Limerick's BeSPOKE Bike Festival put a positive focus on cycling, but the infrastructure in Limerick needs to improve before bikes take centre stage
When the much anticipated Coca-Cola Bikes scheme was officially launched in Limerick on December 8, 2014, I signed up straight away.
I got my card in the post and started to use the service. My enthusiasm didn’t last long for a two reasons.
Firstly, I live in the city centre. I walk a lot and I found the Coke Bikes stations were too clustered within our relatively small city centre to merit using the scheme.
Secondly, as a novice cyclist I felt that I was taking my life in my hands when I took to our city’s streets on the saddle of a bike.
In this column I recently addressed the issues facing public transport usage in Limerick.
Just last week, during a visit to our city, An Taoiseach Leo Varadker stressed his commitment to seeing Limerick city develop in the coming years and gave his blessing to the Limerick 2030 project.
We are almost a third of the way into Limerick 2030’s life span and we have yet to commence the development of a transport strategy for our city. This is despite the planning for, or completion of, numerous key commercial, education and residential developments around Limerick city.
All this is leading to our city’s much-lauded job creation success story and population growth. Yet how are we to move about over the coming years?
On Monday Limerick City and County Council addressed this issue saying development of the Limerick Transport Strategy will be started ‘in the near future’. Once this process begins it should take approximately 10 months to deliver a draft.
How long it takes for this draft to then be finalised is anyone’s guess but going by these estimates it’s hardly likely we will see any form implementation of any transport strategy for our city before 2020.
Slightly worrying considering our status as the fastest growing region outside Dublin.
In the meantime, Limerick Cycling Campaign has been established as a body which is endeavouring to formulate an action plan for making Limerick a cycle-friendly city.
You see, other key cities in Ireland have developed a cycling plan. Limerick hasn’t.
What I like about Limerick Cycling Campaign is that they are focused on presenting facts, conducting solid research and engaging constructively with decision makers.
The team behind the campaign are not working in isolation. They are not agitators. They have developed a good working relationship with the local authority to ensure the roll out of infrastructure over the coming years.
Just 1.8% of people who work in Limerick city centre travel by bike. That is compared to the national average of 2.4%. It rains less in Limerick than it does in Amsterdam yet 37% of kids in the Netherlands travel to primary school by bike, compared to just 0.9% in Limerick.
As a Smarter Travel Demonstration City we must all ask ourselves if these statistics are something to be proud of.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to cycling is changing habits. This doesn’t happen overnight but one key focus for the campaign is lobbying for infrastructure that will enable our young people to safely cycle to school.
Changing habits early in life means it then becomes second nature to see cycling as a feasible and efficient means of getting about our city.
Limerick Cycling Campaign will be holding its first public meeting in Ormston House on Tuesday April 24 at 7.30pm. All are welcome and the event is designed to present facts, to listen and to get the cycling public of Limerick to voice their opinions on cycling in the city.
Those who may be reticent about cycling are also encouraged to express any ideas they may have for making Limerick more cycling friendly.
Getting input from the people who are out cycling our streets and roads every day is crucial to improving cycling infrastructure and normalising cycling as an integral part of the transport system in the city.
It is crucial that we all as a population start to recognise the importance of being open to changing habits. We engage constructively to ensure this city doesn’t end up regretting another missed trick.