Expand the public realm for Social Distancing
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
We wrote as a Green Party group to request that Waterford City and County Council reallocate road space to walking and cycling during the pandemic.
The response of the council to the Covid-19 challenge has been excellent, with resources rightly directed to preserving essential services and ensuring the safety of the council’s staff and Waterford citizens. As movement restrictions continue and car traffic numbers dwindle (to an estimated 25% of pre-pandemic levels on major roads), the council has an opportunity to improve things further and reallocate road space to: a) make social distancing easier for those walking or cycling to shops or essential work, given that it is likely that social distancing will be with us for up to a year,
b) make local, urban cycling and walking safer for those who are exercising within their 2km zone, especially for those with prams or wheelchairs,
c) practically trial road measures which may be useful after the pandemic, including for public health reasons. Such measures have already been rolled out elsewhere, such as: • Dublin City: Dublin City Council has announced measures to remove loading bays and parking spaces to provide more space for people walking and cycling, install bollards to protect these spaces, and install a contraflow cycle lane in the city centre.
• Germany: Berlin has added temporary marked bike lanes, directly replacing car lanes.
• Canada: Vancouver have turned well trafficked roads into one-way streets, setting aside a temporary extra lane for walking and cycling. Calgary has taken a similar approach. Winnipeg has fully closed several central and suburban streets to through traffic with cones, signs and bollards (all temporary), creating spaces for exercise.
• Mexico: Mexico City has started an ”emergency bike lane” network.
• USA: Washington DC has seen unofficial “pandemic pavement” widenings, with cities such as Brookline MA using cones to make lanes for walking.
• UK: Hackney Council has rolled out filtering measures to slow/reduce traffic in residential areas. Brighton and Hove City Council are to close streets from Monday to make space for cyclists and walkers. Over sixty cities worldwide have taken such measures. Measures such as the above could be taken in Waterford, including:
• Cones to widen footpaths in town/village centers or outside trafficked shops/queue areas. (Dunmore East, Kilmacthomas, Cappoquin, The Mall & Ballybricken in Waterford)
• Temporary use of cones or bollards to create quietways to stop through traffic in housing estates and make new roads for play/exercise.
• Repurposing of full lanes to cycle lanes. (The Prom, Gallwey’s Hill, and Cliff Road in Tramore for example)
• Temporary road pedestrianisation (such as Gratten Square & Davitt’s Quay, Dungarvan)
• Signs indicating improved pedestrian priority at junctions, as well as shorter pedestrian waiting times and disabling crossing buttons, reducing risk of transmission via crossing buttons.
• The introduction of a 30km/h speed limit on non-national roads, an awareness campaign to slow drivers down, and strict enforcement action to prevent parking on foot paths and cycle lanes. Our understanding is that such measures would be allowable on a temporary basis in response to the pandemic, or on longer-term footing under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994. These suggestions have come from constituents, who have flagged difficulties and extra needs they have during the pandemic. As social distancing seems likely to continue for several months, such measures could ease these difficulties and frustrations greatly. These are particularly important given the surge in deaths seen on our roads over the last month. We fully understand that the council faces huge pressure and financial uncertainty. The first priority must be safety of staff and local residents, followed by financial stability. However, this may be the only chance to trial low or zero-cost measures, and would dramatically improve the public realm for those who live in the county.
Is sinne le meas Marc Ó Cathasaigh TD
Cllr. Jody Power
Cllr. Laura Swift
Lynne Glasscoe, Lismore
Críostóir Ó Faoláin, Dungarvan
Tom Keith, Comeragh