A number of politicians, pressure groups and officials have talked about pedestrianising all or part of the city centre. We have a number of concerns about this:
1. We doubt that BANES have well a founded traffic management scheme which can avoid considerable disruption and chaos if the is extensive experimentation with pedestrianisation. The traffic management in the city centre is poor even under normal circumstances and perioding closures of sides of Queen Square do not inspire confidence.
2. Any pedestrianisation scheme needs to be part of a carefully thought through traffic plan for the whole of the city centre to avoid unintended consequences elsewhere in the city. We have yet to see such a scheme. This traffic management plan needs to encompass more than just traditional traffic issues and in addition cover the range of things address by the late lamented Public Realm and Movement Strategy.
3. Pedestrianisation will create numerous problems for city centre residents ranging from loss of parking to problems with access. A large number of people live in the city and nobody seems to accord them and their needs any priority in pedestrianisation experiments or longer-term schemes. There are many residents and visitors with impaired/variable mobility andf energy, who don’t meet Blue Badge criteria but would be adversely affected if the centre was pedestrianised. Accessibility for them appears to have been overlooked.
4. Most importantly this whole debate seems to be starting from the wrong end. We should be talking about how to improve the city centre for all those who live, work and visit. Pedestrianisation may have a role to play in these plans but it cannot and should not be seen as an end in itself.
It has been suggested that pedestrianisation is the magic bullet to improve air quality in the city centre. TARA has a long history of fighting to get improvements in air quality and this has shown us that the issue is much more complex than this and those advocating extensive pedestrianisation need to acknowledge this or we will fail to have the result that we would all wish to see. This is particularly true if we move from our current focus on NOX to the much more dangerous small particulate pollution.
We currently, for the first time, have a relative well funded project involving outside experts looking at pollution issues undertaking measurements and building models against which to evaluate potential approaches to improving air quality and we think the output of this work should be the starting point rather than simply espousing any particular solutions ahead of evaluating their data.