In Drimnagh, One Man Takes on the Flow of Heavy Vehicles

“It’s not like this street exists in order to facilitate the shipping in and out of their warehouse,” says Steve Schwartz. “The street exists because people live on it.”

Yet since last May when Schwartz moved onto Keeper Road in Drimnagh, he has watched heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) pass by his house each day.

Many are on their way to the C&C Gleeson drinks distributor warehouse, which sits further down the residential street.

“See, there we go,” says Schwartz, on Thursday afternoon. He points to the living room window as another five-axle Bulmers truck bounces over the speed ramp near his front gate.

Gathering Evidence

There’s no easy fix when it comes to the dozens of HGVs passing by his house each day, says Schwartz. The vehicles have to access the nearby warehouse.

But he still wants to highlight the potentially dangerous and disruptive traffic – and has used an old iPhone to help him put his case together.

He downloaded an app and hooked the phone up on a stand by the window. When a vehicle of a certain height drove past, the iPhone took a photograph.

Schwartz hands me several sheets of data: lists of the dates, times, writing on the vehicle’s sides, the number of axles, and direction of travel.

The data is from June 2016, he says. “If anything, it’s gotten worse.”

One entry reads: “12:26:15 – White cab ‘McCardle’, red ‘K Line’ container – 6 east – Four 6-axle trucks in just over two minutes.”

According to the data Schwartz has collected, heavy-goods vehicles make an average of 70 trips a day down Keeper Road.

On top of that, there are 64 bus journeys up and down Keeper Road every day, on the 122 Dublin Bus route. Schwartz wonders how such heavy traffic is allowed in a residential area.

Side Effects

At the end of Keeper Road, a “3.5 tonne limit” sign was recently replaced by a “30 km/h” sign with a picture of playing children.

Schwartz maintains that both have been routinely ignored since he moved in May 2016.

Ann-Marie Brown, who handles consumer relations for C&C Gleeson, said that HGVs do use Keeper Road on a daily basis.

“When in use we ensure at all times they follow the agreed speed limits and routing as defined by the RSA [Road Safety Authority],” she said.

According to the Road Safety Authority, it’s up to the local authority – in this case Dublin City Council – to monitor or, if it wants, to prevent HGVs from travelling a certain stretch of road, said RSA Communications Officer Elaine Gibson.

But that isn’t possible in this case, according to a council email from 17 June 2016 to Schwartz.

In it, Brenda O’Reilly from Dublin City Council’s Road and Traffic Department said that weight restrictions on vehicles don’t apply where it’s necessary for vehicles to enter a road “solely for the purpose of gaining access”.

Neither do restrictions on the number of vehicles nor the hours of operation, the email said.

“But they could do something,” says Schwartz. The speed ramp outside doesn’t seem to work, offering only a slight tremor when a heavy vehicle passes over it.

Could the council put a more effective one in? he asked.

On 26 November 2016, an email from Dublin City Council said that speed ramps have “unwelcome side effects such as additional noise, vehicle damage and possible personal injury”. Officials decided to leave the ramp as is.

Schwarz worries that despite all the data he has collected, nothing is going to change.

“If it’s not avoidable, then there should be some steps taken to mitigate the impact on residents,” he says.

Brown of C&C Gleeson says the company hasn’t had any complaints from nearby residents in relation to delivery vehicles in more than two and a half years.

Possibilities

One possible solution might be to extend the council’s current restrictions on certain heavy vehicles between the canals, says independent Councillor Paul Hand.

He has noticed the number of HGVs in the Drimnagh area and would like to see greater enforcement, he says.

At the moment, the council restricts vehicles with more than five axles between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week.

The cordon – running between canals – was first introduced in 2007, and allows only a limited number of these larger vehicles to unload in the city centre.

In February this year, members of the council’s transportation committee were told by Head of Technical Services Brendan O’Brien that since the cordon came into effect, an average of 4,172 HGVs have been removed from city streets each day.

Schwartz, glancing out his window onto Keeper Road, says he’d be in favour of extending that cordon to perhaps help ease the flow down Keeper Road. But he’s not convinced it would do much.

It’s unlikely that the C&C warehouse will move, he says. “I mean, the thing is there, it’s not going to go away.”

Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello says the council could take some measures. “We’re essentially dealing with legacy planning issues here,” he says.

“It seem like there’s very little legislation that we can enforce, and I think some sort of dialogue between the resident, the council and C&C is the way forward,” he said.

It would be good to look at how London does deliveries, or even how companies such as UPS use smaller trucks that leave from a central drop-off point, he said. “I think, realistically, we need to look at alternatives like that for the city.”

Even something as simple as electric “Slow Down” signs could help, for now, says Schwartz.

He half-jokes about rallying residents to park their cars on the footpath and block the HGVs. But he’s not familiar with his neighbours yet.

Schwartz says he isn’t saying that C&C don’t have the right to run their business.

“I’m saying there should probably be some sort of balance between the rights of residents and the rights of them,” he says.

CORRECTION: This article was updated on 20 July at 7:10am to make it clear that Schwartz tracked the number of times HGVs and buses passed, rather than the number of individual vehicles.

Author:

Cónal Thomas: is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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