In September 2016 Dublin City Council engineer Will Mangan received 27 postcards from children in Saint Columba’s Primary School North Strand, Dublin 3.
The children in the senior classes 3rd – 6th had enough of the dangerous situation outside of their school at the pedestrian lights. On a daily basis red lights were being ignored by cyclists and cars while the children were crossing the road on a green pedestrian light. To add to this danger the junior room, consisting of much younger children, cross at this pedestrian crossing and the situation was becoming unmanageable. In order to tackle this issue the senior children took it upon themselves to individually write to engineer Will Mangan requesting solutions to this problem before someone got seriously injured or worse killed.
What arrived in to Will were 27 powerfully visualised postcards depicting the daily struggle the children from Saint Columba’s face arriving and leaving school every day, and it did not paint a pretty picture. While some images visualised a future where everyone obeyed the rules of the road more portrayed images of injuries, scared children and general chaos at the crossing outside their school. Each postcard contained a written message detailing the children’s daily experience and the fears they felt.
The postcards were received while An Garda Síochána was beginning to launch the 2016 ‘Safer Roads for Dublin’ campaign which coincidentally focused on red light running. Dublin City Council brought the postcards to the attention of An Garda Síochána and after viewing the postcards and obtaining permission from the children and their Principal Ann Creaner, An Garda Síochána, Road Safety Authority, Dublin Bus, LUAS, TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland), National Transport Authority and all four Dublin Local Authorities in the 2016 Safer Roads for Dublin Campaign were delighted to showcase, support and endorse the children’s messaging for the campaign launch.
At the Safer Roads for Dublin launch on the 10th October 2016 Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid, head of Dublin’s Traffic Corps, said:
“We are aiming this red light running campaign at all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians and appealing to them to reduce the risk to themselves and others by simply obeying the rules of the road when the traffic light is red. It seems a simple ask, and maybe a lesser offence, but when you consider there are 1,620 sets of traffic lights in Dublin, even one breach each day equals 1,620 potential collisions. Heed the message we are sending out today – Don’t gamble with your safety – red means stop for all!”
Chief Superintendent Reid continued:
“This campaign is all about reducing risks. Risks cause injury and fatalities on our roads. This year has seen 12 road deaths in Dublin, one more than in 2015 so we must re-double our efforts to ensure this does not increase further. A special word of thanks goes out to St Columba’s primary school for their contribution to road safety. It is initiatives like these that make a difference. So, like St Columba’s, we appeal to every road user to play their part to keep Dublin’s roads as safe as possible for all who use them.”
Helen Smirnova and Will Mangan oversaw engineering solutions to the issues faced by the children.
Extra signage to highlight the pedestrian crossing were installed, the Road Safety Unit organised two traffic wardens on site at St Columba’s School and a system to monitor cyclists red light running was introduced. Alterations to the traffic signals were made via the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) section to make the junction more pedestrian friendly.
While all these measures are greatly welcomed the issue around individual user behaviour is not so easily solved. It is up to each of us that use the roads to ensure we do so in a safe and respectful manner and in accordance with the rules of the road. Red lights are there to be obeyed, to ensure the safety of other road users and as the picture below states ‘Red Lights Aren’t Optional’. The potential harm that can arise from red light running by any road user cannot be underestimated. Everyone has a part to play in road safety, and even small actions can lead to big changes on our roads.
I would like to thank all the children and Principal Ann Creaner at Saint Columba’s, all the staff in the Environment and Transportation Department, An Garda Síochána and all the stakeholders involved in the ‘Safer Roads for Dublin’ campaign.
I will let the children’s messages speak for themselves…