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Is it time for a car-free South William Street in Dublin?

A trial of part-pedestrianisation of South William Street (a street west of and parallel to Dublin’s Grafton Street) was suggested and supported by small and medium sized businesses in the area, but was shot down because of pressure from the likes of Brown Thomas. With Luas Cross City about to open in December, is now the time to re-examine the suggestion?


Why is now the right time and why is it a good idea? The College Green Plaza will mean that there will be less through traffic in the area, and people cycling need be given alterative north-south routes to avoid the Luas Cross City tram tracks as much as possible.

But one of the main reason is the life of the street — people ambling, shopping or meeting with friends or family in the restaurants, cafes, and pubs — is being held back due to the dominance of cars.

But why allow cycling at all? It’s a designated primary cycle route in the Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network for good reason — there is little two-way permeability for cycling between George’s Street and Kildare Street. Grafton Street, the Luas tracks and the general lack of permeability is a hindrance to cycling in the area.

The car parked to the right of the image below illustrates that the street isn’t as narrow as many people think — the space is just poorly allocated:

“What about the Brown Thomas car park?”

We know some people will ask “What about the Brown Thomas car park?”. The map below is the answer — maintain access from the car park by chaining the flow of South William Street between the car park exit and the junction of Exchequer Street / Wicklow Street:

Red = reverse flow
Yellow = walking and cycling only
Green = keep flow as is

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It would be even better if the flow of cars within the car park was reversed (if it’s possible). It would mean that the red section above keeps the traffic direction flow as is, but it is only for access to BT car park. This would be better for the car park and its users, so that the “out” flow isn’t cross-crossing the “in” flow on the streets around the car park. But this solution would likely require a high level of buy in from the car park owners.

There’s also private car parks under offices on the street, but these are small and in/out access can be maintained via Chatham Street, if needed.

It’s not that narrow of a street

For a street which isn’t a main road, the street is actually fairly wide — generally around 12 metres wide. This image gives an idea of the street’s widths.  Also of note is that a lot of the street has private strips of land between the buildings and the roadways.

In any case, the section which will provide access to the Brown Thomas car park is one of the narrowest sections, yet you can still fit a lot in it. For example, a layout like one, with just around 19 meters wide.

A more typical section might look like this:

Real-world concept examples:

Access to car park sections:

Cycling/walking only section:


IMAGES: Cross-sections made with is reader-funded journalism. That means it's funded by readers like you.

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Cian Ginty


  1. There is absolutely no need for traffic to be allowed on South William Street, but there will still be the usual considerable resistance and lobbying from Brown Thomas and Dublin Town on this, and you can expect it to be quietly dropped in a few months.

  2. Why is a fecking car-park company allowed to dictate street usage in the area around it? Seriously…. Can’t we as citizens decide what we do with our streets?

  3. Yes, as well as Wicklow St and Exchequer St. That whole area is one of the city’s best and is ruined by traffic and narrow footpaths. Try eating outside one of the cafes there, not pleasant. There is hardly enough room at lunch time / weekends for pedestrians let alone cyclists. As for the Brown Thomas car park, who cares about Brown Thomas? A people friendly city centre far outweighs whatever their concerns are (i.e. private profit)

  4. Oh Yes!! Lets make this happen, sidewalks are too narrow for businesses and pedestrians. Businesses are not able to put tables up front properly, and when walking, you always end up bumping shoulders of fellow walkers trying to squeeze through. South William street is where I would go to meet my friends almost every weekend It could be so much better without the cars. Been talking about it for ages now, great to see this article.

  5. They should have banned cars parking on the street years ago for a start. The street is permanently clogged with parked cars, sitting there all day doing nothing, while the tiny footpaths that are ‘transporting’ hundreds of people every day are actually much thinner even than the width of a small parked car. Makes no sense.


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