It’s been a tough few weeks for everyone as we’ve all had to deal with everything changing. It is inspiring how seriously people in Limerick, as well as throughout Ireland, have taken the task of protecting our frontline workers. Social media is inevitably full of focus on the few transgressors, but in my experience the vast majority of people are following advice, staying at home, and not venturing out beyond 2km except for essential duties. Last night the Taoiseach confirmed that the lockdown will continue to May 5th. It may be extended further, depending on how successful the efforts to slow the spread of the virus are.

When you ask people what the best thing about Limerick City, is, often people will talk about our beautiful Shannon River. I know it well from many years of rowing with St. Michael’s and its ever-changing waters provide a peaceful focal point for the city. For many who live close to the city centre, it’s a place where they can stretch their legs close to home, and have some contact with nature. In these trying weeks we are seeing that now more than ever.

I’m worried, however, that there isn’t enough space given over to people so that they can follow the two-metre social distancing guidelines. South of the river there are two lanes of traffic and a boardwalk: the two lanes of traffic are supposed to be ‘shared space’ but in reality this is a space for vehicles.

I’ve been talking about this with my Green Party colleagues on Limerick City and County Council, Seán Hartigan and Saša Novak Uí Conchúir. We’ve come up with a temporary solution that we think can provide a bit more space for people.

The idea is to take one lane of traffic from O’Callaghan Strand, the Shannon Bridge, and the south quays, and give them over to people. Access by car would not be affected – everyone could still drive to places on the quays. But critically it would give an unbroken wide path from Sarsfield Bridge, over the Shannon Bridge, along the quays and back under Sarsfield Bridge to Arthur’s Quay park. An unbroken path for families to enjoy a bit of open space. There is no reason why we would not allow cyclists to enjoy this space too, as long as priority was given to pedestrians.

This should just be the start: there are many areas of the city where we could take away traffic lanes and give them to people to enable them to practice social distancing. Sarsfield Bridge and Clancy Strand are the obvious choices – but this might need a bit more planning because a bus route would have to be diverted.

All that we’d need are traffic cones and some signs diverting cars. It doesn’t seem like much to ask to keep everyone safe.

I’ve written to Pat Daly, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council, and sent the press release below to the local papers:

Close traffic lanes on the river quays to help social distancing – Greens

The Green Party in Limerick has called for traffic lanes to be closed along the River and on the Shannon Bridge to help people to conform to social distancing.

“We are calling for one lane to be closed to traffic on the Shannon Bridge, on O’Callaghan Strand and on Bishops Quay and Howley’s Quay from the Shannon Bridge roundabout to Arthur’s Quay Park”, stated Limerick City TD Brian Leddin. “At the moment it is too difficult for people to go out for a walk while maintaining a two metre distance from each other. This simple measure would help people who want to go out for exercise”.

Limerick City North councillor Saša Novak Uí Chonchúir noted “Many people who live within two kilometres of the river do not have a back garden, and for many in the city the walking of the three bridges is an institution. This practical measure would allow families to go out for a walk in safety”. The Mayorstone resident continued: “Limerick people have been very good at following the government guidelines to stay within two kilometres of their home, and we need to support that by providing safe areas to walk for people living in the city”.

Green Party Councillor Seán Hartigan concluded “This proposal would maintain vehicle access to all businesses along the quays and to residents on O’Callaghan Strand. It’s a simple short-term measure to make lives easier for people. With traffic volumes as low as they are there will be little disruption”. Noting the need for giving space to pedestrians throughout the city, the Castleconnell resident continued: “In the medium term we’d like to see an arrangement for Sarsfield Bridge, Clancy Strand and other areas of the city, but this would involve changing bus routes. For the moment, let’s push on with a practical solution, which can be implemented quickly with traffic cones and a minimum of signage”

ENDS

Contact Brian Leddin brian.leddin@greenparty.ie