Prioritising car-free and green spaces to increase the liveability of our urban spaces

Now more than ever we are in a situation that is testing the resilience and robustness of our urban and community spaces. To aid the societal response to COVID-19, Cork Chamber believe it timely to initiate a review of shared public realm and the spaces allocated to pedestrians and cyclists, and where possible and appropriate adapt the urban and community recreation spaces to meet this challenge going forward. 
Thomas McHugh, Director of Public Affairs, Cork Chamber in commenting, “While we are seeing a reduction in vehicular traffic throughout urban areas, we are at the same time seeing the reclaiming of road space by walkers and cyclists doing their best to adhere to the two metre social distancing guidelines. To avoid the current situation where pedestrians and cyclists are obliged to enter road space to ensure sufficient distancing, which in itself is a safety issue for all road users, we are asking our local authorities here in Cork to link in with local community groups to identify these pinch points and instead allocate this road space safely. Increasing certainty and safety for all road users.”
Mr. McHugh added, “The availability of urban amenity space – be it green park space or car free amenity space, is a necessity for city residents to enjoy their community and locality. While acknowledging the work and dedication ongoing by Cork City Council and Cork County Council to expand and accelerate the provision of these spaces, their importance for all age groups, family sizes and mobility abilities is now more important than ever, and this will likely be a lasting outcome of the pandemic crisis.”

“There are quick wins to be had here, for example in the City, the prioritisation of the Marina for cycling and walking on a permanent basis would be an ideal re-designation of existing space. While this has recently been undertaken as a temporary measure to facilitate the Covid-19 testing centre, the permanent prioritisation to facilitate non-vehicular usage would prove hugely beneficial to increase the overall available amenity space for city centre residents. While enforcement of re-designations can persist as a challenge, the use of a barrier system allowing limited access for emergency services and residents could be beneficial in seeing this change of use observed.”
Mr. McHugh stated, “The emergency enhancement of pedestrian access to Tramore Valley Park would prove invaluable during the pandemic, and beyond. While I acknowledge there are constraints, the resolution of the pedestrian access issues should be advanced as quickly as possible to facilitate increased green space access for city centre residents.”
“In the longer term, there is a case to be made for slower vehicle speeds along priority pedestrian routes and throughout the city centre, and stronger emphasis on planting and greenery, bringing an immediate benefit to all residents. Increasing the nature and biodiversity of our city centre while increasing the liveability and appeal. In the coming years, the introduction of a ban on HGV traffic through the city centre, which could be facilitated through National Development Plan investment in the North Link road network, would be hugely beneficial, making journeys and communities safer, quieter, and less polluted.” 
“In the short to medium term, there is an opportunity to investigate the potential for quietway cycling routes, using laneways and backstreets that give cyclists priority, as have been developed in the UK, US and Netherlands and which could be really significant in promoting a change in mode to cycling at a modest cost. Alongside projects such as the Lee to Sea Greenway these could enhance the accessibility of interurban residential to amenity/ education/ work locations.” 
In conclusion, Mr. McHugh added, “The provision of amenity space is a priority for the Cork business community, identified in a previous quarterly economic trends survey to members within their top three priorities for increasing the liveability of the city, alongside housing, and public transport.” 
Audio Clip – Thomas McHugh 

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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