City traders should get ‘little taster’ of afternoon car ban

Patrick's Street.

Traders in Cork should be given “a little taster” of the St Patrick’s Street afternoon car ban over the coming weeks to encourage them to embrace change.

That’s the view of Dr Lorraine D’Arcy, a transport and sustainable planning expert who lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), and who worked on the hugely successful pedestrianisation of the city’s Oliver Plunkett St more than a decade ago.

“People need to experience it a little bit more to understand it more,” she said.

She was speaking after her Designing Streets for People presentation to the Cork Transport Mobility Forum’s (TMF) Sustainable and Active Travel Seminar yesterday.

Ms D’Arcy said as engineers worked on the Oliver Plunkett St pedestrianisation scheme, people who lived and worked on the street “couldn’t picture an alternative”.

“They focused on their existing clientele. Their perception was that they parked outside the door,” she said.

But we found that it was predominately the traders who parked on the street. There were some customers parking on the street, but not all of them were.

“Now, we look back on that scheme and it’s been a huge success.”

She said if traders got to experience what the afternoon car ban might be like, in small doses over the coming weeks, it could encourage them to embrace it.

And she said traders should also realise that pedestrians and cyclists spend more in cities per annum than a car user.

She cited the Pedestrian Pound study from London, which was also validated in the case of Dublin city, as part of a DIT student project some years ago.

“It found that pedestrians and cyclists spend more per annum in city centre shops, but spend less per trip than a car user,” she said.

“A car user might only drive into a city two or three occasions in the year.

You’re much more likely if you’re walking or cycling, to pop into a shop and buy something small, but collectively they will spend more over time.

“They’ll buy coffee, sandwiches, T-shirts and jeans. They may also buy an appliance and get it delivered.”

She also referred to a “tactical urbanism” experiment in New York some time ago where the city installed garden furniture and planters in certain streets for just three weeks.

“Everybody came out and started to use the furniture. People were enjoying it so much, they opposed the removal of it,” she said.

The city knew that if they went through the formal planning process, they knew they would come up against resistance. Using tactical urbanism would work in the case of Cork too.

The St Patrick’s St afternoon car ban was introduced on March 27 but was suspended just three weeks in after opposition from city centre traders.

The traffic restrictions have been lifted until August 9 to facilitate further engagement with traders and other stakeholders.

Ms D’Arcy was one of several speakers at yesterday’s TMF forum.

Attendees were told that the proposed Harley St bridge should be installed by February next, and that it is hoped to open the Tramore Valley Park by September.

Several workshops held during the day will lead to a number of proposals, including a Lee to Sea cycling route from Ballincollig to Cork Harbour.

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