— Idea originally put forward by local businesses but opposed by some larger retailers, car parks, and city traffic officials
— Opposing councilors range from saying its “anti-motorist and anti-taxi driver” to that it should be done on residential streets
Councilors in Dublin City have voted to set a draft policy to introduce traffic-free sections of South William Street, Drury Street, Exchequer Court and Dame Court and Dame Lane, while “ensuring that access to car parks and deliveries is still provided for”.
The area is popular for shopping, dinning and nightlife.
The draft policy will now be part of the Draft City Development Plan 2016 – 2022, which is currently at public consultation at dublincitydevelopmentplan.ie.
It will still have to make it past the final development plan vote and, if any project to carry out the project is progressed, it would then be subject to further public consultation.
The chief executive’s report on the proposed policy stated that the objective “is too specific for the development plan.” The manager’s report added: “The Strategic Approach of the Movement and Transport section aims to restrict through traffic and calming traffic generally as set out in Objective MTO36 (P104) and to give increased levels of priority and permeability for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, along with associated improvements to the public realm. This is considered sufficient.”
But Cllr Cuffe Cuffe (Green Party), who was proposing the motion, referred to a previous failed motion on contra-flow cycling and said: “It tends to be the road objections which get delivered because they are included in the plan. But when it comes to contra-flow cycling issues, they tend to be put on the back burner. I sat down with the then city manager 24 years ago, along with Alderman [Carmencita] Hederman, to try and introduce contra-flow cycle lanes and was told ‘we’ll look at that and we’ll come back to you’.”
He continued: “24 years later there’s a couple of hundred yards of contra-flow lanes in this city. If they are not in the plan, they tend not to happen. And in that regard, the proposals to gradually extend the car-free areas of the city centre need to be written into the plan.”
He said that the proposal was not a new one. Cllr Cuffe stated: “Several years ago when Cllr Montague was mayor he convened a meeting in the Mansion House of a group who wanted to gradually increase the car-free areas within the southeast inner city, with in the central business district. They produced a very carefully put together proposal that did not completely pedestrianise the city but took a few small stretches of streets and said let’s look at removing cars out of these areas for certain periods of time — that’s what I’ve put into the motion hear before you.”
He called it a “modest proposal which deserves support.” The motion ended up getting that support with 32 votes for and 9 against, however there was some debate:
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent), questioned the location. He said: “I would not necessarily be in favour of this at all. Why would you pick these particular streets as opposed to other streets? Why not pick an area where there’s loads of kids in danger to say no traffic? These are trendy streets, in a trendy area, which have become very sought after. And when they were closed down for traffic [temporarily] it became a kind of zone for everybody but the local people to engage in. Why don’t you close down Mercer Street and York Street? They are far more dangerous and there are families living up there.”
Cllr Flynn said: “If you’re going to look for a traffic ban or a traffic ban in cities, ban it where people can really use it in their daily lives. Because the children in York Street are risking their lives every single day trying to get past the massive amounts of traffic going into the car parks Royal College of Surgeons etc.”
He added: “But I really don’t like these kind of particular kind of cool endeavors. Get consistent, get real. I’m all on for large parts of the city to be completely without cars to be totally pedestrianised… I’d rather see the footpaths cleared of sandwich (advertisement) boards.”
Cllr Andrew Montague said: “This proposal came from residents and businesses of the area, so it’s not just coming out of nowhere.”
“It’s an area which could benefit. You’ve got a lot of cars going up very narrow streets and the area would benefit hugely from removing those cars. It’s come from the residents and traders — there was a consultation and there was widespread support for the proposal,” said Cllr Montague.
Cllr David Costello (Fianna Fail), said: “It is anti-motorist and anti-taxi driver, so I say no.”
Cllr David Costello said: “Again, I’m putting my own personal feeling aside and my personal choice in wanting to drive my car into the city when I’m collecting large objects and bringing family into the city because I find it very convenient, I can’t support this motion for two reasons: The first is that I do think it will restrict access to businesses and car parks in the area and also think the motion is anti-taxi driver.”
He said if older people cannot get dropped off to an exact location by a taxi that they would “get a bus”.
Cllr Daithi DeRoiste (Fianna Fail) said: “I just want to echo Cllr Costello’s and Cllr Flynn’s comments. Again, it’s ‘let’s ban motorists’.” He said it would be better to ban sandwich boards or rickshaws.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) said: “We’re talking about a very small part of the city to allow pedestrians to have the enjoyment of that part of the city. It is not a long distance from either end of any of these streets for people to walk. As Andrew Montague said, let’s put it out to public consultation and see what people say.”
Cllr Paul McAuliffe (Fianna Fail) said he favours the motion as “it calls for sections of the streets to be made traffic-free rather than the entire area of the streets. I also think that Dame Lane, the streets running parallel to Dame Street, are the medieval high street of the city — it’s quite narrow and lends itself to pedistraination.”
He added: “I’m sure there were people who objected to Grafton Street being made pedestrianised but I don’t think anybody here would look for it to be reversed.”