— Plan for pedestrianisation watered down despite public consultation support.
— Concern also noted over lack east-west cycling connection through the city.
Campaigners in Limerick have welcomed planned cycling improvements in the city’s post-COVID-19 lockdown mobility plan, but also highlighted that there’s a “lot of disquiet within the city” on the lack of daytime car-free streets in what is widely viewed as a watered down plan.
The “disquiet” from sustainable transport and livability campaigners in the city is because the city council’s plan for pedestrianisation of a small number of streets was watered down to appease a group of retailers. Time-limited pedestrianisation will now only happen mostly in the evenings.
Campaigners claim this was done despite public consultation showing that there was a 65% majority of submissions which supported the original plan to have more pedestrianisation.
Conor Buckley, chairperson of Limerick Cycling Campaign, said: “We welcome the commitment by Limerick Council to provide improved infrastructure on arterial routes into and from the city form the various suburbs and in particular, we are happy about the addition of cycling lanes in both directions on Shannon bridge, we along with the Limerick School Cycle bus have actively campaigned for a long time for this river crossing.”
He said: “We, however, would like to reiterate that in order for the new cycle infrastructure to be attractive to individuals new to cycling and children it is essential that routes are segregated and suitable for ages 8 to 80.”
“We are concerned with the lack of detail on how the proposed arterial cycle routes will connect within the city centre, in particular, the lack of a defined east-west connection through the city to deliver a coherent network. It is vital that these routes connect to offer a full service to and from places of work and education,” said Buckley.
The cycling campaign said the largest issue was the revising of the plan to water down the pedestrianisation elements.
Buckley said: “The biggest disappoint from this revised COVID plan is the removal of day time car-free spaces within the city core. A number of car-free spaces were proposed in the initial plan but unfortunately, these were removed despite majority support during the consultation period. This has triggered a lot of disquiet within the city.”
He added: “The provision car-free spaces outside business hours can not be considered a realistic exploration or reapportion of space. Yes, it might benefit some pubs but it won’t be attractive to families when shops, cafes and restaurants are closed.”
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On Wednesday, the Pedestrian Limerick campaign group said: “Councillors meet today to vote on the Covid Mobility Plan. Despite support for the plan in public consultation, a new plan gutting the pedestrianisation measures is being presented. The people had their say, and that MUST be respected.”
The group said that the vote was along party lines with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael voting in favour of revised plan “with gutted pedestrianisation” and Labour, Social Democrats, Greens and Sinn Fein rejecting the revised plan. A vote on the original plan was disallowed the groups said.
The annoyance was clear on Twitter this week from residents of the city and its suburbs. One tweet which summed up much of the reaction to the change in the plans was from Michael Finneran, which said: “Hugely disillusioned this eve with @LimerickCouncil Councillors & Exec. So many want a liveable city & work towards that end. The lack of imagination & bravery, & pandering to business rather than citizens is awful. We can’t even break the mould when the mould is broken.”
The #weneedspace campaign in the city held a “community morning” protest on Limerick’s Catherine Street this morning — they were asked to remove planters from the carrageway by the Gardai, but the protest continued afterwards without the planters as planned until after midday. The #weneedspace is currently comprised of the Limerick Pedestrian Network, the Limerick Cycling Campaign, Limerick Cycle Bus, and a business owner of Canteen on Catherine Street.
The city council on Thursday put on a brave face in a press release which highlighted consultation, including naming groups like Limerick Cycling Campaign and Pedestrian Limerick who were not consulted about the revisions to the plan.
Vincent Murray, director of economic development with Limerick City and County Council said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to send a submission to us about this plan. We listened carefully to everyone’s opinion and had many robust discussions on this issue.”
“We are proceeding with the cast majority of the original plan and that is a very important point to make. This is about turning the challenge of Covid-19 into an opportunity for our city centre. However we also had to listen and address the legitimate concerns expressed by many of the city’s traders and employers and we adapted a small number of our proposals as a result,” said Murray.
He added: “The implementation will now begin on a phased basis in the core city centre area. The consultation process around this issue has been positive but there were some challenges, and we will continue to engage with city centre stakeholders as we develop Limerick city together.”
Limerick City and Council Council said that it plans to bring in an “advisory 25km/h speed limit” to its core business district. This is in contrast to Dublin City Council running public consultation on a plan to radically expand 30km/h onto some main streets and roads, including almost all of Dublin city centre between its canals.
“Reassigning road space”
The city council said that it will be “reassigning road space” to cycling in a number of places including on Shannon Bridge where it plans to have “Traffic reduced to one lane in either direction for the provision of a cycle lane” and on the City Quays the council said that “The riverside lane on the city quays will be closed to traffic on a 24/7 basis from Shannon Bridge Roundabout to Bedford Row for the continuation of the cycle lane from Shannon Bridge.”
The council also said that access to the Old Dublin Road between Park Point, Castletroy and Parkway Roundabout to be restricted to outbound traffic. It said: “To reduce commuting traffic, you will no longer be able to go from the junction near Aldi up the Groody Hill towards Rhebogue and the Parkway Roundabout.” And it said that on the South Circular Road that there would be no vehicle access from the Ballinacurra Road inbound.
In both cases it said that it would introduce a “25km/h advisory speed limit” and claimed that this “will be implemented to reduce commuting traffic”.
The council also said that there would be no motor vehicle access to O’Callaghan Strand from it junction with the Ennis Road and said that this will reduce traffic along the riverside walk and form a link to the Condell Road cycle lanes.
The council also said that planning will be “fast tracked on two strategic cycle lanes” — LIT – City Centre, where the design for the Limerick IT to City Centre route will be advanced through the Part VIII Planning process, and Mungret – Raheen where the progress the installation of a cycle path will be advanced between Quinn’s Cross in Mungret and the Raheen Roundabout.
CLARIFICATION: The paragraph on the protest today was edited to better reflect what happened. The protest ended as planned after midday, not after the Gardai asked the protesters to remove the items from the carrageway.