Banning traffic from College Green and other Dublin city streets would be "potentially highly damaging" to the Government's plans for a phased reopening of society and business, car park owners have said.
Dublin City Council intends to make College Green traffic-free, and ban cars from other streets after 11am daily as part of its "temporary mobility plan" to ensure the city is ready to reopen as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
However, the Irish Parking Association said these plans were “counter-intuitive” and workers were more likely to want to use cars to access the city.
In a letter to the chairman of the council's transport committee, Christy Burke, parking association chairman Keith Gavin said he was "very dismayed" by the proposals put forward by council chief executive Owen Keegan to facilitate walking, cycling and public transport in the city, by restricting private cars.
“The proposed measures are, in our opinion, counterintuitive and potentially highly damaging to the Government’s plans for a phased reopening of society and business,” Mr Gavin said.
“Experience from other jurisdictions which have begun to ease Covid-19 related restrictions has clearly shown a marked and natural reluctance of people to use public transport and indications are that is very likely to be the case here also,” he said.
“Essential workers will make use of their private cars to access the city centre and, while the proposed measures are to be encouraged for those who can avail of cycling and walking alternatives, they seriously discriminate against those who are unable to do so and ignore the needs of large sections of the public.”
He called on Mr Burke to “oppose these measures as currently outlined until proper consultation with all of the affected stakeholders is conducted, and a thorough review and consideration of the relevant issues involved takes place”.
Mr Burke said Mr Gavin had made “valid points” and he believed there should be consultation with affected businesses and other groups. However, he said he would not oppose Mr Keegan’s measures.
“If you don’t have consultation, you get aggravation. We do need to engage with these concerned bodies, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past is that if you ostracise people, if you leave them out in the cold, you will get people militating against you.”
However, he said: “I won’t be opposing the manager [Mr Keegan] but Mr Gavin has made some valid points, and questions do need to be answered about where the traffic is going to go, how will shops get deliveries and what about the people who can’t use a bicycle or walk into work?”
Liffey cycle lane
Separately Noel Smyth, chairman of Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance, said the start of work on the Liffey cycle lane was an "illegal act".
In recent weeks the council has begun installing a segregated cycle path on the north quays of the Liffey. The path, first planned more than 12 years ago, will eventually run from Phoenix Park in the west to the 3Arena in the east.
Mr Smyth, whose group also represents car park owners, wrote to Mr Keegan in recent days advising the council to stop work on the project immediately.
“In this instance, it is our view that under cover of Covid-19 the council are pressing ahead with what we consider to be an illegal act and, therefore, should cease and stop immediately,” the letter said.
“If you continue with those said works, we intend to seek orders from the court for those works to be reversed and for appropriate sanctions to be made against those involved in carrying out those illegal acts.”
The council should obtain permission from An Bord Pleanála to carry out the cycle lane work and not use the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, the letter said.
“In addition to the above mentioned legal matters, the public announcements that the installation of this cycle lane in this manner is in the best interest of the public as it gives additional space to cyclists is again clearly wrong and misleading,” it said.
“By cutting off a further limb of traffic at this time, it is clear that the council’s long-term intention is to thwart and ensure less cars are entering the city despite what the consequences may be for car users in the city.”
Mr Keegan said there had been “one or two legal challenges, I intend that we will deal with those”.