Campaigners call on councillor to withdraw motion to widen junctions on Limerick active travel project

Cycle campaigners in Limerick City are asking a councillor to reconsider a motion to widen junctions on a new walking and cycling project currently being built in the city.

The motion, in the name of Cllr Elisa O’Donovan, who is also the Social Democrats’ candidate for directly elected mayor, said: “I will move at the next Meeting of the Metropolitan District of Limerick that this Council will widen the junctions along the Father Russell Road active travel scheme.”

Asked about the motion yesterday, Cllr O’Donovan said: “As you will know, I proposed the Father Russell Road active travel scheme and am very supportive of the new layout and designs. However, even the council recognises that the junction tightening that has taken place needs to be increased. I put it forward as a motion so we can discuss this publicly.”

She provided a copy of an email from officials to councillors on Friday, which outlined that while the narrowing is planned, the space is temporarily restricted further — this refers to the works and the construction barriers.

A Limerick City and County Council official wrote: “At present, while work is ongoing and to protect the safety of on-site workers, turning space for vehicular traffic is temporarily restricted. This will be increased when the junction tightening construction works are completed.”

It added: “Works at locations where junction tightening is taking place are anticipated to be completed later this month.”

Asked asked Cllr O’Donovan would be withdrawing the motion given the council’s response, she said: “No, we will discuss it at Monday’s meeting, but I am happy with the response but just want to get clarification on junctions crossings for cyclists and pedestrians also at Monday’s meeting as they are not safe at the moment.”

Dave Tobin, the vice-chair of the Irish Cycling Campaign and local campaigner, said the motion runs “completely contrary” to Social Democrats’ policy to support active travel infrastructure and safety interventions such as this.

He said: “The Fr Russell Road Active travel scheme is a huge investment into our area. As someone who lives in the area and is teaching in one of the schools at the eastern end of the scheme for over 20 years I know how Fr Russell Road’s incredibly hostile design has long been a safety concern and a barrier to children walking and cycling to school.”

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see a motion like this to widen junction points and increase the danger to children walking and cycling to school proposed by Cllr O’Donovan, especially in the current context of increasing road deaths which are disproportionally affecting vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists,” Tobin said.

He said: “As someone who uses the road countless times each week, I’ve seen the current widths even while under construction, and all are fully compliant with Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS) and are easily traversable by car. I have no doubt that finalising construction on these junctions and removing construction barriers, etc, will solve any current worries residents may have, provide the full widths as per the plans and make it safer for all road users.”

Tobin said that from speaking with other councillors in the area, local campaigners understand that information issued to councillors this week clearly explains that there will be more than adequate space, and, once construction is completed, the space is well in excess of minimum limits set by national design standard.

“The sizes of the junctions are all in line with what was approved by councillors in the Part 8 vote and will in no way restrict any motor vehicle movements,” Tobin said.

He added: “From next September, my own daughter will be using this new cycle lane to travel to and from secondary school. This motion will put the safety of children like her walking and cycling to school at risk to accommodate drivers wanting to travel through junctions at inappropriate speeds. As all the issues surrounding the issues have already been thoroughly addressed by council engineers, I see no reason that the motion should be presented next Monday. I’d strongly urge Cllr O’Donovan to reconsider and remove this motion from next Monday’s Metro Area Council agenda.”

Images: Thanks to Dave Tobin.

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