08/05/2020 - 03:32
By Digital Desk staff
A plan to reopen Dublin city centre over the coming weeks and months could see vehicles banned from certain areas after 11am and College Green closed to traffic.
However, a business group for businesses in Dublin city centre has said it "addresses the wrong issue".
The council is working with the National Transport Authority on temporary measures to keep walkers and cyclists safe, while also creating more space for businesses for social distancing.
The Covid-19 restrictions have seen traffic in the city reduce by 60-70% in recent weeks, while the number of pedestrians has fallen by 80%.
A number of measures have already been introduced in the city, including the closure of some loading bays and the widening of cycle lanes.
Planners are now looking into how to continue social distancing as restrictions begin to be eased.
Council officials say closing some roads to traffic after 11am could allow businesses to reopen "by allowing more on street space for tables and chairs and also for waiting areas".
They say the temporary closure of College Green and the temporary widening of footpaths along Dame Street would allow more room for pedestrians and cyclists, while also giving extra spaces to reopening businesses.
'Bus stop build outs' are also being looked at in order to give more room to people waiting for buses in the city centre.
Vice chair of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, Louise Williams, said the measures would mean a major shift away from cars.
She told Newstalk Breakfast: "We really welcome this... it is a big move from the Council... they're calling it a temporary mobility plan - we might prefer for them to take out the word temporary.
"I think we need to address this idea that if we provide more space to pedestrians and people who cycle than businesses will suffer - that's just not the case.
"Research all over the world [shows] pedestrians and people who cycle tend to buy in smaller amounts, but more frequently - the budget they spend is significant."
However, DublinTown criticised the report, saying it misses the point.
Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, said: “Surveys of businesses show that support for pedestrianisation of locations like South William and Drury Streets is high, with 70% of DublinTown members endorsing the pedestrianisation of South William Street and 61% also calling for it also to be implemented on Drury Street.
"There is support from the public, with research conducted by Red C showing that 61% are in favour of similar proposals. The results of pedestrianisation are self-evident, with businesses on Suffolk Street reporting increases averaging 15% when their street was pedestrianised in 2018.”
“However, the recommendation from Dublin City Council to ban cars from certain locations in the city after 11am addresses the wrong issue and shows no consideration to the economic impact on the city, particularly as we focus on a safe resumption of business activity over the coming weeks and months."
He explained that most vehicles coming into the city have only one person in them, the driver, to useh free car parking space in the city before 11am.
He said: "The city Corden Count notes that 28% use their car to access to the city during the morning peak, while customer research commissioned by Dublin Town and the NTA confirm that 20% of shoppers use their car post 11am.
"These measures target the minority of cars which are typically families driving into town at off peak times, and these are vital for the survival and recovery of business in the city."
He said that the proposal would threaten jobs.
Mr Guiney said: “Instead, we need to reimagine and reinvent public transport in the city, not only so it meets our needs today, but so that it is future-proofed for the decades ahead.
"In a move to further ease congestion around peak times and encourage healthier lifestyle choices, DublinTown’s members are calling on Dublin City Council to make Dublin a more cyclist friendly city and reallocate road space for use as segregated cycle lanes.
"In addition to segregated cycling lanes, DublinTown believes that the widths of the city centre paving should be increased to improve accessibility both during and after the Covid crisis, particularly for wheelchair and buggy users.”