Cafes and restaurants will be allowed put more tables and chairs outdoors under new Dublin City Council proposals for the pedestrianisation of streets throughout the city centre.
The council plans to close College Green to traffic, and pedestrianise a significant number of streets after 11am each day under plans to reopen the city centre as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
The “temporary mobility plan” will be introduced over the next three to six months, with measures likely to remain in place for at least 12-18 months, with some retained on a permanent basis.
Business organisation Dublin Town said the council's report was "released with no consultation with the Dublin's business community" and that banning cars after 11am "shows no consideration to the economic impact on the city".
However, the council said the changes it is proposing will “ assist businesses to re-open by allowing more on-street space for tables and chairs and also for waiting areas”. Previously the use of outdoor furniture was strictly regulated and policed by the council.
More than 100 submissions requesting additional safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists in Dublin city centre have been made to the council due to coronavirus concerns.
The council is assessing the areas of highest footfall in the city with a view to widening footpaths and adding protective barriers to cycle lanes, to prevent cars from driving or parking in them.
It has already begun development of a segregated cycle path on the north quays of the Liffey and a contraflow cycle lane on Nassau Street. It is in the process of installing bollards at a number of cycle lanes, including at Camden Street and Westland Row, where campaigners regularly form a human barrier to try to prevent parking.
The council began preparing plans for a pedestrian and cycle plaza at College Green five years ago. However the project was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2018, largely due to concerns about the "significantly negative impacts" it would have on bus transport and traffic in the city.
The council does not plan to seek permission from the board for its new pedestrian and cycle proposals, but instead will implement them, using its own traffic management powers, in consultation with the National Transport Authority (NTA).
While bus movements through College Green are already being significantly reduced as part of the network redesign, the council will be seeking the sanction of the NTA to reroute remaining buses on to the Dawson Street/Kildare Street corridor, and in both directions on Winetavern Street, which is currently one way.
The council’s powers as a roads authority allow it to introduce “traffic calming measures” which can include preventing or restricting access to a road. The council could have used this power to pedestrianise College Green instead of applying to An Bord Pleanála, but chose to apply to the board due to the possible wider environmental impacts of the measure, and because it was constructing a “plaza” rather than solely banning traffic. The council may still reapply to the board for the plaza element of the plan at a later date.