Irish Cities as Footpaths

Irish cities are roads. We could instead treat them as footpaths.

A road is a very specific place, a place that we designate with a function:

  • A way to get from A to B
  • Priority by law given to people in vehicles
  • Covered by laws encoding not slowing down those behind you

A footpath is much the default state of our world:

  • Walk where you please
  • You can’t fatally injure someone by walking
  • You’re not making much noise
  • You can bump into people and have a chat
  • You have the right to be there, no matter what your age

Let me give you an example in Limerick of the current situation. You’ve made your way into Limerick city. You had your lunch. Next you’re walking from a pharmacy called Roberts Pharmacy, to AIB bank which is about 20 metres away. You’re on the main street of Limerick city. You have one thing to cross, though: a four-lane-wide road called Lower Cecil Street.  There are two lanes of drivers on this road, driving onto O’Connell Street. And your crossing looks like this:

Lower Cecil Street in Limerick, Ireland.
Lower Cecil Street coming onto O’Connell Street. This is Limerick city as a road. Imagine you’re walking form Robert’s Pharmacy on the left to AIB Bank on the right:best of luck to you! Imagine your route if Limerick was instead a footpath. Copyright Google.

The reality of that situation is that you’re using Limerick city, and Limerick city’s core emphasis is on being a road. If you’re driving in your vehicle, you can power on through. If you’re walking “across” Limerick as a road, you only have the speed of your legs to get out of the way of people using the city as a road.

Our cities in Ireland could be footpaths. We can make them that if we wake up and realise that’s what you want. That’s where you can wander from shop to shop. You can buy your lunch, walk to grab a coffee. On a footpath, you’re not typically open to being fatally injured by vehicles. You’ve got the chance to either walk as fast as you like, or bump into friends and have a chat with them. You don’t need one-way footpaths, or traffic lights, or speed bumps, or flashing lights on a footpath.

You can be human on a footpath. Our cities can be footpaths.