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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Jamie McCarron

Capel Street shop owners claim more council effort needed to make pedestrianisation a success

‘The street will rot if there isn’t a full development to pedestrianisation or a reversal,’ one business owner said

BUSINESS OWNERS ON Dublin’s Capel Street have said that they feel as though the city council hasn’t achieved the street’s full potential since it became pedestrianised in May.

In the past five months a few tables and chairs, as well as some areas of coloured tarmac, have appeared on the street that was formerly bustling with southbound cars.

However this stretch of new tarmac ends abruptly in the middle of the street, making Capel Street’s new use appear “half developed,” according to one shop owner.

Ross Bradshaw, manager in Evans Art Supplies on a sidestreet of Capel Street, said that the pedestrianisation has had a knock-on effect on nearby streets, causing more congestion and hampering deliveries.

Bradshaw and some other business owners have created an unofficial coalition to meet with Dublin City Council about issues like the semi-completed tarmac.

Dublin City Council told The Journal that work on the rest of the street will be started “in the coming weeks”.

“It’s not even finished. It was kind of a creamy white colour when it was put down in the summer and within a day it was destroyed, it looks so dirty and terrible now,” he said.

“We’re not saying you have to reverse the whole pedestrianisation. It really suits the bars and restaurants but they do most of their trade in the evening.

“Where we stand at the minute is like being in limbo.”

Liam, the owner of Goodwin Musical Instruments, told The Journal that the current use of the street benefits some businesses but claimed it harms the majority of others.

It’s beneficial to the hospitality trade to have people walk by to get food or drink and to sit outside, but that’s it really. If you look at any of the keyboards or guitars we sell here, how are people supposed to get them home? Stick it on their bike?

Liam added that although delivery vans are allowed on the street between 6am and 11am, any moving of equipment in or out of the shop after 11 has to be put off until the next day, which puts off walk-in customers and makes organisation more difficult.

He also said that he thought the council should have acted more proactively to stop cyclists and electric scooter users from going down the street at high speed, which “is only discouraging pedestrians”.

Cliff, the owner of a bike shop, thought that the council’s efforts at drawing in footfall were half-hearted at best.

“It’s like the city council council is split on whether they want this to succeed. They’re trying to make this area all pedestrianised and encouraging but then they put loads of charges on anything that we try to put out in the streets,” he explained.

He said that a small flag on the footpath next to his business costs him approximately €‎700 a year, with the European-style outdoor tables and chairs costing other businesses far more.

“The street will rot if they continue like this without any full development or reversal.”

Vote in November

Chair of the city council’s Central Area Committee, Councillor Ray McAdam, told The Journal that a vote will be tabled in November to determine if Capel Street will remain pedestrianised, and he believes “a clear majority” of councillors would support that.

“When we have formal approval for the retention of the current use of the street, then we can earmark funding to improve the streetscape,” he said.

“It hasn’t been made clear to me why the whole street hasn’t been resurfaced. If you’re going to do a job then do it all or don’t do it. We cannot continue to have the ‘is it going to remain or not’ conversation,” the Fine Gael councillor added.

Last month a Dublin City Council survey found that most businesses on the street approved of the pedestrianisation, however survey responses showed that additional greening, seating and a reduction in the speed of cyclists on the street were highly sought after.

The council said it is working closely with its Parks department to provide more seating and plants and altering the layout to reduce cyclists’ speeds.

John Mitchell, the owner of Mitchell Car Accessories, said that the fact customers can no longer park at his shop has been difficult for business.

“Sometimes I don’t even have a customer in the door until 11 or 12,” he said.

Four doors down from his shop, Stephanie, a worker in an Enable Ireland charity shop, questioned whether the council had thought longterm about the street after May.

“How much summer do we get? Is it worth the loss in business that some shops will see? You wouldn’t sit out and eat on the street on a day like this. The way the street is, it’s almost acting like a wind tunnel,” she said.

Cliff was of the belief that the kind of pedestrian-friendly events arranged by the council in order to boost visitors to Capel Street weren’t meeting their full potential.

“An outdoor film screening they organised for an evening in October doesn’t do much for us, who would want to be at that?” he said.

“I got one piece of paper on my door from the council two months before a ‘Family Day’ event that happened. There were no advertisements, no signs, no messaging on the radio, and I tried Googling it and there was one mention of it. 

“The notice that we got was asking businesses, you know, ‘maybe you’ll stay open a little bit longer that day and put a table and chairs and invite people’,” he scoffed.

“There was a little push for pedestrianisation but no real effort made. It’s a half a developed street. Either they’re doing it or not, that really frustrates me,” he continued.

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