Temporary footpath widening, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways, and lower speed limits can be done but “requires thoughtful leadership”

IMAGE: File image of Mardyke Walk in Cork.

— Irish pedestrian and cycling groups come together to call for action.
— Over 60 towns and cities worldwide have installed low-cost measures.

Cycling and walking campaign groups are calling for action from the Government on COVID 19 social distancing space, including relocating space and reducing urban limits to 30km/h.

A list of demands include making social distancing easier, automating pedestrian crossings so people do not have to manually press signal buttons, and introduction a default speed limit of 30km/h on all urban and suburban streets. The groups want councils to prioritise the temporary widening of footpaths, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways in cities and looking at closing road lanes and specific streets to motor traffic.

The combined calls is coming from the Irish Pedestrian Network and Cyclist.ie. The Irish Pedestrian Network is a national advocacy group founded in 2019 with affiliated groups in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. While Cyclist.ie is an umbrella group for most cycle campaigns in Ireland, including 25 groups which are a mix of urban cycling campaigns and greenway groups.

Last week Dublin City Council started to reallocate street space into social distancing space for pedestrians and it plans to install a contra-flow cycle track (which has been planned for the last decade). But, as IrishCycle.com reported on Thursday, Dublin motorists have already taken to parking in the newly allocated social distancing space.

Ailish Drake, a spokesperson for the Irish Pedestrian Network, said: “The New Zealand government has empowered local communities to create more social distancing space by providing 90% funding for new footpaths and widen existing ones, and to create pop-up bike lanes. These measures can be put in place in a matter of hours or a few days using paint, blocks or planters.”

Drake added: “These temporary actions in response to the COVID 19 emergency, would be strategic in creating a positive culture change to make our towns and cities more liveable and contributing to a much needed boost in footfall required to aid the economic recovery when we move beyond the current crisis. This is in line with current government policy for both urban and rural regeneration development funds.”

Orla Burke, spokesperson for Pedestrian Cork, said: “Families in Cork, denied the opportunity to drive to their favourite walking spots, are coming face-to-face with the poor provision for walking in their immediate neighbourhoods.”

“Quick wins are available to our councils but this requires thoughtful leadership. This could be a time for simple yet effective improvements to facilitate walking. We call on our local authorities to rise to the challenge of Covid-19 make our streets safe for all,” said Burke.

Anne Cronin, a spokeperson for the Cycle Bus Limerick, said: “For children that live in the city or suburbs, jumping on their bike with a parent, is their only way to connect with a space outside of their home. Many children are forced to cycle on the road as opposed to the footpath and therefore are at risk without segregation.”

She added: “The increase in the numbers of children cycling in our city is remarkable at the moment and children should be protected and supported to remain doing so.”

Damien Ó Tuama, spokesperson for Cyclist.ie, said: “Over sixty towns and cities worldwide, in recognition of this new reality, have quickly installed low-cost temporary measures by using cones to widen footpaths and repurposing full vehicle lanes to cycle lanes.”

The two groups have asked the Government to implement the following nationally:

  • “Make social distancing easier for those walking or cycling to shops or essential work.”
  • “Automated pedestrian crossings so people do not have to manually press signal buttons.”
  • “Introduction of a default speed limit of 30km/h on all urban and suburban streets.”
  • “A proportionate reallocation of road space to pedestrians and cyclists, to make walking and cycling safer for those who are exercising within their 2km zone, especially those with prams or wheelchairs.”
  • “Local authorities to prioritise temporary widening of footpaths, pop-up cycle lanes, quietways in cities and/or closing road lanes and specific streets to motor traffic (for example: by the temporary application of DMURS standards to existing streets).”
  • “New space to be allocated fairly and with consideration of universal needs across city centre, suburbs, towns and villages to avoid people ‘flocking’ to centralised areas.”
  • “Dedicated teams in each local authority to enable local residents and interested groups to plan and design temporary footpaths and cycle lanes in their locality.”
  • “Rapid implementation of said routes with a design strategy to clearly indicate new routes to users and motorists.”

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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