Since the Covid pandemic struck and changed people’s lives, work has been taking place to meet the challenges created and the new mind-set required when thinking about transportation and road space by the City Council’s Traffic Department and its Covid Mobility Team.
‘Additional footpath space was made at bus stops a year ago to facilitate social distancing, but then we started to see how footpath build-outs could also help businesses provide outdoor dining space’ says City Council, Engineer, Claire French. Adding ‘When businesses saw it, they wanted it in their area’.
As summer approached she and her colleagues worked closely with the City Council’s Office of City Recovery to promote outdoor dining in the city. ‘We are targeting areas where there are a lot of cafes and restaurants together. We’ve had a huge amount of applications from across the city’ says Claire. In May this year there was a massive spike in interest.
Not surprisingly 85% of the public favour the traffic-free trial to facilitate outdoor eating on Capel St and Parliament St according a public consultation. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 6.30pm to 11.30pm both streets will be traffic-free for the next 5 weekends to allow for dining in the open.
The project is in addition to the increased pedestrian space already created by build-outs on Capel St. Quite a few side streets off these locations will be traffic-free as well. Other streets including South Anne’s St, Drury St, Dame Court, South William St all went traffic-free on 24th of May, followed by traffic flow changes around Hume Street and Ely Place.
The additional benefits of expanding pavements are that it also clears clutter like bollards, parking metres and signs to designated areas. This creates more space for pedestrians, buggies and for seating and means that the areas are fully accessible for all users whilst protecting people from traffic.
Brightly coloured graphics on the streets across the city highlight that footpaths have been widened for outdoor dining. Whilst other streets like Merrion Row still have traffic going through them, ‘The logos alert vehicles to slow down, to be aware that the streets have changed’ says Claire adding that ‘They’re also a bit of fun’.
In the Grafton Street area, 34 car parking spaces were moved as there are a number of multi stories nearby with 2,500 parking spaces. According to Claire outdoor dining has been transformed in those areas. ‘St Anne’s Street is interesting as it’s a mixture of shops, restaurants and jewellers who’ve all seen the benefits. Before people wouldn’t even stop and look in shop windows but now they are. Sometimes when there’s a queue for the jewellers they’ll have a coffee while they wait, so it has been all very positive’.
Other suburbs and city villages are getting safe dining spaces where car parking bays are being reassigned with the help of planters to create a buffer.
A review of these measures will take place in the autumn, ‘It will be very interesting to see how it catches on, so we might come back to make some of these spaces more permanent’ says Claire.
To help tourism and hospitality businesses set up for the outdoors’ summer and to increase capacity in the city, they can apply for an outdoor seating and accessories grant. The financial support administrated by the City Council will help existing businesses create a safe and accessible experience for diners.
As another boost, all street furniture fees have been waived until the end of 2022.
See www.Dublincity.ie for more information.
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