Social distancing: Pressure on local authorities to designate more space for pedestrians

Social distancing: Pressure on local authorities to designate more space for pedestrians

Pressure is mounting on local authorities to designate more space for pedestrians and cyclists who are social distancing.

Dozens of towns and cities internationally have widened footpaths and cycle lanes to allow people to exercise and maintain social distancing, but Ireland has been slow to do the same.

Pop-up cycle lanes have been unveiled in Edinburgh and Berlin, while Vancouver and Washington DC have given pedestrians and cyclists priority. Milan, one of the cities worst-hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, is to introduce 35km of new cycle lanes and footpaths.

Dublin City Council has added pop-up cycle lanes in parts of the city, and removed some parking and loading bays. In Limerick City, a one-way system has been introduced on some bridges, though this has been criticised by people who believe part of the road carriage should have been redesignated, instead.

In Cork City, pedestrian and cycle groups say not enough has been done to facilitate safe exercise. Amenities like the Marina remain open to cars, while previously pedestrianised streets, such as Oliver Plunkett Street, have been reopened to vehicular traffic.

Conn Donovan, chairman of the Cork Cycling Campaign, said there is “an urgent need” to reallocate space in Cork.

“It’s deeply unfair that the council moved at breakneck speed to provide free parking and open up streets that were formerly pedestrianised, while calls to widen footpaths and create pop-up cycle lanes seem to be viewed with scepticism,” Mr Donovan said.

The city centre is facing huge challenges in the coming months. Parking promotions can’t solve this problem. In the context of Covid-19, people need, and expect, adequate space to move around the city outside of a car.

The Green Party submitted proposals to Cork City Council to respond to some of these issues, with a report expected the next time the council meets. CORE, a group of stakeholders, including representatives of Cork City Council, An Garda Síochána, and the business community, is due to meet on Monday. Pedestrian and cycle infrastructure is understood to be on the agenda.

Cork Chamber has now joined the call for a “review of shared public realm and the spaces allocated to pedestrians and cyclists”.

Thomas McHugh, director of public affairs, said pedestrians and cyclists are “doing their best to adhere to the 2m social-distancing guidelines”, but many are forced to use the road to do so.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government said it is “aware that local authorities are working to faciltate social distancing through a range of measures”, but that the Department “has not issued guidance to local authorities in relation to this issue of making greater space available for pedestrians and/or cyclists”.

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