Interaction 12: Dublin Observations

Last night, I posted culinary observations about Dublin. Tonight, I’ll finish my cultural observations, and then I’ll move on to posts about the conference proper.

Everyone walks fast in Dublin. While this could simply be due to the fact that it’s a larger, busier city, I don’t think that fully explains it. I’ve been to many larger cities; the speed of pedestrians in Dublin was pronounced. I tend to walk fairly quickly myself, but even people significantly shorter than me were passing me. Everybody walked faster than me.

There also seemed to be a difference in which side oncoming pedestrians expected to pass by me. I’m guessing this is a side effect of the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road.

The cast majority of intersections were designed such that pedestrians only cross one direction of traffic at a time. At each crosswalk, directions were painted on the road, indicating in which direction you should look for oncoming traffic. “LOOK RIGHT ->”

Given the large number of cyclists, I was surprised to find that there were no bike lanes. Bicycles were completely integrated with automobile traffic. I’m sure the natives are completely used to it, but it really bothered me. Not that I was biking or driving either one, but just watching them made me uncomfortable.

The Lord Mayor spoke to us at the opening reception, giving us a brief introduction to the role that design is playing in city planning. He spoke about the design of their free bike share program. They decided not to make helmets compulsory, and this has resulted in much higher participation. He also pointed out that all of the old manhole and meter covers had been set into granite blocks. Granite is plentiful in Ireland, and while the designs on the covers have worn down, the granite has stood the test of time. In recent years, concrete has been used to save time and money, but the blocks crack and need repair in short order. As Christina Wodtke tweeted, “The lord mayor of Dublin understands interaction design better than many silicon valley CEO’s I know.”

While the toilet in my hotel flushed by lever, contemporary restrooms were equipped with two-button toilets. The larger of the buttons initiated a large, number two flush, while the smaller button used less water for number one.

European electrical outlets accept a different plug than those we use in the U.S., and they have a higher voltage. The UK has their own standard, different from the European standard. I found it interesting, however, that the one outlet in my hotel bathroom wouldn’t accept the UK plug. It was designed to accept both the European and U.S. plugs, and it had a switch to change voltage. The label on it admonished me to use it for shavers only, but I used it for my iPod dock. My hypothesis is that the UK market is too small for shaver manufacturers to cater to, so they’ve provided an outlet that the majority of shavers work with.

My hotel, the O’Callaghan Mont Clare, did not provide washcloths, and bathmats were only provided upon request, according to a sign in the bathroom, although I was provided with one after I used one of the hand towels. I also found it odd that there wasn’t a sheet on the bed—just a comforter.