New debate opens over pedestrianisation of Capel Street

Six months after the launch, the traffic-free status of Capel Street, a favourite of the queer community, is now up for debate again.

Photo of Capel Street, which is at the centre of a debate over its pedestrianisation.
Image: Via Instagram - @hotpressmagazine

After plans to pedestrianise Capel Street were approved in April this year, a new debate has now opened on whether the street should remain traffic-free. Capel Street, a favourite of the LGBTQ+ community in the heart of Dublin, is home to queer venues Pantibar and Nealons and to the beloved community space Outhouse.

The effective pedestrianisation of Capel Street took place earlier in May as a result of a public consultation that saw 91% of the submissions being in favour of the proposal to make it traffic-free. The fact that Capel Street has become safer for pedestrians and cyclists was also among the reasons why the street was named the 22nd coolest street in the world according to a list by travel magazine Time Out.

However, as reported by the Dublin Inquirer, it seems that the traffic-free status of Capel Street is up for debate…again. During a meeting on Tuesday, September 13, Dublin City Council presented a report that showed that there has been a 93% reduction in vehicles on the street, while the presence of pedestrians and cyclists has increased. “It’s great to hear that it is one of the coolest streets in the world and people are enjoying themselves eating outdoors,” said Independent Councillor Christy Burke.

However, he then added that local residents on surrounding streets are now “tortured with traffic and illegal parking outside their doors”. Indeed, according to the report, nearby streets such as Church Street and North King Street registered traffic increases. “Coming up to Christmas there should be consideration made for the car parks and people coming into town.” said Labour Councillor Joe Costello.

Another major concern that came up during the meeting was that business owners on Capel Street felt that they hadn’t been properly consulted about the traffic-free status of the street. Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town, a group that represents businesses in Dublin, said that the majority of business owners would like cars to be allowed back on Capel Street during the day.

He added, “Most businesses on Capel Street are disappointed with current levels of trade. The majority of business owners would prefer if traffic could access the street during the day, and it was pedestrianised in the evening”.

However, not everyone seems to agree with this statement. Drag queen Panti Bliss took to Twitter to voice her opposition to Dublin Town’s claim, saying it was “full of unsubstantiated rubbish claiming to represent ‘businesses’ on the street. Well you don’t represent my business on the street and you never bothered to ask. To think you get money from my rates for this!”

In another tweet, she continued: “They never asked me! Dublin Town is meant to represent all the businesses, not their three mates”.

Now, six months after its launch, the pedestrianisation of Capel Street is at the centre of a debate again and will be up for review in October. In general, as stated in the report, the feedback about the initiative has been mostly positive “with people enjoying the atmosphere and more welcoming feel to the street”.

“Capel Street is an example of what sustainable inner-city streets could look like,” said Green Party Councillor Janet Horner. “A lively mixture of retail, hospitality and residential, lots of small local businesses and prioritising cycling and walking.”

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