The livelihoods of artists who display their work at Merrion Square at weekends will be lost if car parking is removed to facilitate a protected cycle path, Dublin City Council has been told.
The council plans to remove all 31 car parking spaces from Merrion Square North to facilitate a cycle lane alongside the park. The lane is part of the interim Trinity College to Ballsbridge route which will run from Nassau Street to Northumberland Road and was outlined to councillors on Monday.
Councillors representing the southeast of the city have been contacted by artists, who have been selling their work on Merrion Square on Sundays for up to 40 years, to say they will not be able to continue if car parking is removed.
“We have received a huge amount of correspondence from the artists that sell on Merrion Square. They are very concerned about the removal of the parking in terms of their livelihoods, and how their business will survive,” said Independent Cllr Mannix Flynn.
The artists provided “a major cultural offering for the city centre and it is a way of getting people into a very quiet area on a Sunday”, said Fine Gael Cllr James Geoghegan. The removal of parking would also cause difficulties for parents attending the nearby maternity hospital on Holles Street he added.
“There’s about 5½ thousand babies delivered every year across the road at the National Maternity Hospital. I am a keen cycling advocate but even I wouldn’t put a newborn baby in a bicycle basket,” he said “You are going to cause major disruption to both artists and potentially parents collecting their babies”.
Labour Party Cllr Mary Freehill also raised concerns about the artists and hospital.
“Is a woman in labour expected to cycle in on a bike? Is that the reality some people think is possible?” In relation to the artists she suggested they could be given permits to park on the cycle lane at the weekends.
However several councillors, including Green Party Cllrs Claire Byrne and Hazel Chu, Sinn Féin’s Daniel Céitinn and Fianna Fáil’s Claire O’Connor said they did not support permitting parking in cycle lanes at the weekend.
“We have to be really brave and bold in these schemes, we have to reduce our transport emissions. Yes we have to get it right, we have to protect the cultural life such as the artists of Merrion Square, but these schemes are critical to the survival not just of the city but of the planet,” said Cllr Byrne.
Council senior executive engineer Niall Kinsella said the removal of parking had been selected instead of the removal of a bus lane or a traffic lane. “That was the basis of the decision to remove parking spaces, it wasn’t intended to affect anybody’s livelihood,” he said.
The council would engage with those affected “to see if we can find some sort of a workable solution within the scheme”, he said. However, there is “considerable parking provision nearby” he said. “Within [a] 500m walk of Merrion Square North, there are close to 650 spaces, including 100 on Merrion Square South, and a number of multistorey car parks, so the area isn’t light on parking.”