Manx Extreme Makeover: Lord Street Edition

Poor Lord Street – the ugly duckling of Douglas, which welcomes the ferry arrivals with its generous expanses of empty asphalt. What can be done with a gateway street that acts as a barrier between the town centre and the regenerated quayside? 

Across the world, authorities are building back better to enable their citizens to travel safely whilst improving quality of life and long-term health, both physical and mental. The IOM can be part of this energising global trend and Lord Street is the ideal first step. 

We are at a time when rethinking our streets can make a better Douglas delivering economic, social and environmental benefits, all whilst meeting the commitments of our biosphere status.

Last September the DoI closed lower Lord Street to eastbound traffic enabling regeneration work to Market Hill and Chapel Row. This experiment in traffic management delivered an instant improvement to the quality of life for the area’s residents, all while causing minimal disruption to traffic flow. 

With works now approaching completion, a golden opportunity to help reinvent central Douglas is about to be missed.

Can we really repurpose Lord Street to facilitate social distancing, tackle the climate emergency and air pollution, promote healthier lifestyles, regenerate the town centre, make streets safer and create a positive first impression for visitors? 

The retention of the one-way experiment and a 20mph speed limit would allow the provision of on street parking and the creation of a two-way segregated cycle lane: the final piece in a network that would link Union Mills to Summerland. 

Reducing the intensity of traffic and providing dozens of on-street parking spaces would benefit businesses on both sides of the street. The Town Centre Masterplan of 2014 stressed the importance of reducing barriers and improving connectivity between town centre areas.

The reduction in the quantity and velocity of motorised traffic would ease noise, vibration and air pollution to which residents are put through daily. Changing the eastbound carriageway to a segregated cycle route will promote healthier lifestyles and road safety in accordance with the Government’s aims of a 10% increase in active travel journeys and a 20% increase in the perception of feeling safe by vulnerable road users.

But, it’s not just about improving the local air quality! Increasing the use of active travel to reduce carbon emissions is a key component of the 2019 Curran Report which cited safety concerns and a lack of available routes as factors holding back the growth in walking and cycling on the island. The commitment to active travel was then confirmed by the Council of Ministers’ Action Plan for Achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050, so where better to start taking action than Lord Street?

COVID 19 has given us a time to experiment. The roads are quieter, bicycle sales are soaring, the hospitality industry needs to recover. Such a project does not need expensive repaving; cities around the world are reorganising their streets using road paint and planters to accommodate cycling and social distancing. 

How better to honour our Biosphere commitments and execute the Government objective for us to “live longer healthier lives” than to take such positive economic, social and environmental actions, or as they are known, the three pillars of sustainability. 

The real-life experience with one way has been positive, we owe it to our local people to seize this opportunity for the future.

Andrew Bentley (Douglas Councillor)

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Artist Impression- Betty Laurincova

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