John Street, Kilkenny
It was fears over business on John Street that shaped many councillors’ concerns at the recent meeting where a one-way system for High Street and Rose Inn Street was agreed.
The new system will see High Street become one-way from the Parade to Parliament Street, and Rose Inn Street become one-way from John’s Bridge to the Parade. It’s intended that, as well as allowing for greater pedestrian social distancing, this will cut down on traffic manoeuvres and allow for an easier flow of vehicles through streets and at junctions.
However, there are some fears that prohibiting vehicles from travelling from the Parade Junction down Rose Inn Street and over John’s Bridge will ‘cut off’ the Continent from the rest of the city.
At that meeting, Cllr David Fitzgerald wanted his objection to Rose Inn Street’s inclusion noted. He said he felt it was agreed that the social distancing proposal for High Street was necessary, and most of the business community accepted it. However, he said, he had significant concerns about the proposal to include Rose Inn Street.
“I think it has potential to cause as many problems as it will solve,” he said.
Both Cllrs Eugene and Andrew McGuinness also sounded a note of concern following consultations.
“The traders in John Street are worried. They don't know when they’re opening and now this on top of it,” said Cllr Eugene McGuinness.
Director of Services Tim Butler said that some businesses on John Street were in favour, but agreed others had ‘grave concerns’.
Cllr Maria Dollard said the new scheme needed to be given adequate time, so that the engineers could do their research and tweak it if needs be. She also asked if signage could be provided to direct people to the John Street trading area.
Senior city engineer Ian Gardner said the public would need time to adjust. He agreed there could be signage for John Street, locally and further out.
There are already more pedestrians and cars using the city streets than in recent weeks. The problem could be in trying to measure the success of the new scheme. The most recent traffic figures are pre-Covid, and attempts to predict what shopper behaviour or footfall might have been without introducing new measures will simply be guesswork.
Its success as a Covid-19 containment measure may also be hard to quantify. Trader feedback may be the critical metric, and public sentiment on how safe it feels to walk around the city.
Some have expressed a view that if there is to be a one-way system, John Street should be included. However, Mr Gardner has said that if it were included, traffic would be able to come in, but not get back out. It would also involve a major redesign of the NTA’s city bus service, which presently uses the street in both directions.
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