The longest-serving councillor in Cork city says he's ready to call for the lifting of the controversial St Patrick’s Street afternoon car ban if data shows it's not working.
FF Cllr Tim Brosnan was reacting last night to comments from some traders in the retail sector who claimed the traffic measure is "strangling the city centre".
Mr Brosnan has asked city officials to provide “hard data” on footfall trends for next Monday night’s council meeting to assess the impact of the car ban, reintroduced on August 9.
“If city officials can stand up their assertions with hard data then we need to spend money pulling in shoppers to help the retail sector. If the data is unavailable or questionable then the ‘Pana Ban’ must be lifted,” he said.
More traders went public with their concerns yesterday, with some claiming their afternoon trade is down by between 10% and 15%. The manager of three shoe shops, one in the city and two in suburban shopping centres, said his figures show business has shifted to the suburban outlets since August.
But the Irish Examiner has seen figures which show footfall remaining steady since the reintroduction of the bus priority lanes on the main street.
The city council has been tracking footfall there since August 2 using the Springboard pedestrian counting system.
Six cameras, at Daunt Square, Academy Street and at the northern end of St Patrick’s St, have provided data which shows footfall was up 15% the week after the car ban kicked in compared to the first week of the month. The trend continued, with footfall up 22%, 23%, and 17% each of the following weeks compared to the pre-bus lane week.
The week Sept 6-12 was up 22% compared to the first week of August, with the following weeks up 17%, 21%, and 23%.
The trend continued in October, with the figure for the week October 4-10 up 18% compared to the first week in August, and up 15% and 23% for the next two weeks, and up a phenomenal 41% from October 25 to 31, which included the Jazz festival.
But John Grace, who runs Graces Fried Chicken on Cook St, said the real story is reflected in the tills.
“I’m not knocking the policy. I would love to see such sustainable transport policies achieved without sacrificing my livelihood. But in this city, at this time, this strategy is killing business, it’s strangling the city centre. The bottom line is the footfall ain’t there,” he told Neil Prendeville on RedFM.
“No single event has had the significant effect that this has had. My business is down 10% in the last three months. I’ve never seen a drop like that."
BIG CHARITY EVENT! Cork City (F) C v Traders United. 4pm Venue: Pana (no need for the Pairc, plenty of room for all). Special non appearance Ann Doherty. All proceeds got to recently laid off employees of City Traders @kennethnoflynn @CorksRedFM @96fm @EoinBearla @JohnMinihan pic.twitter.com/AT87s4uEQ2— John Grace’s Fried Chicken (@grace_fried) November 5, 2018
Tom Murphy, of Tom Murphy Menswear, said the last two Saturdays were the quietest he’s seen in 22 years.
“It’s worse than the recession, it’s the worst I’ve seen it. It has had a massively detrimental effect on bodies coming in the door. Anyone working in the city centre will tell you business is down," he said.
Paul Gallagher, who runs Skechers in Opera Lane, Mahon Point and Wilton, who also serves on the Retail Excellence Ireland council, said since August 9, trade in the city store between 3pm and 6pm can be down by anything between 10% and 25%, and on some days by up to 35%, with figures in Mahon Point and Wilton up by single digit figures.
“I want to see Cork as a vibrant hub for Munster but what we are doing is choking the city centre," he said.
“I am in favour of the plan in principle but it’s blatantly not working. People are afraid of this kind of negativity coming up to Christmas but kicking stuff under the carpet won’t fix things.”