30 million cars turning South Ring Road into a circle of hell

Some of our roads have barely moved on from a time when the horse and cart was the dominant mode of transport, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column
30 million cars turning South Ring Road into a circle of hell

An aerial view of the South Ring Road, which carries 30 million vehicles every year.

ACCORDING to a story in the Evening Echo last week, a report by Transport Infrastructure Ireland showed that 30 million cars travelled on the South Ring Road last year.

It pointed out that many of the county’s primary and secondary roads were operating way above recommended capacity.

In other words, there are too many cars on the road, but that shouldn’t come as any great surprise.

We have survived the recession and we’re getting back on our feet. We have learned a valuable lesson about living beyond our means and we are all the better for it. We are a lot wiser now and we won’t be making that mistake again.

We are going to be very careful with our money from now on so there will be no more loans, not even for life-saving operations. We’ll die first.

Well, maybe not. It seems that we are borrowing again, particularly for holidays and cars.

Lending to Irish households for consumer spending has increased and loans are typically for cars, furniture, domestic appliances and holidays.

So, whatever about all the rest of the stuff, it looks like we are going to see even more cars on our already congested roads, and that’s not good news.

We’re going to see more bicycles too because a by-product of the recession has been an increased interest in cycling.

The number of commuters cycling into Dublin city during the morning peak reached its highest level last year since records began 20 years ago. Almost 11,000 people cycle into the capital each day.

There is no doubt that cycling is becoming more popular and while that won’t please everyone, it might not be such a bad thing for car owners.

As Transport Infrastructure Ireland pointed out, our road networks are full to over-flowing and we are running out of room. Houses that used to have one car parked outside the front door now have two or three and it can often be difficult to find a parking space outside your own home.

This is only going to get worse. Some of our roads have barely moved on from a time when the horse and cart was the dominant mode of transport and they are struggling to cope as it is.

It’s a challenge to drive through most towns and cities these days and it doesn’t take much to bring traffic to a complete standstill.

The problem is magnified at certain times of the day when we all want to use the road together. The schools open every morning when most of the workforce is heading out the door, so we don’t have much choice but to compete for the same space.

I can remember a time, as a youngster, when we used to play football on my street. One goal-post would be marked by an ESB pole and a jumper thrown in the middle of the road would be the other. We would play uninterrupted for long periods and only be disturbed by the occasional car. You’d hear it coming from a distance, almost certainly driving slowly, and you would have plenty of time to pick up your goalpost and get out of the way.

Today, the goalkeeper would be mangled before he could even get into position.

It’s impossible to even stand on that same street for a few seconds these days because of traffic, not to mention having a kick-about.

Our towns are congested too, and bad parking isn’t helping. There are far too many drivers who either don’t know how to park a car properly or else just couldn’t be bothered and they end up taking up more room than they need. It’s not unusual to see a car taking up two spaces and I’ve seen drivers who are fitter than Sonia O’Sullivan walking out of disabled parking bays.

Trying to find a space is becoming increasingly difficult and you can clock up serious mileage and wear out a good set of tyres driving around in circles waiting for a place to become available.

High rise parking is OK for an hour or two, but it can be expensive if you use it regularly and it’s not available everywhere either.

The average cost of running a family car for a year is €10,671.37, according to the AA’s annual survey of motoring costs. It calculates the annual cost using a figure that includes the obvious things like fuel, insurance, and servicing, but also factors in a whole range of other costs. These include depreciation and interest charges, as well as replacing tyres, etc, over the car’s life.

Those who can survive without a car should be grateful for not having to deal with the expense and aggravation of car ownership. It’s not cheap by any means, but those of us with no alternative will have to struggle on. We’ll also have to accept that parking is just going to get more complicated unless you own your own parking spot.

In the UK, there was a parking bay in the heart of Westminster that came with a price tag of £350,000. A double garage in Edinburgh was priced for sale at £85,000, and at Manchester Airport there were 45 spaces available for £35,000 each. Closer to home, there was a parking space in Dublin for €10,000 and there was one available in Galway for €15,000.

So that’s it, there’s no need to panic. If you’re struggling to park the motor, don’t worry, you can always buy your own personal spot.

One solution to our congestion problem is to encourage more drivers to take up cycling. While they are like a red rag to a bull for some motorists, we should cut them some slack. They might be our salvation yet.

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