OPINION: Time to put Limerick's pedestrians first

Thomas Bibby and Ailish Drake

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Thomas Bibby and Ailish Drake

OPINION: Time to put Limerick's pedestrians first

Limerick could become a much more people-friendly city than it currently is if the needs of pedestrians are brought to the fore

No matter how we choose to travel around Limerick, we begin and end our journey as pedestrians.

Putting pedestrians first makes for an inclusive city. This means making sure our streets are safe and comfortable for those of us who need to use mobility aids, wheelchairs, buggies, young and old.

High quality public realm, open spaces and pavements with places to stop and rest will make the city a nicer place to be.

More beautiful streets with significantly lower volumes of traffic at slower speeds, makes it not only safer, it becomes a pleasant to walk, stop and stay longer. A walkable city is a liveable city.

Walking has undeniable health benefits. If our streets encouraged walking, more people would be able to keep active as they went through their day.

Even a small increase in physical activity can significantly increase health outcomes. Limerick’s historic city centre is probably the most walkable of Irish cities. The grid pattern of small blocks provides permeability and flexibility to get around easily. It’s just a 12 minute walk from the Hunt Museum to Pery Square.

A people-centred city is good for the economy. Our retailers deserve a red carpet of public space around their businesses to attract customers.

The more people we have walking around our city centre, the more vibrant our retail sector will be. A pleasant pedestrian environment also attracts employers: with the market for talent getting tighter in Ireland, we can attract companies by offering an attractive urban environment for people to work in, far removed from the out-of-town business parks favoured in previous decades. 

Above all, a city that favours pedestrians will be attractive to all residents and visitors, without barriers.

Above: 'Astna Square redesigned by town architect Giulia Vallone in 2014 to create an accessible, people friendly, public space at the heart of Clonakilty'. Courtesy: Cork County Council, Photography: Dermot Sullivan

We are a stronger city when we share the same space. Our city centre, as well as the town and village centres in the county, should be spaces that do not discriminate by income, physical ability, or any other factor.

The Irish Pedestrian Network (IPN) is a national pedestrian advocacy network, founded by Neasa Hourigan.

Initially the network was set up to raise awareness of the everyday impediments to walking, especially for people with disabilities.

Neasa’s seven year old daughter is visually impaired and a cane user and frequently meets obstacles such as bins, sandwich boards, broken pavements and dog poo. This makes getting around both difficult and unpleasant, but add to this the many cars completely blocking pavements, pushing pedestrians onto the road, and you could say our footpaths and streets have become downright dangerous.

With serious concerns for the safety of pedestrians, it quickly became clear that the pedestrian voice needs to be heard. Neasa is now in the process of rolling out the network nationally, with Pedestrian Cork set up last month and Kerry is due to meet in January.

As Limerick prepares to plan its transport strategy, it’s time we put pedestrians first in how we plan our city. 

With the announcement this month by The National Transport Authority and Healthy Ireland of a new pilot campaign to encourage people to make walking part of their daily commute, there isn’t a better time for pedestrians to advocate for more walkable communities across Limerick. Many of the principles of the IPN are aligned with other civic groups already established in Limerick. 

Limerick Pedestrian Network is open to all and welcomes involvement from people across the city and county. An open meeting will take place next Monday, 11th of November, The People’s Museum, No. 2 Pery Square at 7pm to start planning for a more walkable, prosperous and healthy city.