Temporary cycling infrastructure on a bridge used by thousands of Limerick students is set to be removed in the coming weeks, despite government advice, which encourages students to make their way to school via bike.
Segregated cycle lanes installed by the local authority on the Shannon Bridge in Limerick city are currently due to be removed on August 28, a day after the new school term begins for many students.
Limerick City Council said it has yet to make a decision on the future of the cycling infrastructure but cycling advocates insist the lanes must be retained.
The bridge is one of the main routes into and out of Limerick city. The cycle lanes were among a number of temporary measures installed to help safe travel during the pandemic.
The measures were announced in June, at a time when the daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 were decreasing and were included as part of plans to reopen the city centre but the removal of the cycle lanes is coinciding with the return to school.
That is despite the official advice on back-to-school issued by the Department of Education, which encourages students to cycle or walk to school as a means of reducing pressure on public transport.
Separately, Green-Schools, which many primary and secondary schools take part in, is also encouraging active travel such as walking or cycling to school as much as possible. The Department of Transport has also encouraged commuters to walk or cycle as much as possible.
With social distancing still remaining vital, the removal of mobility measures like the Shannon Bridge cycle lanes is "dangerously premature", cycling and pedestrian advocacy groups have warned.
An estimated 3,500 students commute across the Shannon River to school every day, according to Anne Cronin of the Limerick Cycle Bus, and the ‘We Need Space’ campaign.
"If you live on the northside of Limerick city, you have to cross the river. We have 12 lanes that travel across, none of which are dedicated to cycling."
The Limerick Cycle Bus is a group of parents and kids who cycle to school together. According to Ms Cronin, before the installation of the cycle lane, the Shannon Bridge was the most dangerous part of the group's commute to school, with the group often cycling alongside lorries and heavy goods vehicles.
Loads of happy explorers on the river path today on bike, on e-scooter and on foot 🚲🛴🚶♀️. If you build it they will come. Investments is segregated routes pay dividends pic.twitter.com/ZV56Y4jVmp— Limerick Cycling (@LimerickCycling) August 9, 2020
"If there are staggered start-times, schools don't need their space clogged up with cars, or increased pressure on the buses. The cycle lane hasn't been trialled yet before the schools are back," Ms Cronin said.
"All the advice is promoting active travel as much as possible," she said.
"Let's trial it until Christmas, why take it away one day after the kids go back?"