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Our school gates are some of the most unsafe public spaces, and that needs to change

— Motorist crashing into wall outside Limerick school adds to frustration at lack of action.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: A serious incident occurred at St Paul’s NS in Dooradoyle last Friday at school pick-up time, when a driver drove across a footpath and crashed through the boundary wall of the school, eventually coming to a stop quite close to the playground area for the younger children. 

Fortunately, there were no injuries on this occasion, however, given how many children and parents use this footpath at school pick-up time, and given that the wall was completely demolished, this incident could have ended in far more tragic circumstances.

Aidan Hogan, a local parent and father of three girls who cycle to the school, said an incident such as this “comes as no surprise and that it cannot simply be dismissed as an accident. The reality is that the occurrence of such an incident was inevitable given the sheer volume of traffic at and around the school gate, and indeed inside the school gate as cars are funnelled through the schoolyard itself at the morning drop-off.” 

Aidan chronicles his daily journey to and from school on Twitter @sarsfieldsride, where he posts clips of close passes, cars blocking the road, cars parked on footpaths and occasionally people shouting abuse at his children as they travel to school.
 
This congested and unsafe environment puts St Paul’s children and parents at risk of injury every school day but also endangers and inconveniences the students and staff of St Gabriel’s school next door and the residents of the 150 households in Dooradoyle Estate.
 
The dangerous traffic conditions that exist outside (and inside) the school gate have been repeatedly highlighted to school management, Limerick County Council, and local councillors.  However, despite some discussions, there has been a notable lack of meaningful action. Only yesterday Mayor Daniel Butler dismissed the incident on Springfield Drive saying that there is no issue in the area and that
the traffic is normal.

However local residents disagree, with one local saying that “The Residents Association and local residents have been concerned for many years about the heavy traffic at certain times of day, illegal parking, access for emergency vehicles and we have informed local representatives and the council many times of our issues.”

St Pauls was selected last year as one of eight Limerick schools for inclusion in the Safe Routes to School Programme. This programme presents an excellent opportunity to look at the school environment and solutions to reverse the lack of safety however in recent correspondence the local authority advised that the programme was being delayed in St Paul’s due to planned construction
work in the school.

Yet more delays lead to an increased risk that a child will get seriously injured if nothing changes.

The Limerick Cycling Campaign responded to the incident last weekend highlighting that school environments are some of the most unsafe public spaces in our towns and villages and that unsafe driver behaviour and unsafe infrastructure is putting the lives of children at risk – at what should be
a place of safety.

The campaign said: “Travelling to school on foot or cycling is considered by many as a dangerous activity and the more we delay the roll-out of key safety measures, the higher the risks we take with our children’s lives.”

Parents and active travel advocates met with the council’s Travel and Transportation SPC just over 13 months ago in December 2020.  The presentation highlighted the ongoing safety issues at St Paul’s which have now contributed to last week’s incident. All those present were very supportive of proposals for a school zone or school street on the street where this incident happened last Friday, but, clearly, no action has been taken to date.

Parents, local residents and active travel advocates are now renewing their call for immediate action to be taken in the area, to avoid a repeat occurrence of last Friday’s incident.

Anne Cronin is vice-chairperson of the Limerick Cycling Campaign and co-founder of the Limerick Cycle Bus.

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1 comment

  1. completely agree very few schools have pedestrian only gates and most gates are shared with staff cars and parents deliverys etc. even where dublin schools have had the pencils installed it has not removed the issue but rather increased it and brought it onto corners etc. Only way to deal with this issue is to make it easier to remove the idea of driving children to school that are unnessesary trips by supporting what councillors want ie the dublin school bus system as well as proper regulated school walk zones and school bike bus schemes

    Reply

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