The main street of Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, is to be "re-pedestrianised" this summer, regaining its car-free status after more than a decade.
Traffic will be banned from Lower George’s Street from July 5th to facilitate outdoor dining, arts and cultural events along a quarter of a kilometre stretch running from Marine Road to a newly-created pedestrian plaza, Myrtle Square.
"Once the cars are removed the space effectively becomes a big wide footpath," Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council's director of services Robert Burns said.
“We will be actively programming events throughout the summer, working with businesses, arts and theatre groups, bookshops, as well having outdoor dining areas.”
The street was pedestrianised more than 20 years ago. However, cars were allowed back in 2008 following complaints from some business and community groups that detours were deterring shoppers and the town was not car-friendly.
Mr Burns acknowledged the project was “not without its challenges”. The council had decided to implement the pedestrianisation for a three-month trial he said, after which it would undergo a rigorous assessment with a decision next year on whether the street should be pedestrianised full time or on a seasonal basis only.
Traffic-management strategies were being devised and would be assessed continuously during the trial, he said. “We are preparing traffic-management plans, which will particularly take into account access for St Michael’s Hospital. A small number of bus diversions will also be required.”
Buses would be diverted along Marine Road, Crofton Road and Clarence Street, and new temporary bus stops would be provided on Crofton Road and at the top of Clarence Street. The routes affected are the 46a and 75, but the diversion relates to westbound buses only, with the eastbound journey remaining unaffected, the council said.
A consultation process on the plans will be open for the next three weeks. The council will also be engaging with residents, businesses and community groups likely to be affected by the proposed changes.
Residents on Tivoli Road, which runs parallel to George’s Street, have already raised concerns about the council’s proposals, which they say will result in the displacement of traffic on to their road.
“Residents are not anti-pedestrianisation or cycleways, but they do believe that the council has an obligation to engage in proper consultation and to share proper traffic-management research prior to making decisions,” Tivoli Road resident Alexandra Keatinge said.
She said the council appeared to be using a “so-called trial” to deliver “profound changes by stealth”, without considering the traffic displacement.
“The safety and sanity of residents around us is the collateral damage. While reduced car usage is clearly the right long-term goal, it isn’t furthered by plans which will likely funnel even more traffic through a narrow residential road that has two primary schools on it.”
Peter Doris, another Tivoli Road resident, said there was a lack of safe walking and cycling infrastructure serving these schools.
“There are hundreds of children that walk, cycle and scoot daily, yet there have been no attempts from [the council] to provide safe walking and cycling infrastructure to get these children to school,” he said.
“The seafront cycle lane and pedestrianisation of George’s Street Lower are welcome additions to the area, but not at the expense of children’s safety. The council needs to engage with local residents and provide safe walking and cycling infrastructure before adding more traffic to the road.”
Mr Burns said he understood Tivoli Road residents would have concerns, but he believed any issues would be manageable.
“There is an issue currently with road works on Corrig Road, which leads on to Tivoli Road, but we have deliberately timed the pedestrianisation so those works will be completed beforehand. There are a small number of roads, including Tivoli Road, that may be affected, but that is the point of the trial – we can work with the residents and see what measures we need to put in place and I really believe it will be manageable.”