In my former life as Limerick’s answer to Jane McDonald I sailed around the world working as a singer with Cunard Cruise Lines. When I wasn’t strutting my stuff on stage I got plenty of opportunity to spend time walking through some of the best cities in the world. No matter where we visited, no matter if the city was big or small, no matter what the continent, there was always something I learned from an urban design and planning perspective.
People live, work or visit cities always love to experience quirkiness. They desire experiences that put smiles on their faces. They want life to be easier at at time when we find ourselves challenged to find time out from hectic working lives. On my travels I was constantly struck by so many cities where the population saw public transport and smart travel as not only necessary but fun, easy and desirable.
People laugh at me when I tell them that I don’t drive. They look at me with disdain when I tell them I use public transport regularly and most often can be seen on foot. They ask me why I choose to live in the city centre. Yet public transport, cycling, walking, urban living are all things that international cities -big or small -embrace.
In a quiet corner of the Granary building a small team of architects, planners and young academics have been working together for a number of years under the Limerick Smarter Travel initiative. They have gradually been getting to point where their mission to change how we in Limerick habitually live our daily lives is coming to fruition.
Just this week the Travel and Transportation Department of Limerick City and County Council announced that they have been awarded €7,000 by the European Commission to design and promote a new type of urban infrastructure, called a ‘Park and Picnic Pod’. The initiative will see a number of car parking spaces in Limerick city transformed into urban sanctuaries.
The three-year “Do the Right Mix” campaign, now in its final year, has seen over 605 sustainable urban mobility actions at local, regional and national level registered on the www.dotherightmix.eu website. The aim is to encourage people to move away from car travel and use a mix of more sustainable methods of transport in their day-to-day lives.
The transportable pods will provide inbuilt planting, seating, small tables and bicycle parking in empty car-parking spaces outside four city centre cafés. These Pods support sustainable urban mobility by providing combined bicycle parking, seating for walkers, and built in planting and tables for recreation and coffee. They will be conveniently located in car-parking spaces and they will be maintained by nearby urban cafés in partnership with the local authority.”
Now I know that some people will react to this news by bringing up the fact that we need more car parking spaces in the city centre etc, etc. What is important to note about this week’s announcement is this – we are one of only 19 cities in Europe which has successfully bid for the funding under the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility campaign. In fact we are the only Irish city which features.
Other cities like Vilnius, Copenhagen, Tallinn, and Lisbon have all received similar funding for their own projects. Interestingly these are all cities that I visited during my world cruise ship tour and all cities that struck me as innovative, forward thinking and cool.
Limerick Smarter Travel in association with Limerick City and County Council are working together behind the scenes to develop projects that won’t change the world but which can dramatically have an affect on how we live our lives as citizens, how we perceive our city centre and most importantly putting us in a position where we are seen as a city focused on the future through innovation.
I believe that across the board from business, retail, education, recreation, culture, investment, planning and transport Limerick is in a very exciting place. Great minds are working together behind the scenes to put Limerick city a the forefront when it comes to initiatives that not only make life easier but put us on the map when it comes to being seen as a city worth investing in, worth living in and worth playing in.
Limerick’s ‘Park & Picnic pods’ project, supported by the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility campaign, is expected to be launched in September 2014.