The streets of Kilkenny have become so thronged with pedestrians that the council should consider closing High Street to vehicules at certain times during busy festivals.
That’s the view of local councillor Malcolm Noonan, whose comments come in the wake of another hugely successful and well attended Kilkenny Arts Festival.
“Our streets are simply not able to cope with the numbers of people on them right now,” says the former Mayor of Kilkenny.
“It’s testament to a lot of hard work by all involved in tourism and festivals, but it is making life uncomfortable — and in some cases, very dangerous. I think we need to give due consideration to putting in place traffic management plans that would close High Street to traffic for at least both weekends of the Arts Festival and at other times of the year.
"It is eminently doable, given that we have two car parks strategically placed at both ends of the street, and the prospect of an expanded city bus service from early next year.”
Cllr Noonan says the council is embarking on a revised ‘Smarter Travel’ plan in light of the new bus service and the opening of the Central Access Scheme. He said the city’s population swells significantly during festivals and in high summer, and that pedestrians and cyclists — particularly older and younger people — were at risk from increased levels of pollutants, and accidents.
“Closing High Street for defined times in the year could act as a test case for eventual full pedestrianisation and one- way (inward) through Rose Inn Street, with a two-way outward flow from Bateman Quay onto John’s Bridge,” he says.
“It’s radical, but we are seeing with recent high profile shop closures in our city centre, it’s a case of ‘adapt or die’.
"We have to rethink and re-imagine how we see our city centre into the future. Is it a one where it is effectively a car park at weekends or one where business, cafes and restaurants can flourish in pedestrian friendly zones? We need to make the town centre an attractive place not just to shop but to live in.
"These are fundamental questions that we must explore as to how we interpret public space and I hope that we collectively have the courage to make this great leap."