“We live in greystown aera &the speed of vehicles coming up&down the street is frightening,Its a built up area with lots of children &we can’t let our kids out the front.Something has to be done before it’s to late.”
So starts a thread on Nextdoor. The replies:
Indeed. What price is a child’s life? People list incidents, collisions, some resulting in damage to property. And Department for Infrastructure refuse to act.
A petition will not achieve much either. A petition with 1500 signatures calling for the pedestrianisation of Hill Street, supported by politicians of every hue and local businesses was airily dismissed by DfI. And unless someone dies in Greystown, the residents’ petition is equally doomed to fail.
Greystown Park is a road that links Finaghy Road South to Upper Malone Road. It is a residential road, but as so many residential roads in Belfast is used as an alternative to avoid queuing traffic at the top of Finaghy Road South and bypassing some of the morning rush hour congestion on Upper Malone Road.
Greystown Close is a cul-de-sac off Greystown Park.
Greystown Avenue is a residential cul-de-sac, off Greystown Park, but it also links to Finaghy Road South with a footpath.
The residents want to see traffic calming, i.e. speed bumps, but other voices question their usefulness in reducing traffic volume or speed.
At nearby Diamond Gardens in Finaghy speed bumps fail to deter the number of drivers choosing residential streets in order to avoid the chronic congestion at Finaghy crossroads.
Speeding remains an issue. At Strangford Avenue traffic speeds are not noticeably lower despite speed bumps, because the road environment in between encourages driving at 30mph.
The two streets require different solutions to their problem.
Northern Ireland Water carried out work that blocked off the entrance to Upper Malone Road. Traffic for the entire neighbourhood was rerouted through the Finaghy Road South entrance. Traffic volume was notably lighter in the morning rush hour as rat running drivers were forced to use the main road instead.
Greystown Park can be severed for motor vehicles just above the junction with Greystown Close.
Pedestrian and cyclist access can be maintained, but rat-running will be prevented.
The question is whether residents are willing to give up the minor convenience of having two access points for their neighbourhood to stop the major inconvenience of rat running and careless driving?
Through decades of car-centred road design and planning, coupled with conditioning from manufacturers, Belfast residents have come to think of cars as their only or preferred mode of transport. Any measures to reduce the negative impact of motoring are framed as reduction of personal freedoms in the local media.
The key to introducing traffic control measures is getting community input and ownership.
Sadly, we live in NI, where we are administered by faceless bureaucrats who operate without much oversight from our politicians.
Attempts to address any issues on and surrounding our roads are routinely stonewalled by the Department for Infrastructure.
Greystown Avenue is a cul-de-sac, so a 20mph or even 15mph speed limit, enforced by placement of planters, installing speed tables and chicanes will result in a much safer environment for children to play.
Another example here in Houten, near Utrecht, where, despite completely prioritising pedestrian and cycle traffic, residents can easily access their house by car.
Inspired by the plunger bike lanes in the US, residents could take matters into their own hand and improve their street.
One tactic that could work locally is for residents to park on alternate sides of the street to create chicanes, forcing traffic to slow down. It wouldn’t take much organising. You see your neighbour’s car as you drive up, so you park on the opposite side. The only agreement you need is for people to park their cars at the kerb, rather than on the drive.
Another tool to effect long-term change is to install a temporary parklet, such as these in London:
These could be developed by a residents’ committee as a community play area, seating with views over Belfast, or simply to meet and chat with neighbours. They are temporary, but could, if successful, easily be converted to permanent features.
In the meantime
In the meantime, residents need to organise; to log every traffic incident (however minor) and report them to the PSNI. They need to build a case for converting their street to a safer area for all to enjoy. They need to think creatively and approach political representatives as a collective. And they need to come up with creative and eye-catching ways to alert local media to their cause.