Cork City car ban ‘a recipe for disaster’

By Eoin English

A businessman on Cork’s main street has branded the St Patrick’s Street car ban a “recipe for disaster”.

Eddie Mullins, of Fitzgerald Menswear, a business which has traded on the historic street for 160 years, said the restrictions, which come into effect on Tuesday, will cut off the lifeblood of the city and cause chaos.

“This partial ban defies logic and will cause chaos and confusion,” he said.

“If you create confusion or vagueness at all when you’re trying to appeal to customers, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“We need people to come in to the city rather than scaring them away.

“There seems to be a disconnect between City Hall and what goes on on the ground.

“I and other traders, who’ve been giving out about the same things for years — improving parking, tackling begging and antisocial behaviour, and improving street cleaning — want to see them doing the basics right before introducing stuff like this.”

City Hall has defended the move, insisting it will help buses run on time and is a key part of a wider traffic management plan that is required if the city is to grow sustainably.

A spokeswoman for Cork City Council said analysis shows that most of the vehicles using St Patrick’s Street is through traffic.

“The street is not the destination itself. This traffic is not contributing anything to businesses on the street,” she said.

“The lifeblood of a city is footfall and pedestrians. Taking out the private cars should improve the environment for them.

“And with the increase in traffic volumes, doing nothing isn’t an option.

“We have to give people more reliable public transport options. If the bus is more reliable and quicker, people will switch.

“This change will take a while to get used to. But we have to start somewhere. This is one step in the direction we need to go if we are serious about growing Cork as a sustainable city.”

City Hall confirmed yesterday that almost six years after the ban was first agreed as part of the Cork City Movement Strategy, the restrictions will come into effect from next Tuesday, with private cars banned from St Patrick’s Street between 3pm and 6.30pm seven days a week.

Access will be restricted to public transport, taxis, cyclists, and emergency vehicles only.

The area will operate as a bus lane for the duration of the ban, with motorists facing a fixed charge fine of €60 for driving in the area during these hours.

Bus Éireann, which carried over 12.6m passengers across 2,630 daily Cork City services last year, operates 970 services a day on various routes from St Patrick’s Street.

The changes are being introduced over the Easter holiday period when the roads are quieter.

Inspector Finbarr O’Sullivan of the Traffic Corps said gardaí will focus on raising awareness of the changes, rather than on enforcement, in the early stages.

He said they will monitor the impact of the changes closely and will provide feedback to City Hall in due course.

Banning private cars from the city’s main street was agreed in principle in 2012 as part of the Cork City Centre Movement Strategy — a multi-pronged plan to deliver one of the single largest overhauls of traffic flow in the city in over 50 years.

However, initial proposals for a 12.30pm to 6.30pm car ban were shot down by city councillors in 2015 amid concerns over the length of the car ban period.

A year later, they voted to proceed with a reduced three-and-a-half-hour evening ban.

Meanwhile, the council said it is poised to start detailed design on the next three phases of the City Centre Movement Strategy, which includes proposals to make McCurtain St two way.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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