Councillors express frustration at slowness in making Parliament Street car-free

— Official says outdoor dining areas for eating, “certainly not for smoking” or for drinking alone.
— Former cycling campaign chair says “a vibrant living city” is needed, not just transport.

Councillors yesterday expressed frustration at the delay in making Parliament Street car-free after they had agreed to the issue being progressed.

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Diverting cars — or more so buses — from Parliament Street is seen by some as problematic until bus route changes are made, although there was no direct response on this from Dublin City Council officials when it was discussed at the South East Area Committee or the overall monthly council meeting yesterday.

The phased BusConnects routing project includes removing buses from Parliament Street.

The issue first came up at the South East Area Committee meeting after businesses complained when they were refused street furniture licences to use a former loading bay and other spaces ahead of making the street car-free.

Businesses also complained that bicycle parking was now being placed in that former loading bay which doubled as their on-street seating area.

Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) said: “I think we have all been tagged [on social media] and received emails from businesses on Parliament Street who were led to believe that the street would be pedestrianised as Capel Street has been quite successful.”

She said that the businesses have applied for street furniture licences but have been refused.

“Today one of those businesses arrived to see bike racks being put in place [in a former loading bay] where previously they would have had outdoor seating. Now, I’m obviously very pro-bike parking, that’s not the issue,” said Cllr Byrne.

She said that she and other councillors have been asking for a report on the inconstancies of the licencing of street furniture to be brought to the committee.

Cllr Byrne added: “There’s just no joined-up thinking about or coherent strategy around pedestrianisation, outdoor seating, the future of the city.”

Cllr James Geoghegan (FG) said: “There’s really no excuse for the delay in the pedestrianisation of that street, it’s really unfair for the local businesses in that street. Quite understandable for people who are looking to go for a bit to eat or a drink or whatever are going up to pedestrianised Capel Street. And all of those businesses are thriving as a result of that pedestrianisation.”

Cllr Geoghegan added: “It’s really unfair, unsatisfactory that it’s been going on for so long now and the businesses have to come to beg and crawl to us to get what they understood was agreed with the support of all of this council and the area committee and I really hope we can see this progress as quickly as possible during the summer months.”

Cllr Danny Byrne (FG) said that it was “quite ridiculous” that the businesses have been left for months without any action and then the bike rack was installed in the former loading bay in their licencing appeal timeframe.

Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) said: “I think the language is very important… in terms of Capel Street it’s not pedestrianised, it’s traffic-free. There’s a big difference in that.”

He asked fellow councillors to be more careful with what words they were using and also said that there are many people who live in the street who did not agree with the outdoor seating areas.

Frank Lambe, a senior executive at Dublin City Council, said he could not comment on individual licence cases but said: “I want to make it clear, Dublin City Council supports outdoor dining. During Covid, its value was proven to the city and the business of the city, but we are in a transition period from Covid to standard street furniture licencing.”

He said that in very many cases that the arrangements that were in place during the pandemic are appropriate to continue.

“But there are some locations where the arrangments that were in place during Covid might be appropriate into the future,” he said.

Lambe said: “There is a misconception out there also that outdoor dining areas are for smoking and drinking, they are for neither — outdoor dining areas are for dining. Certainly smoking shouldn’t be happening at all [in the dining areas]. The drinking is to be in addition to or a part of the dining.”

He said that he appreciates that it doesn’t happen that way and said that it is difficult for the council and the Gardai to take action on that.

Lambe said that officials are undertaking a city-wide review and will bring a report to the committee. He said that the alcohol advertising on the street furniture is seen by the council as problematic.

He repeated that all of his comments were general and not on any one case.

At the city-wide monthly council meeting last night Cllr Declan Meenagh (Labour), who is legally blind with only 5 per cent vision because of a rare eye condition, said that he wants to be able to both get around without tripping up and be able to enjoy sitting outside.

He said: “Today we find out that a restaurant, Street 66, looked out the window and suddenly found that there were cycle parking stands put in the loading bay that they needed for their outdoor seating that they used last year.”

Cllr Meenagh added: “Can we have joined up thinking that there’s plenty of space to park your bike and plenty of space to sit outside and enjoy the city.”

A petition to remove the bike racks has reached just under 3,000 signees when this article was published.

Siobhán Conmy, owner of Street 66, an LGBTQ bar on the street, said: “We applied for an outdoor furniture license at Street 66 as we had for 2 years during Covid. I renewed as usual. I’ve been on to Dublin City Council since October and been fobbed off.”

She added: “After calling for weeks I called last Friday and was told we were refused and received no reason and this morning, one working day, later a bike rack has been out on the loading bay outside a busy premises. We have had no chance to appeal. We want answers and our outdoor area reinstalled to help improve the city Centre for our customers and visitors alike.”

In a tweet yesterday, the bar also tweeted: “This is currently outside our bar? Why @LordMayorDublin @DubCityCouncil, it’s pride month, seems a little vindictive or calculated.”

Kevin Baker, former chairperson and current campaigner with Dublin Cycling Campaign, said: “Did the former chairperson of the Dublin Cycling Campaign just sign a petition to remove cycle parking? YES, I did. I want a liveable city. Removing a loading bay that doubled as outdoor socialising space is not how we get a vibrant living city.”

Baker said: “A message the Dublin Cycling Campaign has been repeating to Dublin City Council is that they need to reduce the amount of public space allocated to transport (including cycling and public transport) in order to provide more public space for living and socialising.”

Last November, the council said that any option for changing traffic on Parliament Street is to be subject to further investigation before a preferred option is brought forward to the elected members and the public.

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