Cycle campaigners in Limerick have called on local councillors to support the South Circular Road project in the city — they say the sustainability of the city, the ability of children to cycle to school is at stake.
They also said that foreign direct investment is at risk if the city does not become more sustainable.
The call from campaigners followed a move by Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea to ask councillors to accept a watered-down compromise for the council’s plan. Deputy O’Dea has objected to or looked for at least two cycling projects to be watered down in the last year.
The South Circular Road project planned by Limerick City and County Council is due to be voted on by councillors in the next few weeks. The route is a mix of cycle paths and traffic calming on a residential street, a combination which is common in the Netherlands and other countries.
Conor Buckley, the chairperson of Limerick Cycling Campaign, said: “It came as a shock for us to hear Willie O’Dea objecting against a cycle lane on South Circular Road as Fianna Fáil policy and the current Government policy.”
He made the comments in an interview with Limerick Today with Joe Nash on Live 95, a local radio station.
Buckley said that the policy of favouring cycling is embedded in the Limerick Transport Strategy and even originated at a national level through Noel Dempsey, a former Fianna Fáil Minister for Transport.
Buckley said that the campaign is asking to councillors asking them to support the scheme.
“It’s not an easy job being an elected representative,” said Buckley. But he said: “They need to communicate why this is needed to maybe an older generation.”
He said that school children need the route to be able to cycle safely to school and that companies based in Limerick are looking for the city to become more sustainable.
When asked about the opposition to the project, Buckley said: “A standalone cycle lane, but if you change the question to ‘do we want a cycle network?’ ‘Do we want our children to be able to cycle to school or cycle independently to sports practice?’ you might get a different answer.”
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“A cycle lane is part of the solution in connection with a better bus and rail network, and building a more sustainable and better city,” he said.
O’Dea is supportive of cycle routes “in principle”
The presenter of the radio show said that they asked Deputy O’Dea to come on the show but he said was unavailable.
In a statement, O’Dea questioned if Buckley was from the area as he claimed “90%” of locals were against the project. In response to this, Buckley said that he cycles his children to school using the roads involved, runs a business in the city and his employees use the route too.
“People raised concerns, it’s not a vote on whether a scheme should go ahead or not. It’s about how the delivery of the scheme affects you on a daily basis. So, yes, residents on the South Circular Road are going to offer submissions and suggestions. And we [the cycle campaign] would have offered suggestions. While we are fully supportive of the scheme, we made observations on how it could be better.”
He added: “So, in the numbers that are being reported, the cycle campaign’s submission is being represented as submission against the scheme.”
The 90% figure is understood not to align with any data from the public consultation and he has previously been involved with spreading misinformation against Active Travel projects.
The cycle route is designed for the particular route, but O’Dea claimed in his statement to the radio station that a “one-size-fits-all” approach was being taken while he claimed he was supportive of cycle routes “in principle”. He also suggested that the public consultation was pointless if the project went ahead, but his statement also made reference to extra parking spaces which are being planned as a result of the public consultation. But he claimed these were inadequate for residents.