A Place to Go …
… and a Way to Get There
Nobody had COVID in their strategic plan. Yet here it is, and we need to adapt.
While we’re focused on the cycling journey, we’re also thinking about the destination. Our vision for a significant improvement to the town, while being grounded in what’s shown to be possible.
A Better Navan in 2021
This year we’ll be spending more time than ever closer to home. Other Irish towns have delivered improvements rapidly, and so will we.
Get Businesses back on their feet
The COVID emergency has severely impacted our town. Now, more than ever, we need to support our local businesses.
Before we show our ideas for Navan, let’s take a look at what’s being done in other parts of the country.
Operation Transformation: Blackrock, Dublin
The starting point was an uninviting street, clogged with traffic, which people travelled through, not to.
A new streetscape was designed in close collaboration with local business and special interest groups, and constructed in accordance with engineering best practice and within statutory frameworks.
The result was a destination for people to meet, eat, shop and socialize.
We realised that quite urgently, we would have to do something with the village. The village needs to be able to respond to the crisis, but more importantly how are we going to help traders and the community to reopen the village in a way that would benefit everyone, in a safe, social distancing waySorcha Brady, Blackrock Village Rejuvination Action Group
From start to finish, the whole project took just 8 weeks.
At Navan Cycling Initiative we’re focused on making cycling safe, convenient and enjoyable. Part of that is about the journey, but it’s also about the destination. This is why we’re proposing improvements that will make Navan a place to go, and improved ways to get around.
Navan has the opportunity to bounce back from COVID and become a place to go to, rather than through. A people-oriented town centre will lead to a happier, healthier town with higher footfall for local businesses. Small improvements can bring about major positive changes, in the way a town functions and feels and this is being seen right across the country. We believe these improvements are needed right now, not in five years – or even next year. The improvements are in two parts:
1) A Place to Go
Provide public seating in public spaces around the town centre, to enable people to sit and socialise outdoors safely. Many towns have implemented easy-to-install seating areas with built-in greenery or flowerbeds, called “parklets” because they look like miniature parks. These parklets range from simply moving existing planters to surround a space, to fully-designed robust structures that can stand up to the rigours of town centre life
2) A Way to Get There
Accelerate the creation of protected walking/cycling routes that will have the biggest positive impact in the shortest time, to allow everyone to get around safely and easily. The first route connects Blackwater park to the existing cycle lanes at the N51, beside St Paul’s school. This will provide a safe, spacious route for walking and cycling to the park, which will reduce the pressure on the overcrowded car park. The second route is along the Dublin road, connecting the town with the Johnstown area, which will provide space for cyclists, walkers and runners alongside the Boyne.
These routes are already planned, so the idea is to accelerate the delivery, as was achieved in Blackrock village, to ensure that we get the benefit when we need it most.
It’s a long journey from an idea to reality. Our first step was to speak with other towns who have done this, to understand the benefits they’ve seen, and also the challenges.
While each project was unique and bespoke, there were some common factors, and some learning from the experience:
- Choose your location carefully. Avoid premises where alcohol is served. Identify businesses who are willing to maintain the facility and keep it tidy. And pick a sunny spot!
- Quality build means less antisocial problems. Where facilities appear temporary or poorly-constructed, these are more likely to attract graffiti, damage and other negative behaviour
- Collaborate with residents and businesses. This is a new concept, and people rightly want to understand and have their voices heard.
We spoke to local businesses to get different views and perspectives about the benefits and any negative impacts. We spoke with more than a dozen business owners in the town centre, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Accelerated and improved cycle routes and outdoor spaces in Navan … are an especially important and integral part of our social society to facilitate living with COVID- 19, creating a safe outdoor environment for social and recreational areas within the townLeon Duffy of LEON’S
This echoed the response from the business community where other parklet projects had been completed. Whilst many businesses are unable to open due to COVID, those that were could see a positive impact, with footfall now being driven by people meeting and going for coffee, rather than by retail.
The view from councillors was equally positive, and Councillor Yemi Adenuga brought the idea to the Navan Municipal District council.
At our March Navan District meeting, I proposed two motions to facilitate Navan town centre becoming a people oriented town centre, with increased footfall for local businesses. The two motions are geared towards helping Navan bounce back from Covid-19, attracting footfall to support our local businesses and improving mobility within the town. Obviously when you call for an improvement that required change, not everyone may understand it at the beginning and may not be on board, but with better understanding, and evidence of success stories in other places, more hands will be on deck.Yemi Adenuga, Navan Municipal District Councillor
There is still a lot of work needed to do, but other towns have paved the way, delivering larger-scale projects in just 8-12 weeks. If this is possible in Drogheda, Dundalk, Kildare town, Blackrock, Cork, Galway and even Westport, it must be possible here in Navan.
We’d love to hear what you think!