Belfast city centre slowdown: Roads chiefs propose cutting speed limit to 20mph
Roads chiefs have unveiled plans to reduce the speed of traffic to just 20mph in a large swathe of busy, pedestrian-clogged Belfast city centre in a bid to improve road safety.
The target area includes shopping and commercial hotspots stretching from key routes in and around City Hall to High Street and Royal Avenue and beyond.
The streets impacted by the plan were published in Press adverts yesterday by the Department for Regional Development (DRD).
The department said the streets were currently governed by 30mph restrictions but the intention was to bring that down by a third to 20mph.
The plans are currently out for a 22-day consultation period.
A DRD spokesman said: "We have stated our commitment in the NI Road Safety Strategy 2020 to pilot 20mph signed only schemes to help improve safety on our roads."
That means the roads will have 20mph signage put up instead of the traditional 30mph, and the road authorities are attempting to slow down traffic without the need for traffic humps and traffic islands. Many areas like the Holylands district of south Belfast currently have such 20mph schemes, but the new DRD plans are believed to be the first time it has attempted to roll out the 20mph speed restriction to such a large business district.
A previously issued Government road safety campaign entitled 2020 Vision – which looks at making Northern Ireland's roads safer over the next six years – gave an indication it wanted more 20mph limits in built-up areas.
The document said: "We continue to research the outcome of urban speed reduction initiatives in GB and elsewhere and assess their applicability to Northern Ireland.
"This will consider the wider introduction of enforceable 20mph speed limits in residential areas and other urban areas where there is a significant presence of vulnerable road users.
"We will pilot enforceable 20mph speed limits without traffic calming engineering measures.
"To date in Northern Ireland, 20mph zones have tended only to be used in conjunction with traffic calming engineering measures such as road humps, tables and cushions to make the limit 'self-enforcing'.
"This would make 20mph limits more economical to introduce and allow for the possibility of their wider use, in appropriate environments, in a way that is more comparable with how other speed limits are set," the document said, which was flagged up to us by the DRD yesterday.
The spokesman added: "Northern Ireland's Road Safety Strategy to 2020 outlines the key road safety challenges to be addressed.
"It contains 199 measures for improving the safety of all road users."
The views of Belfast city centre businesses, motorists and pedestrians are emerging.
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said it will be consulting its constituency in the city centre for their views.
He said: "We will be looking at the consultation and need to contact our members in the city centre.
"There has been a large amount of change there with Belfast On The Move and new bus lanes, and we will have to see if these new 20mph speed limits will help traffic flow and contribute to the safety of pedestrians."
Some drivers felt it was impossible to go fast in Belfast city centre anyway because of all the traffic lights.
The streets affected
Streets in Belfast city centre, where the roads authorities want to bring the 20mph speed restrictions in, are as follows: Academy Street, Ann Street, Arthur Lane, Arthur Place, Arthur Square, Arthur Street, Bank Street, Berry Street, Bridge Street, Brown's Row, Callender Street, Castle Lane, Castle Place, Castle Street, Chapel Lane, Church Lane, Church Street, Clarence Place Mews, Clarke's Lane, Coar's Lane, College Court, College Street, College Street Mews, Corn Market, Curtis Street, Donegall Place, Donegall Square East, Donegall Square North, Donegall Square South, Donegall Square West, Donegall Street, Dunbar Street.Edward Street, Exchange Street, Exchange Street West, Fountain Lane, Fountain Street, Francis Street, Gloucester Street, Gordon Street, Gresham Street, Hector Street, High Street, Hill Street, Howard Street, King Street, Law's Court, Lombard Street, Lower Garfield Street, Marquis Street, May Street, Montgomery Street, Music Hall Lane, North Street, Patterson's Place, Queen Street, Rosemary Street, Royal Avenue, Samuel Street, Seymour Lane, Seymour Row, Seymour Street, Skipper Street, Smithfield Square North, Talbot Street, Upper Arthur Street, Upper Church Lane, Upper Queen Street, Wellington Place, Wellington Street, William Street, William Street South and Winetavern Street, and to lengths of Chichester Street, Waring Street and York Street.