A leading street design expert says access to Derry’s city centre from the Peace Bridge raises “very serious safety problems”.
Ben Hamilton Baillie - an expert on the development of shared space principles for street design to improve safety, congestion and access - believes an “urgent redesign” of the pedestrian crossing area is essential due to the increased volume of visitors expected in Derry for the City of Culture celebrations.
“With the potential increase in visitor numbers and pedestrian volumes, the pressure on the key desire line between bridge and Shipquay Street is likely to mean pedestrians seeking to cross the wall and barriers and the dual-carriageway. This is already happening on occasions. An urgent redesign of the arrangement is required,” he says. Mr Hamilton Baillie believes it will require “bold moves” but insists it will be possible without seriously limiting traffic capacity and without having to remodel Harbour Square.
He has highlighted the importance identifying a commissioning body and gaining support from all interested groups, particularly DRD Roads Service, and “to get on with it without too much bureaucracy.”
He added: “It is vital that a scheme is prepared, and quickly, if serious safety concerns are to be addressed.”
Derry planning expert Kevin McGovern said an opportunity was missed during design but insisted that it can still be rectified.
“It’s time to look at the future opportunity to create a safe, attractive and pedestrian-friendly connection between the Peace Bridge and Harbour Square; provide a comprehensive design solution for the Harbour Square area which puts pedestrians first.”
He said one possible move may be the reintroduction of single lane traffic along the Foyle embankment.
“Key agencies such as DSD, Derry City Council and DOE Planning and Roads Service need to come together to commission a design master plan for Harbour Square and soon.
“We need to ask some serious questions about what kind of city centre we want - a modern city that puts people first and promotes a vital visitor economy or an archaic throwback to the dominance to the car,” he added.