One of the downfalls of representative democracy is that it is representative. So the fact that we vote every four or five years is the extent of our executive input. After that, if you want something, it’s all about lobbying.
Here in Dublin this means local issues like the state of the footpaths or more guards on the beat. Politicians spend 99% of their time keeping the locals happy, attending clinics, pressing the flesh and playing ‘you scratch my back’.
So it is refreshing when people outside the system come up with initiatives to improve this city.
Enter the S2S – short for Sutton to Sandycove campaign. This campaign is promoting the idea of a prominade and cycleway stretching 22km along the coast of Dublin bay.
The route would be laid out with a footpath and cycleway side by side. On the Northside a lot of the work is already done, especially fronting on to Bull Island. On the Southside little of the route is developed but most of the land is in public hands.
In some places new infrastructure will be required to allow cyclists through and some small reclaimation from the sea will be needed. In town new pedestrian and cycling bridges would be required to give access over the Grand Canal and over the Liffey at the East Link. (Perhaps a Liffey Weir could help there). The campaigners estimate the total spend at €30 million.
I can’t believe it – something that offers so much for so little. There is so much to commend this scheme it’s difficult to know where to start.
Firstly, it’s a transport plan. It offers an almost interrupted radial for cyclists wishing to access the city centre and indeed to cross the city centre. It would be a cycleway of exceptional quality as it would run between the road and the sea with few crossovers for vehicular traffic. Also, it couldn’t be any flatter as it is just a few feet above sea level.
It fits perfectly in with the idea (thus far poorly executed) of a citywide cycle network. It has the ability to compete with travel times of other modes of transport.
Secondly, it is an citywide amenity for walkers. Dublin Bay is stunning, you only have to land at Dublin Airport looking out the left-hand side of a plane to see how beautiful it is. But walkers can pass through a score of the city’s areas on the S2S route taking in the whole variety of Dublin’s communities.
The route would be a huge touris attraction.
Then there’s the little matter of health. Never have so many people been instructed by their doctors to get out and walk. But it’s difficlt to do a brisk two mile walk in Dublin without being constantly stopped by traffic. It’s healthier for cyclists too as the sea breezes would sweep away much of the pollution and noise that makes cycling unattractive for so many. Not to mention the reduced risk of getting run over.
There are many other attractions to the S2S idea such as connecting Dublin people back to their maritime heritage. Such as a resource for children to explore and learn about Dublin’s most vibrant natural habitat. Such as drawing people in to ownership of Dublin Bay. And on and on.
I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t think of any significant drawbacks to the plan.
I note that Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council have already gave the plan backing and will take it into consideration as they draw up their next development plan. The Docklands Authority are backing it too. I would full expect the City Council to do likewise as the idea fits in with many of the very progressive plans that they have pushed through in recent years.
However, it will need an integrated team to ensure that the full potential of the plan can be realised. Money will be a problem now but as it touches the objectives of so many different government departments, local councils and development bodies that the funding can be strapped together.
Above all, the S2S is a triumph for civic initiative. That deserves to be rewarded so that many other people with vision, drive and ambitions for this city will see that they can make a difference.
(If you want to learn more about the S2S initiative log on to http://www.S2S.ie and keep an eye out in the papers for campaign events.)