Coalition colleagues in Limerick are at odds over a proposed cycle route for the city, with a Fianna Fáil TD being accused of undermining Government policy on active travel and climate change.
Former minister Willie O’Dea has led opposition to the planned South Circular Road to City Centre Active Travel Scheme, the aim of which is to provide a continuous cycle link between Limerick’s city centre and western suburbs. The project has been strongly backed by TDs from Fianna Fáil’s coalition partners Fine Gael and the Green Party.
It is the third significant cycle route proposed for the city. The first, from the University of Limerick and Castletroy to the city centre, is already in place, and the second, linking the Technical University of the Shannon in the northern suburbs to the city centre, is being developed.
However, the latest proposal has hit a snag over plans to place cycle lanes on a stretch of the South Circular Road that is reasonably close to the city centre. Mr O’Dea argues the cycle lane will force residents to forego parking spaces, creating an intolerable situation. He has urged councillors to vote against the scheme when it comes before the council for decision on February 20th. However, his stance has been challenged by Green Party TD Brian Leddin and the Limerick Cycling Campaign.
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Conor Buckley, chair of the campaign group, has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan complaining about the position adopted by Mr O’Dea, which he claims is sabotaging the policy objectives of his own Government. He said Mr O’Dea’s stance is “anti-climate, anti-worker, anti-job creation and anti-family”.
“While Limerick Council, its Active Travel Team and councillors from all three Government parties have engaged constructively to ensure Active Travel projects proceed to improve our city, Deputy O’Dea’s actions have hampered their continued progress,” he said in the letter.
“To speak very plainly, Deputy O’Dea is working in direct opposition to Government policy in a way that will harm our climate obligations, that will place children attempting to reach school on bikes at serious risk, that blocks our key healthcare workers in reaching their workplace in UHL, and, finally, risks the economic and jobs growth of the Limerick City West and the larger region.”
Green Party TD for Limerick City Brian Leddin said infrastructure such as the cycling route was “critical for investment in the city”.
“With companies increasingly looking to having sustainable corporate credentials, they will not invest. As well as that you move more people by bike and buses than by car,” he said, adding that the route would help the city to grow and meet its climate targets.
Mr O’Dea has said the issue is not black and white, and that his opposition is confined to a short section of the route, which is residential. He said that if the cycle lane goes ahead “there will be no place for residents to park their cars” and “relatives will not be able to visit them”.
He said 90 per cent of the residents in the South Circular Road were opposed to the cycle lanes. He said it was not just blanket opposition. “There is an alternative suggestion of a shared surface between cars and bicycles with a maximum speed for cars of 30km/h. This is a reasonable proposal which I hope the council will accept. ”
Proposed cycle lanes have run into opposition in a number of cities, with the principal reason being residents complaining about the loss of parking spaces. Similar opposition has been voiced to cycling plans in Galway.