Reports that Dublin City Council is reviewing its plans for the extensive pedestrianisation of the city centre in the wake of last month’s riots suggests a possible change of course which is at best premature. Under the council’s ambitious plans announced in September, cars are to be banned from parts of the North and South Quays in the region of O’Connell Bridge. Parliament Street will be completely pedestrianised and new car-free “civic spaces” created at the Custom House and Lincoln Place.
The deadline for public submissions on the plan was the start of this month. However, a rethink is now under way due in part to the November riots which saw looting, violence and arson in the areas around O’Connell Street and Parnell Square.
The council seems to have conceded that Dublin Chamber of Commerce has a point that the “safety of the city” is diminished when cars are completely removed. The argument is that even minimal amounts of traffic – such as the presence of taxis at night – provide some sort of passive surveillance.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce’s job is to advance the interests of its members and they may be ambivalent about the merits of pedestrianisation. Some will be significantly affected. Others less so. They are united in their concern over the impact on trade in the city centre of events such as those witnessed last month.
The reasons behind the recent violence are multifaceted, but the number of cars in the north inner city had nothing to do with it.
The legitimate concerns of city centre business about security must be addressed and Dublin City Council is obliged to consider their views on further moves to make the city centre traffic-free. It is equally obliged to listen to the views of other constituencies.
But ultimately moves that make the centre of Dublin a more pleasant place in which to live and work will address both problems – and are long overdue. A city that puts people first will be a safer and more prosperous one.