A LIMERICK businessman, who was one of the original proponents of having a cycling and walking trail developed in the county, is now embroiled in a row with the local authority over rights to bike hire on the Greenway.
James Barrett, who owns Pedal Pursuits, has been in the bike hire business for 11 years, and was a member of the group which first proposed developing a greenway, then called the Great Southern Trail.
But now that the Greenway has become a major tourist and leisure attraction, Mr Barrett claims that Limerick City and County Council is elbowing small, local businesses out by the manner in which it controls the hire of bikes there.
When the council first advertised for expressions of interest from bike hire businesses wanting to operate on the Greenway at three locations, Mr Barrett applied but was not successful.
Originally, the council specified that they wanted a company which could handle a large volume of business, being in a position to offer 750 bikes for hire.
“This is a ridiculous number, even for a big hire company. At the time I went to my suppliers and asked whether they could get that many bikes if I could come up with the money and they said that would be impossible in the timeframe,” Mr Barrett told the Limerick Post.
One of the most serious issues Mr Barrett has with the council is the length of time it took to decide which company was successful in the bid.
“The deadline for submitting an application was May 13 2021 at 4pm. I got a letter telling me I was not successful at 11am on Monday, May 17.
I cannot see how the council held a meeting, examined the applications, took a decision and sent out letters all in that time span. You have to ask how that was possible if they hadn’t already made a decision?”
The document which Mr Barrett was asked – and so far refused – to sign, which would give him a licence to operate, contains unrealistic and unworkable conditions, he claims.
“It’s forbidden to rent out bikes in situ in the car park, unless you have a shop front, in this case a container, in the car park. It means that if I’m dropping off bikes to a customer and someone sees me and asks to rent a bike, I can’t rent it to them. They have to go through the business website and pay before I deliver the bikes to them.
“Dropping the bikes, there’s a time slot of just 30 minutes where you can be in the car park and that is only in a designated area. If I have a large group like a school tour, that’s far too short a time,” he said.
Mr Barrett says that the situation is making it extremely difficult to continue with his business, which employs up to six people in a season, hiring bikes and giving guided tours.
“There is no other greenway in the country where these sort of restrictions operate,” he said. “And I’m not the only business that will be affected by this. No small local business can compete on what is an uneven playing field.”
A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said they will be making no further comment on Mr Barrett’s claims.