Cars will be permanently banned from several areas around Grafton Street in Dublin from May 24th, ahead of the resumption of outdoor dining in June.
However, while South William Street, Drury Street, South Anne Street and Dame Court would all have car free areas, their full pedestrianisation has been curtailed because some car park owners, including Brown Thomas said they could not facilitate the measures.
Parts of these four streets, as well as Duke Street, were pedestrianised on a trial basis over weekends last July and August, with parking spaces turned into outdoor seating areas for cafes and restaurants to accommodate more people during the Covid-19 restrictions.
Dublin City Council held a public consultation process on the plans last November and 97 per cent of respondents were in favour of their implementation.
The council had initially hoped to have the measures in place ahead of the easing of Level 5 restrictions last December, but this was delayed until January. The plans were put on hold again when restrictions were reintroduced. Work has now begun with a view to completion in just over three weeks time.
Under the council’s plans, South Anne Street will be fully pedestrianised, as it was during the trial. Dame Court, the street that runs from Exchequer Street down to the Stag’s Head pub, would also be fully pedestrianised. Drury Street will be pedestrianised just after its junction with Fade Street to the Drury Street underground carpark.
The South William Street pedestrian zone will be substantially smaller than during the trials. It had been pedestrianised between the Brown Thomas carpark exit and Chatham Row, but this required reversing the direction of vehicles leaving the car park, with a stop/go system in place at Exchequer Street.
The council said it asked the car-park owners if it would be possible to reverse their entry and exit arrangements to make South William Street an entry point to the car park with exit from Clarendon Street. "This would then allow for the majority of the street to be pedestrianised," the council said.
The car-park owners said doing so would pose “insurmountable structural difficulties that cannot be overcome”. In addition they said the trials caused considerable congestion internally to the car park and its business dropped by 30 per cent from the first week of the trial.
As a result, only the small area between the car-park exit and Exchequer Street, a 30 metre stretch, will be pedestrianised from 11am. However, the only vehicles using the street will be those exiting from the Brown Thomas car park.
Only one business used the outdoor furniture on Duke Street during the trial. There is also a private car park, a delivery yard and construction site that require access, the council said, and it decided not to go ahead with the street’s permanent pedestrianisation.
Meanwhile the council is to implement a trial of traffic restrictions on Merrion Row, following an overwhelmingly positive response to outdoor dining proposals for the street.
The council last month held a consultation process on plans to reduce traffic on Dublin’s Merrion Row to one lane to facilitate summer outdoor dining. It received more than 2,400 submissions, 93 per cent of which were in favour of the plans.
On May 15th and 16th, the three traffic lanes on the road will be reduced to one. This will involve the redirection of traffic onto Hume Street and Ely Place from St Stephen’s Green to avoid bottlenecks on Merrion Row.
Dublin City Council said it had been approached by businesses on Merrion Row seeking the full pedestrianisation of the street to facilitate outdoor dining. However, it said the National Transport Authority had advised that the removal of buses from the street was "not feasible from an operational point of view".
Instead the council is proposing to keep traffic on the one-way street, but restrict them to one lane, with space on both sides of the road to be made available for outdoor furniture, if the trial is successful.
The council said it is working on plans to increase pedestrian and dining space in other parts of the city. Temple Bar businesses are preparing to submit a proposal to the council which would facilitate up to 3,000 diners on the streets in the cultural quarter.