anyone could argue that it is a fair division.

“This was allowed to happen by putting the car at the heart of all planning decisions. When something like that is engrained in how local authorities operate, it’s very hard to break that cycle. Thankfully we are in the process of doing this, but you still see things on a daily basis that reflects society’s acceptance of car superiority that need to be addressed.

“In the short term, we need an increased emphasis on enforcement of traffic laws, including illegal parking on yellow lines, the blocking of footpaths, the illegal use of disability parking bays etc. The excuse of ‘I was only calling into the shop’ isn’t good enough because that 5 minutes could have put any number of people, particularly vulnerable pedestrians, in danger if they are forced onto the road.

“In the transport committee this week I raised the issue of cars, street signage, advertising boards and other clutter blocking the already packed paths in most towns. If the road was similarly blocked, I can guarantee the offending obstacle or driver would be dealt with but far too often, we just accept the blocking of a footpath as the norm. If there are any particular areas of concern in any villages/ towns across Wicklow, I would encourage residents to get in touch with me directly and I would be more than happy to liaise with Wicklow County Council on their behalf.

“In the longer term we require a rethink in how we approach the allocation of road space under a ‘town centres first policy’, prioritising pedestrians and active transport users. This is something that I and my colleagues in the Green Party have been working extensively on and I expect the Government policy on town centres to be released very shortly. Broadly speaking it puts people first, rather than traffic, and seeks to make towns and villages safer, more accessible for everyone and generally more attractive places to live, work and visit “, concluded Deputy Matthews.

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