Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Along the Liffey on a Dublinbike

The Dublinbike scheme has worked well since it was set up by Dublin City Council in September 2009 pioneered by the current Lord Mayor Andrew Montague.

Due to public demand it has recently been extended so my son Mark and myself decided to visit a few of the city sights and galleries using public transport and Dublinbikes. We took the DART to Pearse St where we visited the TCD Science Gallery where a food exhibition - Edible - was running. Full of natural organic foods from herbs to seaweed pesto! Recommended!

Then we took out Dublinbikes and travelled up to O'Connell St and onto Abbey St where we followed the LUAS Red Line up to Smithfield. The Dublinbike is quite heavy and sturdy as it needs to be and this probably explains the lack of vandalism together with the genuine pride that I think Dubliners feel in having so great a convenience on their doorstep. The  'trick' on the bicycle when following the LUAS line is not to allow the bike wheel slip into the tramline 'groove' but to pedal over the LUAS line at all times roughly perpendicular to the lines. Also to negotiate corners you need to take up position in the centre of the traffic lane near the junction to keep you safe getting round the corner!

On a Dublinbike along the City Quays across the river from Dublin Civic Offices
The first 30 minutes is free and you pay fairly modest sums after that on your Dublinbike Card. The locking system is simple but sturdy reminding one of the ease with which you can acquire a supermarket trolley and redock it afterwards. When we reached Smithfield there wasn't a single other bike left at the docking station as all were in use on a busy Saturday morning.

This trip also allowed us see the ongoing regeneration works that Dublin City Council continue to do on the city streets. The replacement of cobble setts in one of the Smithfield streets shows the fairly large depth of these stone setts. I was later informed by the Dublin City Engineer (soon to be my successor as President) that these depths are required to withstand the turning stresses of heavy traffic at busy junctions in the city and that the specification was informed by engineering experience.

Dublin City Council’s new ‘sett paving’ in Smithfield area close to the LUAS Red Line
Might I say in passing that the resurfacing of the entire City Centre at night this past winter was a very impressive achievement by Dublin City Council. They very wisely used money reserved for the now shelved Metro North to give the City Streets a new lease of life after all the damage caused to the streets during the two very harsh winters just gone by.

We reached the new National Museum at the former Collins Barracks close to Heuston Station. Few Dubliners myself included realise the historical gems of our history which are stored there and it's free to all and sundry! We saw the original Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Cross of Cong. The Derrynaflan Chalice remains in Kildare Street.

The highlight of my trip to the Barracks though was the collection of life size Celtic Crosses made to the precise dimensions of the real crosses distributed throughout the country. I especially recognised St Muiredach's Cross of Monasterboice County Louth from my time in road construction on Dunleer Bypass in the early 1990s now a part of the Dublin Belfast Motorway. The cross and monastery at Monasterboice had to be avoided by the new motorway for obvious archaeological reasons.

At Muiredach’s Cross in The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks
Also notable in the newly refurbished Collins Barracks is the 1916 Rising Exhibition together with the history of General Michael Collins who took the Barracks over from the British Forces in 1922 and who was tragically killed in the subsequent Civil War in his native County Cork.

Dublinbikes is helping to create a cleaner greener Dublin and should be used by engineers in particular as a more sustainable form of transport to support modern city living. The reduction in car usage within the city cordon is very noticeable since the introduction of Dublinbikes but we must do better to minimise car dependency.

The Dublin Port Tunnel has also greatly contributed to removing heavy traffic from the city quays as has the new 30 mph speed level within the city cordon. Helping too are the increased bus and cycling corridors and the 'bus gate' at College Green - preventing cars in favour of public transport through this ‘pinchpoint’ at peak hour. This has contributed though the initiative was wrongly criticised by city traders when first mooted by City Traffic Engineers some years ago.

It's another example of how engineers need to hold our nerve when infrastructurally necessary but politically unpopular projects or plans are proposed in the public interest. If our analysis is correct and we manage to communicate what is intended and why - then the general public will in time grow to accept our view as the preferred technical environmental and economic solution to the problems of our time. It of course also needs national and local political leadership behind such projects to ensure that they are implemented in the national interest.

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