File picture: Grants available for tourism and hospitality businesses
The decision to maintain the city’s one-way system for the time being is a welcome one for pedestrians, who will hopefully be returning in greater numbers in the coming weeks as restrictions lift.
The system is not without its detractors, and concerns remain from some on John Street who feel that it has affected their footfall. As pointed out by the council, the system as it stands is not ultimately a traffic solution. Its primary function is to facilitate social distancing and allow people safely navigate the city in compliance with public health guidelines. It is not intended as a permanent measure, and there are alternatives in the event of agreeing a long term solution.
Meanwhile, plans have been unveiled in other urban centres to go a step further and fully pedestrianise some streets. In Cork, pedestrianisation of 17 streets is under way, while Dublin is also weighing up several options.
Here, James’ Street and Kieran Street already close to vehicular traffic during certain hours, giving their space back to pedestrians. Could this be an option on any other smaller streets? Could pubs and cafés avail of space — say in the evenings — to put out some easily-moveable, lightweight tables and chairs when outdoor dining resumes?
Perhaps there is an opportunity as local businesses avail of the new Outdoor Seating and Accessories Scheme, officially opened by the council for applications this week. It would be fantastic to see such areas busy and vibrant, attracting an evening trade that all too often disappears once shops and other workplaces close for the day.
There are other things to be considered. For example, the Cork plan has caused some anxiety for people with disabilities, who are concerned access will be more difficult for them in certain areas if a vehicle cannot get in. An increase in street furniture also — be it chairs, sandwich boards — on already narrow streets can cause further headaches for those with mobility restrictions. There are no easy solutions.