Doc Huysmans has been running his comic book shop business in Dublin city centre for the last 15 years.
For the last five of those years, he has been operating Dublin City Comics on Capel Street.
After a trial during the Covid-19 pandemic, Capel Street was permanently pedestrianised by Dublin City Council in May 2022.
Pedestrianisation, as a concept, is a “brilliant thing”, according to Mr Huysmans.
“Unfortunately, we have so many broken parts of our country that need to be fixed first,” he said.
“A proper transport system that actually allows people to get in and out of the city is paramount.”
Yesterday, the National Transport Authority announced €290 million funding to support the introduction of walking and cycling infrastructure to local authorities.
It comes as Dublin City Council was presented with a plan to restrict cars from the city centre.
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The Dublin City Centre Transport Plan aims to limit parts of the north and south quays to only public transport vehicles and introducing several pedestrianised areas.
Routes to business and car parks will be retained, according to the plan.
As a shopkeeper on the now-pedestrianised Capel Street, Mr Huysmans knows that the first issue affecting businesses will be parking.
“We have a lot of customers who are on the spectrum,” Mr Huysmans said.
Before pedestrianisation was introduced, parents could park with their children right outside his shop.
“Parents could let their children go into the shop without supervision. So they had that degree of autonomy, which was amazing.
“We also had a pick-up and drop-off spot because we get an awful lot of trade-ins – people emptying out their attics full of comics and toys. That’s now become a lot more difficult.”
There is still parking near to Dublin City Comics, but Mr Huysmans said the shop lost some customers, particularly those who are neurodiverse, when it lost its parking spaces.
‘Lot of trade’ lost
Businesses on Capel Street can now only receive deliveries before 11am.
“We’ve lost a lot of trade on the higher end items like large statues and big figures because people just can’t get them on buses to get them home,” Mr Huysmans said.
Another issue for Mr Huysmans and other businesses on Capel Street is anti-social behaviour in the area.
However, he said there has been a noticeable increase in garda presence since the Dublin riots in November.
“[The gardaí] have been very active in moving the guys on, but they’re just there every day and it’s not really a nice thing for people to come around the street and see a lot of guys drinking on a corner like it doesn’t really promote a family atmosphere unfortunately.”
In terms of footfall, Dublin City Comics is now far more dependent on the weather than it used to be.
“We’ve noticed some days when it’s raining, business completely dries off entirely,” he said.
Mr Huysmans has seen some positives in the changes. He says the street now looks “really, really good.”
However, he said the surfacing that the council has done on the road has caused some drainage issues.
“I’m hoping that with the summer we’re going to see more people coming out.
“It’s really nice. The planters look decent enough. They look much better when they get some plants growing in them over the summer.”
Council ‘hell bent’ on removing private cars – cllr
A Dublin city councillor has said Dublin City Council is “hell bent on getting private motorists out of the city”.
Nial Ring said that he believes no one is looking at the impact it would have on businesses in the city.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that it reflects “a lack of joined-up thinking”.
Mr Ring said it is not realistic to be thinking of everyone “cycling and walking around” as he described how a lot of people have to use cars to get to work, hospitals and other places.
“We are putting the cart literally before the horse in terms of transport problems.”
Speaking on the same programme, Councillor Darragh Moriarty argued that the research carried out by the council shows that six in ten cars are not going to a destination in the city centre.
“They are trying to get through it to get to somewhere else. There are numerous other alternative routes that they could take rather than clogging up our city centre streets. I think the quays, for example, haven’t worked for decades,” he said.
Mr Moriarty added that councillors have set ambitious targets to reduce city centre traffic by 40% by 2028 and, in order to reach those targets, they have to enact actions like this.
He said decisive actions are needed to give more priority to public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.
“This is not about turning people away from the city centre. These plans, in my view, will achieve the opposite of that,” he said.
He added that it is about making the city centre a place that people want to spend time in and “unblock the city” of the current traffic jams.