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Concerns as 20mph city centre speed limit comes into force

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 30/01/2016

New speed limits will come into force on 76 roads across Belfast city centre tomorrow
New speed limits will come into force on 76 roads across Belfast city centre tomorrow

New speed limits will come into force on 76 roads across Belfast city centre tomorrow.

It includes the main pedestrian zone, the Cathedral Quarter and the front and back of City Hall.

The move brings Belfast into line with most major UK cities.

However, there are fears some motorists will be unaware of the change, which was first reported in this newspaper on Monday.

When a fine system for motorists who drove in bus lanes came into effect last June, 18,000 drivers were caught in just three months. That was even after a three-week period during which motorists were given warnings instead of fines.

The Belfast Telegraph asked the PSNI if it would it be monitoring the new 20mph speed limits. However, it declined to give a clear answer.

Chief Inspector Diane Pennington from Road Policing said: "Where there is a proven history of road traffic collisions or where there is evidence of speeding, police will enforce the speed limit.

"For anyone detected breaking the speed limit, there are a range of disposal options, from fines, to speed awareness courses and potentially putting people before the courts.

"While road safety is a priority for the police, the reality is that many of the most serious road traffic collisions which kill and seriously injure people could have been avoided."

The new speed limit applies from tomorrow - more than three months later than originally planned. It had been due to come into operation on October 12.

The Department for Regional Development said it had been postponed until January to minimise disruption to Christmas shoppers.

Ukip MLA David McNarry, a member of the Assembly's Regional Development Committee, said he feared the project was another revenue-raising scheme.

"I hope that this is not simply another way to fine people," he added.

"My concern is we will have more speed checks and Belfast will become even more of a cold house for the motorist."

Around 60 major towns and cities across the UK have 20mph limits. These include parts of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Rod King from 20's Plenty for Us, which campaigns for 20mph zones in cities, said reduced speed limits had broad support.

"Many of the city centres around the UK have 20mph limits, so Belfast isn't doing anything which is controversial or new," Mr King added.

"A 20mph limit where you have high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists mixing with vehicles is considered to be best practice, both in the UK, according to the Department for Transport, and generally throughout the western world.

"In most city centres, journey times are not really dictated by how fast you go on those streets, but how long you are stopped at congestion points."

DRD said the limited zones were signed clearly and in accordance with national standards.

"The introduction of these new speed limit zones are part of the department's commitment to the Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy," it added.

"We believe these schemes will improve safety for all users of Belfast city centre, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.

"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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