An Taisce: Toll any motorist that rat-runs Phoenix Park

by Sylvia Pownall

An environmental group is calling for a toll on motorists who use the Phoenix Park as a ‘rat run’ in its bid to have the green space ultimately declared a no-car zone.

An Taisce wants tariffs introduced to crack down on “uncurtailed and marauding” motorists who use the 1.4km road and abuse parking to facilitate journeys to and from the city.

The heritage trust urges a “virtually traffic-free” green space in its formal submission to the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the proposed redevelopment of the 1,752-acre park.

In its response to the Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategy Review, the charity urges the OPW to use the stick as well as the carrot to address “the overriding problem of private motor traffic”.

An Taisce said it welcomed plans for a funicular railway, a driverless shuttle-bus, a train station and a footbridge linking the park with the Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge.

But it added: “The vision for Chesterfield Avenue is of incremental and tentative improvements and studies, modest traffic-calming, visitor centres and the like, but something much more radical is demanded for a straight 4km rat run in the climate-challenged 21st Century.

“The Phoenix Park will be a success when it is virtually traffic-free, like all good parks, and facilitating an array of outdoor activities providing dynamic, sustainable and healthy infrastructure for the citizenry while safeguarding the fragility and pre-eminence of its natural landscape character.”

Citing the hundreds of “commuter” motorists who park for free each day on the main road, the trust warned the park is already at “breaking point”, adding: “It seems reasonable, if public transport is improved … that they should be tolled.”

It said that for a park of its size and proximity to the city, the Phoenix Park lacks recreational activities and facilities and recommended the provision of a swimming pool and a running track.

Its submission is in line with the Government’s own Smarter Travel initiative, promoting cycling and public transport.

A recent report recommended extending the Dublin Bikes scheme to the 360-year-old park’s Visitor Centre and Dublin Zoo.

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