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VVI Audit of Capel Street, Dublin, Highlights Hazzards of Outdoor Dining to Visually Impaired People

VVI Report Summary on Parliament Street

Inspected by Rosita and Robbie:

Inshore Furniture

Directly outside of establishments at the inshore, can be found tables, chairs, barrels, and small planters. This can occur even where the establishment has outdoor seating opposite on the new build-outs. Sometimes can be found tables with no chairs. It should be remembered that this furniture is unsegregated from the footway.

Obstacles on the footway
Photo showing barrels and other obstacles on the footway

Such inshore obstacles are:

  1. trip hazards.
  2. Snag-hazzards for long-cane users.
  3. Edges of tables are collision-hazzards at waist height.
  4. Familiar inshore landmarks are buried beneath an everchanging landscape of ad hoc furniture. If this inshore furniture has permission, how was such permission granted by Dublin City Council (DCC)? If it doesn’t have permission, why hasn’t DCC done anything about it?
  5. Where is the due regard to safety of vulnerable pedestrians obliged in the Planning Act, S254?

Regular ignoring of new outdoor seating areas.

There are regular examples of furnigure (including tables) encroaching on the footway from the new outdoor seating areas, i.e., crossing well over the metal strip and well into the footway.

Metal strip obstacles on the footway
Photo of seating crossing the metal strip on the footway

Indeed, in some cases, the entire zones (including matting) cut well into the already-narrow footway space, and canopy anchors are also to be in the footway area (i.e.. This poses the same risks as mentioned in (1) above, edge of the pavement, I’d be liable to clip my hand on the edge of the table as they’re physically too close to the edge of the pavement. Where the kerb would have been previously).

Designated Outdoor Dining Areas too Cluttered

Quoting Rosita, a guide-dog owner and one of the VVI auditors, “there are too many seats within the area (especially the second area mentioned above) myself and a guide dog couldn’t navigate it safely and to complicate matters further because of layout, if I was sitting at a table closest to the planters, and other people decided to sit in the same row as me, I would be physically unable to pass them to head back to the pavement. They would be blocking the only route out from the seating area.”

There also seem to be no additional bins as there will be more food waste and packaging left behind after people have finished eating.”

Outdoor dining seats, barrels and large planters
Photo showing a large amount of outdoor dining seats, barrels and large planters

Hazzardous Canopy Anchor Cords (guy lines)

There are several instances of canopy anchor cords descending diagonally into the footway area, meaning that they are liable to snag a vulnerable pedestrian in the neck or face, or otherwise put them off balance.

No evidence of monitoring by DCC.

Canopy anchor cord crossing into the footway
Photo showing instance of a canopy anchor cord crossing into the footway

Inadequate Segregation

Quite often, we found no segregation at either end of the outdoor seating areas, meaning that a visually impaired person could inadvertently find themselves entangled in diners and furniture.

Overlapping with Bicycle Lane

At one point, some of an outdoor seating space is up on the kerb, while seating beside it is down off the kerb (on the road, and the space between them leads directly onto a bicycle lane.
This is unnecessarily putting the vulnerable diner in harm’s way.

Outdoor dining seating area too close to bike lanes
Photo showing outdoor dining seating area too close to bike lanes

Narrow footways.

As mentioned earlier, in many places already narrow footways have been substantially constricted futher, so that it is difficult to see how, in places, even a single power wheelchair could fit through (consultation with Physical Impairment Ireland needed on same).

Narrowing of the footway due to outdoor seating and other obstacles
Photo showing a narrowing of the footway due to outdoor seating and other obstacles

Hot Liquid Hazzard

The brand new hazard of footway pinch-points between pedestrians walking one way along a footway and others carrying hot liquids etc. in a perpendicular direction from the businesses to the outdoor seating, has yet to receive satisfactory attention by DCC.

Where does the insurance liability rest in the case of an accident occurring from this extra health and safety hazard?

Conclusion:

There is no evidence of monitoring or policing of conditions by DCC. This means, effectively, that it is a free-for-all, and is likely to disimprove if left to its own devices.

As things stand, this ongoing situation disables pedestrians with visual impairments using Capel Street.

We have not, as yet, audited Parliament Street, but we have no reason to think that the results would be much different.

Note a photographic file of our audit has been made to back up our findings above.

Small planters and other small obstacles crossing the metal strip
Photo showing small planters and other small obstacles crossing the metal strip on the footway