Nobody asked for your opinion of the status quo

And that’s why you should ask questions aloud, and have constructive conversations with your fellow citizens.

People of Limerick, speak up. Take part. What’s your opinion on how we could improve Limerick?

Take Rotterdam as an example of the result of people asking “How do we finish our city? How do we improve it?”. (People shy away from using the Netherlands as an example to learn from, but I think there’s value in looking at their history, and its outcomes.)

In the early 1970s there were already seeds of change in the Nerherlands. In 1973, the country was the subject of an oil embargo. There was a loud campaign to “Stop the child murder” on their roads and in their streets.

Here’s what we can learn from Rotterdam, from the book Building the Cycling City, Chapter 1 “The streets aren’t set in stone” (bold emphasis mine):

During the eighties and nineties, Amsterdam and Rotterdam both had 80,000 people working in their city centers. In Amsterdam, however, 80,000 also lived in the center, whereas only 20,000 lived in the center of Rotterdam. This made the city feel completely empty, especially in the evenings and weekends.

This began to change things in Rotterdam:

As more and more individuals started to complain about how boring the inner city was, the conversation began to shift. Rotterdammers began asking out load, “How can we finish the inner city? How can we improve it?” they demanded to see accessible housing, vibrant public space, and more day-to-day functions return to downtown, instead of seeing the life drain from it at the end of the work-week.

This, according to the book, lead to a move from traffic-scale design to human-scale design. The main arterial roads that lacked life were made more “cosy”. City transport (trams) were given space to operate without being delayed by single-occupancy vehicles. Footpaths were widened, generous cycle tracks were built on both sides. The zoning code was relaxed, and thousands of new apartments were built. A good outcome from speaking up, right?

In Limerick, we can say “No, we want an alternative future“, and indeed some people are saying that. Through conversations, we can make difficult decisions for simple changes.