Green Party Councillor for Cork City South West, Colette Finn, has joined the Party’s spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Steven Matthews TD in calling on Local Authorities to consider allowing businesses including restaurants and cafés access to the public footpath in some areas of town centres free of charge this summer to help with social distancing.
Following trial runs in Dublin City Centre and elsewhere of making urban centres at least in part, car free, the Wicklow TD said,
“First and foremost this is still a public health crisis and any new measures must be taken in light of medical advice. However, whenever businesses are able to begin to reopen, they will need as much support as possible to adapt to social distancing measures, which will likely be a part of our lives till at least the end of the summer.
“We need to start examining possible solutions and one could be to make some streets in towns and cities across the country car-free during business hours this summer,” Deputy Matthews continued. “This will allow sufficient access for pedestrians and cyclists but also give business owners and patrons enough space to operate safely. Any changes in the planning process would require significant examination of accessibility and safety but it is possible.
“We have seen the benefits that car free zones had in trials in different urban areas including increasing footfall and improved air quality. The additional requirement for more pedestrian space brought about by Covid-19 means that our local authorities need to act on this now, before lockdown measures are eased more.
“This wouldn’t need to be every street or even every town, but these are the sort of solutions local authorities need to look at to keep businesses going. I hope this is something that each local authority can examine.
Colette Finn, Green Party Councillor for Cork City South West, added:
“We’ve already seen some clever uses of road space to improve social distancing and make space for walking and cycling, both in Ireland and further afield.
“As people spend more time closer to home, it’s going to be really important to make streets in our cities and towns as customer friendly as possible. In many places, there will be ideal streets for temporary pedestrianisation. This could not only make social distancing easier, but provide a much-needed boost to local business.
“In a letter sent by Green Party councillors to Cork City Council in mid-April, we identified a number of streets in Cork City, including the Marina, Oliver Plunkett Street and its side streets, streets going off the Grand Parade, and the Paul Street-Cornmarket Street area, to be pedestrianised, and for other initiatives to be taken to maximise the space given to pedestrians. In last night’s meeting it was announced that these, and a number of other initiatives called for in that letter will be instituted.
“Some decisions made have thankfully been altered or rolled back, such as the de-pedestrianisation of Oliver Plunkett Street. Our colleagues in the County Council have called for similar measures to be considered in towns and villages across Cork.
“Traffic volumes are down to a quarter of what they were. This is the ideal time to trial new, pedestrian and business friendly measures across Cork, city and county. It’s a chance to see what works in practice and how we can improve our towns and cities in the future.”