SHOPPING in Bantry has become a major problem.
This problem is not with the range of services Bantry has to offer, or with the business owners who work hard to make the town a vibrant and welcoming place. No, this elephant in the room, is all about ‘room’, because Bantry has a major problem when it comes to parking.
I know that on any given Friday, with the fantastic market in full swing, the town has, for many, become a nightmare. Of course, the market is a wonderful addition to Bantry and long may it continue to prosper. But even if there was never a market in Bantry, the traffic and parking chaos would still be ever present.
But it’s not the number of spaces available that’s the problem. It’s the attitude of the motorists. On any given day of the week, you will find cars and vans double parked outside the shops and banks across from the Square. The same is true outside Supervalu, outside the cafés, the chemists, the butchers. There seems to be an almost accepted culture of ‘park where you can’. This results in cars, vans and trucks stopping dead wherever they want.
The upshot of all this is that the rest of the traffic, making its way into the town or trying to get through it, has no choice but to slow to a crawl or stop, while attempting to navigate around the vehicles that are parked or rather ‘abandoned’. This scenario unfolds every day – but come Friday the parking chaos is multiplied 50-fold. Add to this the commercial and tourist traffic heading into Bantry on its way to Ballylickey, Castletownbere or Glengarriff, or beyond to Kerry.
Then you have the vehicles coming in the opposite direction and bingo! There is gridlock around the Square, New Street is jammed, as are Barrack Street and Main Street.
But is there a solution? Can shopping in Bantry become more of a pleasure and less of a weekly ordeal for those of us who want to support the businesses in the town? Or do you abandon Bantry altogether and shop in another town? Unfortunately, it looks like the latter is my best option right now.
Beautiful Bantry should be benefiting from the increase in visitor numbers brought to the world-famous Wild Atlantic Way. But how many of these are stopping and spending in Bantry? How many can even find somewhere safe to stop? How many have been advised to avoid Bantry altogether? The planned development of the inner harbour is to be welcomed, but will this solve the traffic and parking problems or exacerbate them? Is the latest supermarket planned for the the town going to help with parking, or hinder it?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do have an answer to my own questions about the Friday parking dilemma: I am willing to spend the extra 45 minutes travelling to and from Skibbereen every week to avoid the gridlock and the frustration of trying to get in and out of Bantry.
So here’s one more question: How many more are going to do the same?