Aside from the pandemic, and Limerick’s All-Ireland hurling victory, the main topic of conversation among traders in the Treaty City is “pedestrianisation”, and how it will affect their businesses.
Limerick hurlers are favourites for an All-Ireland treble next year, but the jury is still out on Limerick City and County Council’s plans to pedestrianise streets, create more cycle lanes, in its aim to create “a liveable Limerick”.
The city centre is being dug up, as part of the Council’s €9.1 million “revitilisation” plan to reshape the main O’Connell Street thoroughfare.
The works will reduce two traffic lanes to a bus lane, cycle lane, and wider footpaths, as well as seating areas and water installations.
The council says it will “breathe new life” into the city and will mean 38 parking spaces removed to make more room for pedestrians.
These works are in addition to the Covid-19 measures already introduced to facilitate outdoor hospitality including 20 outdoor dining parklets .
Lane closures of 10 streets at evenings and weekends will continue for the foreseeable future, says a council spokesman.
Despite the construction noise, O’Connell Street trader Dave Whelan, of Whelan’s Cameras, is in hopeful mood.
“I’m happy to see it, because it’s giving a focal point to the city centre, but there has to be a further plan to get the footfall into the city,” says Whelan.
Donal O’Connell, who runs Mike O’Connell menswear on Catherine Street where footpaths have been widened, taking up parking spaces, disagrees. “The wide footpaths are unnecessary, they are lovely to look at but, in reality, we don’t seem to be able to fill them.” While O’Connell agrees “there is room for pedestrianisation”, he says “the infrastructure isn’t there to support it and a total pedestrianisation would kill the city”.
Piotr Miskiewicz, owner of the city centre Aroma Cafe, argues that if the area was closed to traffic “it would not be a good idea” and says there is no longer enough street parking.
But it looks like pedestrian friendly streets will only increase in Limerick with O’Connell Street works due to finish by next year and longer-term plans for pedestrian plazas in the pipeline for areas including the Opera Site.