“Half measures aren’t enough”: Businesses, and campaigners hit out at Dublin City Council “pedestrianisation” plans

— Part-pedestrianisation or footpath extensions only on Capel Street, South William Street and Merrion Row.

— Very little progress on northside says campaigners and members of the public.

Businesses and campaigners have criticised Dublin City Council for a lackluster pedestrianisation plan ahead of opening up of outdoor dining as COVID-19 restrictions are partly lifted.

Panti Bliss said: “Well, the proposed ‘pedestrianisation’ of Capel St is a total disappointment. As I originally worried, it’s only the very far end of the street.
And the Pantibar end? No change at all. Even left with the full three lanes of traffic!”

Campain group, Streets Are for People said: “The word ‘pedestrianised’ is getting watered down a lot lately. (South William Street, Merrion Row, Capel Street?) To pedestrianise means to close a street or area to traffic, making it accessible only to pedestrians.”

Dublin Commuter Coalition said: “The Capel Street “City Recovery” Plan has been announced… and as Northsiders will no doubt be accustomed to… it prioritises traffic flow over pedestrian space. The road remains open to traffic with just a small amount of pedestrianisation.”

DublinTown, which describes itself as a business group representing 2,500 businesses in Dublin City Centre, said yesterday that it is expressing “its concern with the partial pedestrian plans announced by Dublin City Council”.

The stance from DublinTown is seen as a change of direction from a group which use to campaign to protect and promoted the status quo of car access in the city centre.

Richard Guiney, the CEO of DublinTown, said: “We need more ambition with pedestrian plans. Businesses and the public want more pedestrianisation. Businesses need more outside space. We want people feeling safe and relaxed when they return to the city. So please DCC create pedestrian zones. Half measures aren’t enough.”

It said: “The limited and partial plans do not reflect the wishes of the majority of the business community or the wider public. The position regarding South William Street is a particular case in point. Before the pandemic DublinTown commissioned Red C to test sentiment towards the street’s potential pedestrianisation with the public in a statistically reliable survey. Dublin Town also surveyed the business community. The proposal was overwhelmingly supported by both. This positive sentiment is likely to have increased during the pandemic.”

DublinTown said that’s 20% of city customers drive to the city and that only small minority of 17% of those car drivers said they would stop visiting the city if their car park of choice was less accessible. It said: “Of that 17%, the majority are those least likely to visit the city. They tend not to be city customers.”

It said: “Part pedestrianisation of streets is confusing for customers and may act as a deterrent to their full use of city streets. It is also confusing and frustrating for businesses who need access to the street for outdoor dining and queueing.”

“Dubliners love their city and want it to survive. They know that many businesses will not make it through the pandemic and that those surviving are financial vulnerable. They want them and their city to return to full strength. All parties including Dublin City Council have to play their part to give struggling businesses a fighting chance,” DublinTown said.

It added: “This is the first test of Dublin City Council’s proposals for the re-opening of the city. Businesses are asking, is the Council willing and able to test its own rhetoric and policies in the cold light of commercial reality? Is it prepared to work and engage with businesses to help as many of them as possible survive this current crisis?”

The future of Dublin City Centre can be bright.  The public have amassed savings.  The unique offering and experience of the city, is precisely the attraction they want.  However, Dublin city centre businesses have experienced the hardest economic knocks of the pandemic.  Many streets will face large levels of vacancy on re-opening.  We must do everything possible to help those businesses who can open to continue to trade, continue to provide employment and we must also encourage new and appropriate investment.  This can only be done where there is a genuine willingness to listen and engage and to provide the public with the city that they are calling for.  Decision makers must listen.

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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