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Tuesday, 2nd April 2024

Is it time for another look at banning cars from Drogheda’s town centre?

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A typical scene at West Street - choked with cars but hardly any pedestrians.

By Andy Spearman

Today, in the first in a series of articles under the general heading of “Drogheda – Time to Stop the Rot” we ask is it time to have another look at pedestrianising some of our town centre streets?

The chaotic traffic in Drogheda with constant tailbacks in every direction, is not only very annoying, it is also having a major negative impact on the town’s economic development.

Put plain and simple, there are just too many cars on our streets to allow the town to function properly and, with thousands of new houses about to come on stream, the traffic problem can only get a lot worse if nothing is done soon.

There are no easy solutions to this problem which is stifling the life out of downtown Drogheda. Our love affair with cars has to change, the days of driving into town and parking outside the office or shop you want to visit are long gone.

Obviously there are some people who must travel by car, and they can be catered for, but for most of us, getting the bus, walking or cycling is far quicker and less hassle than driving.

At the moment though, walking around the centre of Drogheda is a pain with West Street, Peter Street and Shop Street almost permanently clogged with cars, vans and delivery trucks leaving pedestrians having to dodge oncoming cars and being exposed to diesel fumes.

None of this is conducive to having a relaxing time when shopping or meeting friends in town, especially if you have children or are a wheelchair user.  

Four years ago the Council and the Love Drogheda Business Improvement District organisation which represents local retail and other businesses, conducted an experimental pedestrianisation of West Street and, although there were some issues, mainly to do with signposting, the number of pedestrians visiting West Street and Shop Street increased 14 and 19 per cent respectively.

Happy days, or so you would have thought, but there were some traders who were dead set against the concept from the outset. It seems they would prefer to have people drive past their shops than wander by looking at the goods on display in their windows.

Increasing business for the town’s shopkeepers is of course welcome but it is not the only criteria by which we should measure the value of having a town centre that is pedestrian friendly.

Getting rid of cars from the town centre opens up the public space so it can be used for community activities such as concerts, meetings, exhibitions of all sorts and of course, shopping.

I can remember two way traffic in Dublin’s Grafton Street, it was chaotic! Now it is one of the premier retail streets in Europe. Can you imagine the furore that would ensue if it was suggested to allow the cars back!

Talking of Europe, anyone who has visited European towns and cities in recent years will have noticed that many of them have long since banned cars from the centre, for at least part of the day, and have thrived as a result.

Is it time to take another look at winning back the town’s main street for the people of the town and for visitors?

 

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