The bus lane on Forster Street has made it “impossible for businesses to successfully trade” there, and is the chief reason so many premises on the street have closed over the last month.
This is the view of Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely who said businesses on Forster Street have been “devastated” due to the bus lane which “goes nowhere”.
Over the past month, six retail businesses on Foster Street have closed, with the latest casualty coming this week, with the closure of Go Dutch florists.
While many would cite the economic situation as the main factor, Cllr Conneely and businesses feel the rate of closures in a small area over the space of four weeks shows other factors being more at work. As a result they city the disruption caused to parking and consumer access caused by the presence of the bus lane as the chief cause.
Hank Van Enk, the owner of Go Dutch florists, points out that the bus lane makes people afraid to park on Forster Street in case they receive a fine for blocking the route.
“People don’t know that they can actually park there for 10 or 15 minutes and go again, but I am not allowed to advertise that because that is against the law,” Mr Van Enk told the Galway Advertiser.
“It is even worse in the afternoon as the warden is there to keep cars away from the bus lane but that also makes people reluctant to stop by if they want to pick something up. It all means that I lost three to four customers every day.”
The Go Dutch florist in Salthill is still operating successfully but Mr Van Enk feels the experience of traders on Forster Street needs to be taken note of by City Hall. He also feels that lessons can be learned and measures taken to revive trade on the street.
“I would close Forster Street to traffic and pedestrianise it, linking it with Eyre Square, Williamsgate Street, and Shop Street,” he said. “As it is Galway has too small a shopping street, but the pedestrianisation would attract business and encourage people to shop and people from other parts of the country to come to Galway as well
However the council’s director of services Ciarán Hayes said City Hall has receive "no complaints" from traders in Forster Street. He also pointed out that where some businesses have moved out, others have moved in well after the installation of the bus lane.
"The nature of businesses changes in different areas of the city," he said. "On Shop Street many have done well out of the pedestrianisation despite the sever restrictions on vehicle use. So it's an unfair comment to make."
He also said that Cllr Conneely "has not brought" any evidence that the bus lane has affected trade in the area.
"If he has any evidence to that effect," said Mr Hayes, "we would be interested to see it."