A €407,000 Lego-style footpath extension in Cork City should be disability proofed to make it work better for everyone.
That is the call from the mobility campaign group, Pedestrian Cork, after figures released under Freedom of Information revealed the scale of public investment on MacCurtain St during the pandemic.
Spokesperson Orla Burke said Cork City Council got a lot right during its Reimagining Cork programme, which has resulted in the pedestrianisation of over a dozen city streets, and the conversion of many areas into outdoor dining spaces.
“But they’re not going to get everything 100% right,” she said.
“I think that with some consultation, the space on MacCurtain St could work better for all citizens.”
She said people with restricted mobility, particularly wheelchair users and the visually impaired, have difficulties navigating the streetscape since the footpath extensions were installed last September.
Following consultation with local businesses, a modular temporary footpath system, imported from Spain, was installed over the course of about three weeks to extend the width of some 120m of footpath on both sides of the street by just over 2m, to facilitate outdoor dining for a range of food-related businesses along the street.
But Ms Burke said the decision to use the existing footpaths for tables, and to direct pedestrians onto the extensions, has caused difficulties for those with mobility issues.
“The motivation for doing it was positive. It was done to support local ratepayers, the lifeblood of the city,” she said. “There was consultation where such work was done elsewhere and that has led to positive results around the city.
“But this was delivered under Section 38 and there was no need for public consultation. For those with mobility issues, especially the visually impaired, they know their city through experience, by navigating routes for years.
The city council’s director of operations, David Joyce, said the footpath extension project was a rapid response to a specific need and was the only construction methodology that would have delivered the required change to that street in a short space of time.
“Each street is unique, and the interventions on each street have to be different,” he said. “We were faced with specific challenges on MacCurtain St.
“If we needed to build out the footpaths, we would have had to dig up the road and dig up and relocate the drainage network — at much more significant cost and it would have taken much longer. This modular system was the most cost-effective approach. Its deployment did not require reconfiguration of the drainage network.”
He said the council is “actively and aggressively” enforcing the parking legislation to deter people parking on the modular extensions.