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Belfast's new 20mph speed zones a scam to raise cash, say motorists

By Angela Rainey

Published 01/02/2016

Motorists have given their verdict on Belfast city centre's new 20mph speed limit - a big thumbs down.

A total of five 20mph zones came into force yesterday, with the aim of making roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The pilot areas include Belfast city centre, Newtownabbey, Ballynahinch, Ballymena and Ballycastle.

But despite the Department for Regional Development's (DRD) plan "to encourage more people into the city to spend more time and more money" the safety initiative has been blasted by road users and shoppers in Belfast.

Value Cabs driver Gary Boyle (49) has been taxiing for 12 years and says the move has heightened the risk for drivers.

"If you drive up High Street towards the Albert Clock, you are in a 20mph zone until you get to the lights then it's 30mph," he said. "So you're supposed to approach at 20mph then go through the lights at 30mph. There's signs for both speeds on the same road and it's going to confuse people.

"Limiting the speed is just farcical. It takes a lot longer to pick people up and drop them off.

"And how exactly is this going to be enforced? There's not been enough, if any, consultation on this."

The scheme, initially due to start before Christmas, came into effect yesterday restricting speeds around the City Hall and CastleCourt as well as Victoria Centre and Cathedral Quarter.

There has been little information about how the scheme will be policed.

Belfast city centre streets which will have a 20mph speed limit
Belfast city centre streets which will have a 20mph speed limit

Dental nurse Rosie Morray (34) from Dungannon said: "I've been to Belfast a lot because it has a good vibe.

"But the traffic is no busier than any other city I've been to - it's not exactly on the scale of New York, so I can't really see the point of bringing the place to a standstill unless there has been a lot of deaths on the roads."

In the last two years there has been one death in the city centre.

Robbie McAllister has been a taxi driver for 41 years.

He said the initiative is nothing more than a "money-making scheme".

"My first point is that this is the bureaucrats trying to bring in more revenue, they did it with bus lanes and now this," said Mr McAllister.

"Well, it'll only cause more accidents when drivers are too busy concentrating on the odometer than looking at the road.

"Every political party has a representative on the DRD committee so they've let this get through - well, come May, I won't be voting for any of them."

A DRD spokesperson said: "The introduction of these new speed limit zones are part of the department's commitment to the NI Road Safety Strategy.

"We believe these schemes will improve safety for all users of Belfast city centre, particularly pedestrians and cyclists without causing any undue inconvenience for car drivers.

"All the pilots will be closely monitored to evaluate their effectiveness and may be rolled out to similar areas in other parts of Northern Ireland."

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