Mixed response to multi-million 'reimagined' Cork City plan

Cork City Council announces its 'reimagined' city, including 14 pedestrianised streets in the heart of the city, a multimillion-euro enhancement of pedestrian and cycling options, and improvements to amenities
Mixed response to multi-million 'reimagined' Cork City plan

Cork City Council today announced its 'reimagined' city, including 14 pedestrianised streets in the heart of the city, such as Pembroke Street, pictured. Picture: Clare Keogh

There has been a mixed response to the announcement of investment in Cork City's pedestrian and cycle infrastructure, with critics claiming more could be done to connect CUH, Wilton, CIT and Blackpool to the city. 

However, others have said it still represents a significant step forward in terms of safety and accessibility in the city centre.

Cork City Council today announced its 'reimagined' city, including 14 pedestrianised streets in the heart of the city, a multimillion-euro enhancement of pedestrian and cycling options, and improvements to amenities. Ann Doherty, the council's chief executive, said there was a real opportunity for growth and the programme is an acceleration of existing plans.

"We have always had a long term ambition to improve our walking and cycling infrastructure. What the pandemic has done is increased people's desire and support for cycling," she said.

Officials said they may re-examine the city's main thoroughfare of St Patrick's Street which currently has a retail-only planning focus but they do not want to displace successful restaurants on nearby side streets.

David Joyce, the council's director of services and operations, said some of these new measures are currently in place on a temporary bases and the council is seeking to make them permanent.

Cyclists enjoying the fine weather during the recent lockdown at The Marina, Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins
Cyclists enjoying the fine weather during the recent lockdown at The Marina, Cork City. Picture: Larry Cummins

"The cycle lanes that were announced today had already been in the public domain, so had either gone through planning permission or public consultation," he said.

"When we heard 're-imagined' city, we would have expected to see more pop-up cycle lanes. There is a really good template for a pop-up cycle lane for the docklands, that's going up Monahan Road, Centre Park Road, Victoria Road and Albert Quay, but unfortunately that is only one part of the city.

"People have called for a cycle lane to CUH, to Wilton, to CIT. Blackpool is only 2km from the city and they have no cycling infrastructure.

"If the template that is being applied to the docklands was stretched out to other parts of the city, so people coming from [all directions] can cycle. Having cycle lanes that are coherent, legible and continuous, then you are talking about a re-imagined city with everyone being able to cycle."

However, he said that there were positive first steps taken to make existing cycling infrastructure better and safer. 

"There's going to be a lot of resurfacing of cycle lanes, and there's going to be bollards put in places where cars and vans are known to park illegally.

"This will ensure [cyclists] have a lower risk of injury or accident when cycling. They are not falling off their bike when they hit a pothole or swerving to avoid a car."

The Pedestrian Cork group, which represents pedestrians in the city, said the group welcomes the programme of works.

"The proposed investment in favour of walking and cycling facilities is a significant positive step forward to making Cork a more liveable, inclusive and sustainable city to live in," the group said.

"In our survey of pedestrian experiences in Cork, over 1,000 Cork citizens expressed the need for enhanced accessibility and a more enjoyable public realm in Cork City. 

Ann Doherty, chief executive, Cork City Council, at Cork City Hall, unveiling,  Reimagine Cork City,  an initiative to expand city cycle lanes by over 4km and pedestrianise more of the city centre in response to Covid-19. Picture: Philip Williams
Ann Doherty, chief executive, Cork City Council, at Cork City Hall, unveiling,  Reimagine Cork City,  an initiative to expand city cycle lanes by over 4km and pedestrianise more of the city centre in response to Covid-19. Picture: Philip Williams

"The successful pedestrianisation measures undertaken during the lockdown are a demonstration that, by working together and engaging with all relevant stakeholders, positive change is possible."

Thomas McHugh, director of public affairs at Cork Chamber, said it was a positive development for Cork.

"There's an increased demand [for better cycling and walking infrastructure] now due to the pandemic, and public sentiment has changed in what they expect from a city. We did a survey as part of our sustainable Cork programme, with over 800 people, and public transport, cycling and green spaces were the top three things people were looking to see more progress on."

He also said the plans will bring more people into the city and help businesses recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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