Limerick City and County Council said that “safety concerns for all road users” was the reason for scrapping a planned cycle lane for Davis Street in Limerick City — planning documents, however, only point to concerns over possible loss of parking and retaining two-way access for cars.
After public consultation the design for the street was change from a plan with wider footpaths with trees, a protected contra-flow cycle lane and narrow carriageway, to a design with a wide carriageway with bicycle symbols painted on the edge of it and narrower footpaths.
Two weeks ago the council’s twitter account sent the following statement in defence of the scheme: “Davis St design was altered following submissions from the public & elected representatives over safety concerns for all road users”.
We asked the council to point out exactly what the safety issue was for Davis Street, but they would only direct us to the Part 8 planning files and reports.
The Part 8 planning report defends the plan for a contra-flow cycle lane and there is no mention in any of the documents of any “safety concerns” regarding it — there only seems to be mention of loss of car parking and a wish to retain two-way motorised access.
“Limerick Cycling Campaign is extremely disappointed that the city council has backtracked on its plans for improving Davis Street. We were supposed to be getting a real public realm improvement, consisting of a contra-flow cycle lane and wider footpaths and some trees. This would have helped the economic revitalisation of Davis Street and would have been an improvement for cycling access to the city,” said Alan McCormack, a spokesman for the Limerick Cycling Campaign.
“Instead, we have effectively got a very expensive resurfacing of the street. It seems that against best practice in urban design the City Council bowed to pressure from narrow local interests. We could have had a thriving and attractive city centre street with high footfall, safe for cyclists and pedestrians, but instead we will have the unappealing, unsafe, car-dominated status quo. Surely we have more ambition for our city than this? It’s a lose-lose for the city, for the street, for cyclists and even for those narrow interests themselves,” said McCormack.
He added: “The finished result also flys in the face of the Council’s own responses during the submissions process which highlighted the importance of including cycling infrastructure in their plans and reducing the use of cars.”
McCormack said: “Our fear now is that we will see a similar watering down of the plans for Parnell Street. It beggars belief that in Ireland’s ‘Smarter Travel Demonstrstion City’ that we are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer’s euros on public realm projects that don’t actually include smarter travel measures. Painting bicycle symbols onto tarmac doesn’t count.”
Cllr DanielButler (FG) tweeted: “Changes made to excellent original plan during part 8 submission period by local interests. Disappointed with final result.”
Tweeting about the planning files, An Taisce Limerick, said:”Looks like the Councillors signed off on the reversal of plans for Davis St. And it looks like Parnell St. suffered similar treatment.”
We are still waiting for a response from Limerick City and County Council in relation to the status of its plan for Parnell Street element of the Part 8, which has yet to be constructed.
IMAGE: Davis Street as reconstructed is shown above, while the image below shows the streets and protected contra-flow cycle lane which was removed from the plan.
The Gardai welcomed the changes, including making Davis Street one-way. Only a few submissions seem to object to the plan for Davis Street. Here’s a summary of these from the planning file:
Planning drawings of the revised Davis Street design and the original plan:
This is still how it works in this country, we go through the motions of operating a modern progressive democracy until the old familiar hand of clientelism steps in and changes the actual outcome; in this case reasonably good plans go through the correct legal mechanisms for implementation only to be scuppered with no legal justification at the last minute because someone had a word in someones else’s ear.
Compare this to the uproar earlier this week when Bus Eireann suggested that a lane of the M50 be given over to bus traffic. Not a chance in hell that was going to be allowed to happen no matter how good an idea it may or may not have been. Cyclists are not a sufficiently powerful or vociferous group to prevent their cause being repeatedly undermined by powerful lobbies on spurious grounds.
My (admittedly under-informed) reading of the article is that there is no justification for the entirely inappropriate last minute changes and that there are very good grounds to launch significant objections, appeals and possibly even legal action. It should no longer be possible for this to happen. Ireland’s ‘Smarter Travel Demonstration City’. Ha, what a joke.