It seems counter-intuitive. We need to build bypasses past our market towns to shift thru-traffic away from them, in order to revive them. Yet there should be no doubt it is true.
On a recent trip to the border counties, it was noticeable how many bypasses are still being built. In County Cavan alone, alongside the relatively recent bypass on Cavan Town itself, Ballyconnell and Belturbet are both now bypassed. Head north to Enniskillen for evidence of the penalty paid when this is not done! Similar stories prevail across Northern Ireland, in towns including Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Dungiven.
Such places have great potential as Gateways to nearby natural beauty (the Lakelands, the drumlins, the Mournes and the Sperrins), but no one is going to spend any time in them for as long as much of that time is spent inhaling traffic fumes. Nor is anyone going to think of driving into them while competing with the massed lanes of thru-traffic.
You will rarely hear members of the environmental lobby demanding new roads, but in this case they really should. In most if not all of the above cases, the provision of a new bypass would in fact mean that some of the roads in the town centre could be closed and turned into pedestrian zones and proper squares (like, real squares, not places called “squares” which in fact consist of a couple of car parks placed diagonally opposite each other). Such places would be a lot more attractive, becoming true leisure destinations rather than locations for driver and pedestrian aggravation.
We need to set out the plans for bypasses of these towns and others, so that we can get on with it as soon as the Budget allows.