Jams today... traffic is making Cork cranky, so what’s the fix?

At the moment, you could fly to London in the time it takes people to drive 10km across Cork city, says Kathriona Devereux
Jams today... traffic is making Cork cranky, so what’s the fix?

TOO MANY CARS? Early morning traffic building up on the N40 near Mahon in Cork

THE city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, the fourth largest in the world, has a unique solution to its chronic traffic problem. Helicopters!

The city of 22 million people is choked with millions of cars, so to avoid the mayhem, the wealthy and business classes take to the skies, utilising the 600 helipads dotted on skyscrapers to skip from one meeting to the next by helicopter.

It’s a gross example of how an elite can insulate themselves from a collective social problem.

To use a non-technical term, the traffic in Cork is ‘mad’. We need to start thinking of something radical as a way past the gridlock.

With the newest United Nations climate reports outlining that current climate action pledges have us on track for an unbearable 2.5C of warming, helicopters are definitely not the answer. But something has to change because the status quo is bad for the environment, bad for mental health, and bad for the economy.

Everyone has a theory about why Cork’s traffic is so bad at the moment - roadworks at the Dunkettle Interchange, the new traffic direction on Brian Boru Street, drivers flouting the Pana ban, workers back in the office instead of working from home... It’s likely a combination of all those reasons and more, but the congested streets are making Corkonians cranky.

Everyone has a traffic saga story to get off their chest. “It took me an hour and 20 minutes to drive from Douglas to Midleton yesterday morning”; “I went for the 5pm bus to Passage and arrived at 6.50pm”; “I waited two hours for the bus and when it finally arrived it was full”; “Glasheen to Glanmire is taking me an hour every morning”.

At the moment, you could fly to London in the time it takes people to drive 10km across the city centre. It’s nuts! And it’s getting nuttier.

A video circulated on social media last week showing a road rage incident in Douglas, where a driver got out of his car to remonstrate with the driver behind for beeping at him. Shockingly, the beeping driver reacted violently by physically assaulting the remonstrating driver. Clearly, there is more going on than traffic frustration when someone starts boxing a complete stranger over a disagreement about a yellow box junction, but I’ve witnessed a lot of tension and anger around the city lately, much of it, I imagine, caused by the intense irritation of inch-ing from A to B.

Rules of the road

Some of the traffic log-jams are caused by poor driver behaviour and seeming amnesia about basic rules of driving. Don’t break red lights. Don’t enter a yellow box junction unless your exit is clear.

Regularly, I see not just one car breaking the lights as they change from amber to red, but three drivers barging through, and then finding themselves stuck in a yellow box junction, blocking the path of another lane of traffic. Cue honking and raised blood pressure for all.

The traffic has gotten so bad people are adopting an ‘every man for himself’ attitude, forgetting that if we stop respecting other drivers, or the rules of the road, then we snarl things up for everyone, us included.

The supposed, but entirely unenforced, ban of private cars on Patrick Street from 3pm to 6.30pm is the perfect example. Every evening at rush hour, at any one time, there are between 30-50 cars on the street, impeding the passage of buses packed with people. A few individual drivers putting themselves before the hundreds of people using public transport.

It must be so incredibly frustrating to be a bus driver, stationary behind these selfish drivers messing up the journeys of so many. Surely there is a solution to this tiny part of the traffic problem? If the gardaí can’t police it, how about dash cams on buses to take the registration numbers of cars that are blocking their way on Patrick Street, or other bus lanes, and the issuing of fines? Or tolling cameras? Or spikes in the road that pop the tyres of private cars? Something! Anything!

Public transport

Cork is a small city, we don’t live in a metropolis, it should be easy to get around.

A functional public transport system which offers an efficient and credible alternative to sitting in traffic is what the city needs, along with more people walking and cycling. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are in a Catch-22 where those who do take the bus are rewarded with lengthy waits and journey times because of the crappy traffic. BusConnect can’t come fast enough.

Commuter trains, walking and cycling offer hope for the time being. Anyone who can take the train from east Cork should, it’s €3.45 to go from Carrigtwohill to Kent with an 18 minute journey time!

I know I’m a broken record about cycling, but bikes are so perfect to help the traffic problem it would really be great to see more people leave their cars at home.

For those afraid of two wheels, simply walking distances less than 5km would take lots of cars off the road. Walking for 45 minutes to work or college instead of fuming in an unmoving vehicle for the same amount of time is a much better start to the day.

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