Cork eyes pedestrianisation plan to revive city centre when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted

Cork eyes pedestrianisation plan to revive city centre when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted
Paul Montgomery, Aidan O’Driscoll, Graham Barrett and Michael O’Sullivan of Clancy’s Princes Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Several streets in Cork city centre may be pedestrianised as part of wider measures to help businesses reopen once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Council officials also say "stark" measures will be introduced over the coming days to ensure physical distancing can be adhered to by those coming into the centre. 

One-way systems are likely on footpaths and sections of bike lanes may be sacrificed.

Restarting the city’’s economy will require "compromise and tolerance", the chair of the city council’’s strategic policy committee on transport and mobility, Cllr Des Cahill, said. He issued a direct appeal to cycling campaigners to consider the greater good.

"We are all in this together. We can’’t put one lobby group’’s interests above others," he said. "Footpath space will be reduced, road space will be reduced, and cycling space will be reduced. The cycling community will have to accept that it’’s for the greater good. But it will be a temporary measure."

He said talks about how the city can operate when restrictions are lifted have been ongoing for some time and are now being ramped up.

A street-by-street analysis is underway to identify what measures can be introduced on which streets and a draft plan will be prepared to form the basis of further discussions with business leaders and other groups, he said.

City Hall has faced criticised for allowing vehicular access to the pedestrianised Oliver Plunkett St to facilitate trade at the English Market. Mr Cahill said this temporary measure was introduced to facilitate traders during a time of unprecedented crisis.

"Everyone is trying to do their best here. If lobby groups take a negative view of things like this, they should take a look at themselves," he said.

Fearghal Reidy, the city council’’s head of economic and strategic development, said the council will adopt a "solutions-focused" approach to reopen the city. Measures are due to be introduced over the coming days to ensure street space can be shared safely by pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and cars, he said.

"You will see that manifest quickly and some of the measures may be stark at first but we will do what we can in the short-term to make them visually appealing," he said. "Ensuring physical distancing will be a challenge. If you take a queue of five people, that will require a distance of 10m. We want to help businesses do that, and we will look at measures that will enable social distancing, and that will include street furniture licences, so that if possible, operations of certain business can spill over onto the street, where it works and where it has been proofed against ensuring movement.

"And we will look at pedestrianisation of various areas, but that needs to be led by the businesses. We will do everything we can to make it as appealing a place as it can be."

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