Saša Novak Uí Chonchúir

Green Party Councillor for Limerick City North

Candidate in Local Elections on 7th June

PRESS RELEASE: Cross-party call for more space on city’s roads for pedestrians rejected

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Last week we stepped together as a cross-party group of councillors and sent an email to the Chief Executive asking to consider and implement simple measures that would make our city streets and roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists during the period of required social distancing. Many cities around the world are making improvements to their public realm and adapting to the new reality of physical distancing, including, much closer to home, Dublin. While I strongly believe that our road engineers have people’s best interest at heart and that their proposal is intended to reduce the risk of harm, it unfortunately puts people in more harm’s way.

PRESS RELEASE:

Cross-party call for more space on city’s roads for pedestrians rejected

Ten councillors from Limerick City have signed a letter asking for Limerick City and County Council to provide more space for pedestrians on the streets of Limerick during the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter called for the council to “reallocate road space to walking and cycling during the pandemic and consider other measures to make social distancing possible and safe”.

The councillors from Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Féin and the Green Party called for trial measures to close off traffic lanes to give more space for walking and cycling, while maintaining vehicle access for business owners and residents.

Responding on behalf of Limerick City and County Council, Head of Roads & Traffic Hugh McGrath said that re-allocating road space for pedestrians “is not something we would advise at present”, noting that “it is important that we take actions that will not negatively impact movement of increased traffic or indeed the public safety as the likely removal of restrictions starts rolling out”.

Instead the council is introducing a “Stay Safe Stay Right protocol” which advises pedestrians to walk on one side of the road only in a one-way system, which the council says will facilitate “safe ‘overtaking’ by pedestrians as they will be facing the traffic if they need to consider passing out slower pedestrians”.

Responding to the correspondence, Green Party councillor for Limerick City North, Saša Novak, welcomed the willingness of councillors from different parties to work together. “We worked together to put forward a very sensible proposal, based on best practice in other countries. I am grateful to my fellow councillors for their support and their own efforts in keeping people safe on our roads during the pandemic. However I am concerned with the council’s response, which does not provide any extra space to pedestrians and cyclists. With traffic levels at an estimated 25% of pre-pandemic levels, there is no reason why we cannot allocate more road space while maintaining access for residents and businesses, especially either side of the River Shannon”.

END

Here are the measures we proposed as part of our email to the Council:
●      Cones to widen footpaths (for example: incorporate on-street parking – O’Connell St, O’Callaghan Strand, Clancy Strand, Sexton Street North, Ennis Road, Dock Road, Clare Street and more; use motor traffic lanes where multiple lanes available)
●      Removing or disabling pedestrian touch call units and replacing them with an automated lights cycle and signs indicating improved pedestrian priority at junctions, reducing risk of transmission via crossing buttons.
●      Temporary signs (and/or measures) asking drivers to slow down, especially in housing estates (e.g. Irish Estates, Mayorstone/Coolraine), but also on main city routes (Ballinacurra Road, O’Connell Street and Avenue, Henry Street, Clare Street, Dublin Road, Corbally Road…).
●      Temporary road pedestrianisations:
o   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. 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.
●      Repurposing of full lanes to cycle lanes (from Rutland St, through Patrick St and O’Connell St; Condell Road)

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Sharon Benson
Cllr. James Collins
Cllr. Seán Hartigan
Cllr. Joe Leddin
Cllr. Saša Novak
Cllr. Jerry O’Dea
Cllr. Elena Secas
Cllr. Conor Sheehan
Cllr. Catherine Slattery
Cllr. Abul Kalam Azad Talukder

——
The response

April 20 2020

Dear Metropolitan District Councillors,

I refer to the email below to the Chief Executive Dr. Pat Daly to which I have been asked to respond.

In these challenging times we are very appreciative of the support and kind words endorsing our response to date as contained in your email.
While we concur with the basis behind the aims outlined in the email the Roads Authority has to be cognizant about the safe use of public road space and our approach to improvements will need to be guided by this.
(Today we have been circulated with new regulations signed by Minister Simon Harris providing a statutory basis for continuation of our services.)

In this regard we are developing a number of initiatives many of which address the concerns as outlined in your email.

1)      We are introducing a Stay Safe Stay Right protocol for roadside footpaths commencing with an ‘initial’ trial as per your suggestion with a specifically signed route in the City Centre between the Shannon Bridge & Sarsfield Bridge to test and demonstrate the process.
2)      General RSA advice for pedestrians is to walk against the oncoming traffic (in particular where there is no path or insufficient width). This principle will be used in the City rivers walk and we are confident that this will serve as a template for an advisory protocol on all roadside walking in the City & County going forward for the foreseeable future of Social Distancing.
3)      Any such protocols or initiatives as introduced will need to be sustainable and scalable and not impact adversely on the ultimate returning to normal of the travelling public.
4)      By introducing an effective one way advisory on roadside paths this allows for clear guidance to the public and facilitates safe ‘overtaking’ by pedestrians as they will be facing the traffic if they need to consider passing out slower pedestrians.

We anticipate and look for your support in rolling out such an initiative and we expect to commence the pilot this week.

In respect of the specific suggestions outlined to re-allocate road space , and impose special restrictions in housing estates etc. this is not something we would advise at present.
Apart from the logistical aspects of setting up, maintaining and policing such measures it is important that we take actions that will not negatively impact movement of increased traffic or indeed the public safety as the likely removal of restrictions starts rolling out.

Kind Regards

__________­­­­­_________
Hugh McGrath C.Eng | Senior Engineer
Head of Roads & Traffic
Operation & Maintenance
Limerick City and County Council