Council seeks to enhance a stroll down Grafton St
Most businesses are keen to see greater pedestrianisation around Grafton Street
Thirty years after it was pedestrianised, Dublin’s Grafton Street is to be repaved with granite in early 2013, bringing to an end an era of sometimes wonky under-shoe brickwork. Could it mark a fresh drive towards pedestrianisation in the city?
Many planners and stakeholders believe so, with a number of walker-friendly initiatives under way. “The whole thrust now is on walkable cities – they attract more investment and more people,” says Labour councillor Andrew Montague.
Separate to the €2.5 million repaving of Grafton Street, Dublin City Council plans to spend €9.5 million for improvement works on surrounding streets by the end of 2014. On-street parking is being incrementally removed and new walking and cycling spaces are being created, notably on Clarendon Street.
A difference now to 30 years ago is the enthusiasm of businesses, including publicans on South William Street, who have been pushing over the past year for its full pedestrianisation.
That particular idea isn’t universally loved, however. “We shouldn’t allow one part of society ride roughshod over others,” says David Brennan, chief operating officer of Dublin City Business Association (DCBA).
While the organisation backs plans to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, some of its members feel South William Street is already too dominated by the pub trade, which has grabbed much of the pavement for outdoor drinking.
Last month, a DCBA-commissioned report on the “Grafton Street quarter” made a number of recommendations, including full pedestrianisation of Harry Street and Chatham Lane. It approvingly cited the models of London’s Covent Garden and Copenhagen in Denmark, where has been a shift over 30 years away from car transport.
While the association welcomed the report, Brennan says “we would not see a situation where entire sections of D2 are pedestrianised”. There is a need “to allow customers who wish to bring their cars into town continue to do so”.
Of the planned resurfacing, due to start next month, he emphasises the need to “maintain pedestrian flow” during works, conscious of the fact that Ireland begins hosting the EU presidency next month.
Last June, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton wrote to the council proposing the work be postponed to “the latter half of 2013” due to such concerns.
The council said the works would start in early 2013 but on a phased basis and “ structured in a way which will minimises disruption to businesses, shoppers and the general public”.
The grey and pink granite – which replaces Eurobrick paving, dating from the mid-1980s – will be laid on a phased basis by Dublin City Council over a period of about a year.
Montague, who promoted the 30 km/h speed limit in the city centre, a move that drew initial criticism from motorists, said the council was examining number of further pedestrianisation proposals. These included lowering volumes of traffic on the quays by creating wider pavements, similar to those on O’Connell Street.