It was heartening to see a large and diverse group of local people getting together last Sunday afternoon to tackle the problem of litter along the river bank between the Park Canal and the University of Limerick.
This is probably one of the most picturesque natural amenities you’ll find anywhere in Ireland, and it’s right here on the doorstep of Limerick City. It’s a fairly quick way to get to UL from the city centre if you’re on a bike or on foot, but probably a lot of people don’t realise that. There’s a good chance that most of the 12,000 students and staff of the university aren’t aware of its existence and/or wouldn’t consider using it, which is a pity really because they’d probably enjoy it. As well as that, if they knew that it’s a lot easier to get into Limerick by walking or cycling via the river bank, they might actually interact with the city a bit more than they currently do, and that would be good for both the city and the university.
That last point can’t really be overstated. The city and the university that is just 4km away from it are remarkably disconnected. It’s true that in some respects UL has become the formidable institute of learning that it currently is because of (at least partly) that distance. Developing a self-contained campus on an out-of-town, green field site has lots of advantages (mostly to do with development and administration), which I needn’t go into now. But it’s also true to say that the decision not to locate the university in or at least closer to the city centre some 40 odd years ago was a missed opportunity for Limerick City.
Short of moving the university, which isn’t going to happen, one way of overcoming this disconnection is to improve the transport links between UL and the city. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do. The bus service is frustratingly unreliable, but even if it was ruthlessly efficient you’re still talking about a significant journey time to get from the door of your student apartment to the shops and cafés of Thomas Street or the pubs of Catherine Street and Denmark Street if you factor in the time it takes to get to the bus-stop, wait for your bus, travel on it and walk to where you want to go once you’ve disembarked in town. It’ll also cost you about €3 for a round trip, which isn’t insignificant, and which is likely to further discourage you from making the journey on a regular basis.
But what if you choose to cycle or even walk? These aren’t a whole lot more attractive options than the bus. If you’re cycling via the main road, you’ll be taking your life in your hands (you really will, it’s a death trap). If you choose to follow the cycle lanes, where provided, your journey will be painstakingly slow. Aside from the safety and time issues, there’s two very steep hills along the route!! Even for experienced bikers, cycling is not much of an option.
Of course, none of this is good for Limerick City, because it means that the mainstream university population doesn’t interact with it very much. The disconnection is alive and well, and it’s having a huge negative effect on the vibrancy of the city, and the general economic well-being of it too.
All is not lost, however! I mentioned at the top of this blog post that the river bank is the shortest route between the university and the city. To be precise, it’s 3.5km (2.2 miles) from the bridge at Dromroe student village to the Abbey Bridge if you go this way, as opposed to 4.4km (2.72 miles) if you went via the main road. It’s also a much easier cycle. There are no hills!! There’s no motorised traffic along the route (apart from a very short stretch near Richmond RFC), so you’re quite unlikely to get run down. On top of all this, it’s a genuinely picturesque journey in most places. Cycling to Limerick from UL or vice versa would take a slow cyclist an easy 13 minutes, and by anybody’s reckoning, that’s a pretty short journey time. Suddenly, the city and the university aren’t so far apart, and that disconnection doesn’t appear to be as much a fait accompli as it has been up to now. At the moment, there are reasons as to why you might not choose this route, but none of them are insurmountable. It’s incredibly muddy in places and not designed for bikes. Good work has been done by the city council recently on a short stretch between the Park Canal and the first of the little humpback bridges along the way. This kind of work is very welcome, but needs to be rolled out for the full distance between the canal and the university (which is mostly the jurisdiction of Limerick County Council, rather than the City Council). Closer to the city, the long straight section along the canal is not the most inviting part of our city. The existence of a few derelict buildings near the Lock Gates at Charlotte Quay is off-putting. These have huge potential but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.
Anyway, well done to all those who were involved in the clean-up on Saturday. It was quite amazing to see the amount of litter and debris that was collected in just a few hours, and unfortunately there’s a lot more to do. Not to worry though. You know that when you are finding Chomp wrappers from the 1980’s that this is rubbish that has accumulated over a long time, and it’s not something that will have to be dealt with continuously once the bulk of it is collected.
There’s plenty more photos from the day and also a nice little video made by Gabriela Avram and Miriam Lohan (who organised the clean up) a few weeks ago which shows just how nice picturesque the area is but also the scale of the litter problem. Click the link to view it – http://connectedlimerick.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/plassey-riverbank/
Finally, congratulations to Richmond RFC who secured promotion from the league on Sunday. Their hospitality and assistance to the group doing the cleaning up was fantastic.