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STOP! Wait. Go?

Aakriti Sood


One Good Idea

Street clutter in Dublin is a topic of ongoing discussion, with a profileration of unnecessary signage limiting accessibility, visibility, and the value of public space for all. DCC, the NTA, and other stakeholders need to cooperate and support dedicated in-house urban design departments to improve the quality of our capital’s streets.

A visual journey through Dublin. Image by Aakriti Sood

The question remains: why is Dublin faring far worse than its European counterparts?

From obsolete road signs to haphazard bollards to substandard advertisements, Dublin’s street furniture is proliferating the streetscape and it isn't painting a pretty picture. Street clutter in the city has become a topic of discussion in recent years, yet this newfound awareness has yielded little to no change [1]. The current result is a volume of signage that renders itself useless; it is nearly impossible to navigate which sign is relevant at which junction for which mode of transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) and the Transport InfrastructureIreland (TII) are responsible for creating guidelines on street furniture and have quite strict yet ambiguous guidance towards street safety. In one section of the Traffic Signs Manual, it states that, where possible, signs should have their individual poles, but in a different section the manual recommends post sharing on streets to minimise obstruction [2]. The NTA and the Dublin City Council (DCC) Transportation Department both have the authority to put up street signs and there is a perceptible lack of communication between the two. This has led to a lack of rationale and incurred duplication. Here it seems the council and the NTA are embracing a ‘top-down’ approach instead of approaching streets on a case-by-case basis. The lack of a clearly defined hierarchy within this system allows the circle of shifting blame between different bodies to perpetuate; it seems only revisiting and updating the relevant legislation might help put a stop to this cycle.

Multiples of duplicated signs, bins along D'Olier Street. Image by Aakriti Sood

The question remains: why is Dublin faring far worse than its European counterparts? Take Edinburgh as an example – a Georgian city of a comparable size to that of our capital. In 2016, the Department of Transport in Scotland introduced the Traffic Signs Regulations andGeneral Directions (TSRGD) [3]. These put forth a general directive and gave local authorities the right to rationalise and remove any redundant street signs, a simple action that asserted a clear hierarchy of responsibility. This decentralisation programme, initiated by the Scottish government, has helped cut a lot of time, cost, and red tape associated with the transport department. The local councils in Edinburgh, in turn, have set out comprehensive street audits that allows local groups to assess the design quality of the street furniture and layout in their area. Groups can conduct these audits in their vicinity and bring the results to their local area offices. This has been a successful strategy across the city in combatting the proliferation of signage. Edinburgh’s ‘bottom-up’ approach has given its citizens the power to quite literally make the change that they want to see in their city. A lot of the leg work to bring in these reforms was undertaken by a non-profit group called ‘Living Streets Edinburgh’ [4].

In 2018, the city banned all temporary advertisement boards from the streets to improve pedestrian safety and visual amenity. Edinburgh is paving the way in the UK, as London followed suit soon after and has since also banned advertisement boards [5] while the audit system is gaining traction in various cities and towns in the UK.

Poorly displayed directional signs, unauthorised advertisements, and repeated stop signs along George's Street. Image by Aakriti Sood

However, it’s unfair to entirely blame legislation alone for the current state of Dublin; laws do exist in Ireland but there is an abject lack of enforcement in our capital. A plethora of policies is rendered useless without a body to enforce these measures. The Dublin Wayfinding Scheme was introduced in 2011 to rationalise and replace redundant signs in conjunction with the Dublin Bikes initiative. Yet outdated signs are occupying the city’s streets more than a decade later, demonstrating how frequently (or infrequently) street layouts are assessed. In the past few years, a number of streets have been pedestrianised yet without outdated car-centric signs being removed. An objective in the previous Dublin City Development Plan (2016-2022) to assess street furniture was virtually abandoned until 2021 when more than five-hundred redundant poles were taken off the streets of the capital, paying heed to the outcries of residents against the deplorable condition of the urban realm. This act only managed to scratch the surface of street clutter and indicated just how radically the urban realm can and must be re-assessed [6]. The initiative to audit the capital’s streets has since been carried over to the current development plan (2022-2028), which commits to auditing streets and promoting street furniture co-sharing with no clear directive or timeline. DCC, the NTA, and other stakeholders need to cooperate. Following in the footsteps of our neighbours, Irish local authorities must establish dedicated in-house urban design departments to assist in the resolution of contemporary urban issues. A significant number of policymakers tasked with designing our capital city lack a background in urban planning or design, and the consequences are palpable when walking down just about any street.

... laws do exist in Ireland but there is an abject lack of enforcement in our capital. A plethora of policies is rendered useless without a body to enforce these measures.

One Good Idea is a series of articles which focuses on the simple, concise discussion of a complex spatial issue. Each piece is presented as a starting point towards a topic that the author believes should be part of broader public discourse. For all enquiries and potential contributors, please contact

One Good Idea is supported by the Arts Council through the Architecture Project Award Round 2 2022.


1. W. O'Connor, ‘Not-so-fair city needs a makeover and decluttering, says An Taisce’, Irish Independent, 6 March 2022,, (accessed 1 September 2022).

2. Department of Transport, Traffic Signs Manual 2020 [updated], retrieved 1 September 2022, from

3. The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016, available at:, (Accessed 28 August 2022).

4. ‘Walking Campaign Calls For More Action On Street Clutter After A-Board Ban Success’, Living Streets Edinburgh, [website], 29 November 2019,, (accessed 26 September 2022).

5. D. Hill, 2020. ‘City Corporation to rid its pavements of advertising boards’, OnLondon,[website], 23 May 2019,, (accessed 26 September 2022).

6. V. Flynn, ‘Bin, bin, pole: the clutter turning Dublin into an obstacle course’, The Times, 5 February 2022,, (accessed 26 August 2022).


Aakriti Sood

Aakriti Sood is currently living and working in Dublin after graduating with a Masters in Architecture from UCD in 2021, with her thesis focusing on social sustainability in contemporary cities. Having grown up in Chandigarh and Mumbai, she has developed a keen interest in the urban realm and it’s public space, and the conservation and revival of the historic built fabric.


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