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Now that the cars are gone, how can pedestrians and cyclists best share Capel Street?

Now that the cars are gone, how can pedestrians and cyclists best share Capel Street?

On Friday, Conal Daly sits on a bench outside Brother Hubbard eating a sandwich.

If he recently cycled to Capel Street, he would have sailed to the middle of the road, no cars to worry about, he says.

Capel Street was official pedestrian street made by Dublin City Council on May 20, after 89 percent of respondents to a public consultation said they were in favour.

Daly says he likes the changes, but feels the street plan isn’t quite ready yet.

Cyclists and scooters travel back and forth at varying speeds. Some pedestrians choose to walk on the road, but others stick to the sidewalks.

Nothing tells cyclists to slow down, he says. “Just to be safe around pedestrians.”

So far, the municipality has opened up Capel Street to allow pedestrians to mingle with cyclists and e-scooters. But in the future, it can explore cycling against the current, the proposals say.

Shoppers on Capel Street on Friday, and city councilors, have their own suggestions about what the street should look like in the future with some segregated bike lanes and others claiming cyclists should dismount.

Clear signposts

It is not uncommon for pedestrian streets in the city to be shared by both pedestrians and cyclists.

Such is the case with Suffolk Street in the city center and on Grangegorman Road Upper.

In the news, the changes to Capel Street were sometimes described as car-free. A sign next to Spar in Capel Street states that the area is a “pedestrian zone” with the exception of delivery times between 6am and 11am.

But that’s not the experience of pedestrians on the street, says Lynn Hooper of Sherrard Street Pride of Place.

It’s unclear to her and others whether Capel Street is pedestrian or traffic-free, she says. “Where my mother lives, there are a lot of old people, and they go down Capel Street with their walkers.”

“The electric scooters, the electric bicycles. They fly up and down,” she says. “If they want people to walk on the road, there’s no safety.”

It’s important for people to know what the road is being used for, says Rachel Lee, policy and research manager for Living Streets, a UK charity that advocates for streets around cyclists and pedestrians.

“If people expect it to be pedestrianized and they walk out onto the road and almost get run over by a bike, they’re going to feel annoyed, worried, and scared,” Lee says.

Pedestrian zone sign on Capel Street. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

Hooper says she’d like to see pictures of bikes on the tarmac so people know to expect bikes on the street.

On the Capelstraat, pedestrians expressed mixed feelings about the possibility of conflicts with cyclists on Friday. “I cycle everywhere,” Mary Burnham says, leafing through one of the windows of the charity shop on Capel Street.

“The only thing is that some cyclists are terrible because they are speeding and not stopping in front of people. So they can be very disruptive,” she says.

Barbara Fitzgerald, holding her granddaughter’s hand, says she doesn’t mind the bikes. “If people are careful, I don’t think it’s a problem.”

Ideas for Capel Street

If the design of Capel Street needs to be revised, suggestions from councilors and people who roam the streets on Friday generally fall into two camps: build a separate bike path or ban the bicycles.

Joe Costello, a Labor MP, says that if something bad happens between a cyclist and a pedestrian on Capel Street, it could hurt efforts to make other streets pedestrians.

“We had to fight really hard to get them pedestrianized,” he said. “If we effectively turn it into a bike lane-style street, I don’t think we’ll make much progress on pedestrianized streets.”

Pedestrian area on Suffolk Street. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

Cyclists can get off easily, he says, so they should do so rather than sit on a speeding vehicle.

Burnham also says the best option might be to not allow them on the road at all, such as at Grafton Street or Henry Street. Although speed bumps for cyclists or a bike path are other options, she says.

Green Party councilor Janet Horner says Capel Street is a major north-south route. People who use bicycles and scooters should still be able to take advantage of that, she says, while it becomes more difficult for those in motor vehicles.

“We want it to be a little more difficult and discourage people from taking their cars,” she says.

On South William Street, cars leaving Brown Thomas Car Park can still use the street, but bollards closing the street to traffic on Exchequer Street have made the road safer, Horner says.

“The city center is generally much better, safer, etc. due to the limited number of cars using it,” she says. “Having car-free streets still makes it a much safer and more pleasant atmosphere for people walking.”

On Friday, as he rides his bike towards Bolton Street, Umar Ali says his job as a Deliveroo rider is now smoother. “It’s very easy for us to use this street.”

More Markers

There must be more separation between cyclists and pedestrians, says Curtis Currens, standing at the AIB Bank. “Because if it stays open, there’s just too much chance of an accident.”

Hooper, of Sherrard Street Pride of Place, also suggests demarcating areas with white lines, such as on greenways. “If there was such a thing, say this is a bike path and this is the walking path, it would work.”

Pedestrians on the street force you to slow down, says Ali, the Deliveroo rider. “When people are in front of us, I cycle very slowly. Because I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

But it would be better if there was a bike path, he says, to avoid collisions. “There is a lot of space for walking people. But there is no circuit for the riders,” said Ali.

A 5kph speed sign might help, Daly says, sitting on the bench on the side of the street.

“You don’t want a courier going at 30 miles an hour to get from A to B while some kids are having lunch,” he says.

Lee, Living Streets policy and research manager, says it could be unsafe to mix pedestrians and bicycles if there is no additional, separate safe space for pedestrians

“Because there are still sidewalks, you still have a safe place for the blind, anyone who is visually impaired, to walk on the sidewalk,” she says. A curb means that guide dogs do not distract anyone from the sidewalk.

If people on Capel Street don’t feel safe sharing the space with bikes, they can use the sidewalks, Horner says. “If there is safe space, people will use it.”

Lee says there should be a zebra crossing for them too, she says. “What if they want to go to a store on the other side?”

Horner says making more streets pedestrianized could soften Dublin’s cycling culture a bit.

It may be strange for cyclists to move from a car-oriented environment on an adjacent road to a pedestrian-oriented environment on Capel Street, she says.

“This is a different atmosphere, and they have to slow down and they have to think about things and they have to adjust their speed,” she says.