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Belfast's new speed limit causes many lanes of confusion, says Dan Gordon

By Dan Gordon

Published 09/02/2016

20mph Speed Limit Sign on Linenhall Street, Belfast.
20mph Speed Limit Sign on Linenhall Street, Belfast.

Last week I played Belfast City Centre roulette for the first time since they brought in the new rule.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s now a 20mph speed limit on 76 roads around the middle of the town. It’s a DRD road safitty strategy and once the Mandarins introduce the word ‘safitty’, it’s very hard to argue with them squeezy oranges up on the hill.

Obviously any reference to ‘orange’ mandarins is for comic effect and the reference in the pun is to the colour of the fruit and not the political, religious or traditional affiliations of a particular group.


There’s so much suing going on in the Belfast courts I don’t want to take the chance of accidentally denouncing a religion, tweeting like a twerp or interfering with icing on anyone’s cake.

Other 20mph speed limits are being introduced as part of this safitty initiative in Newtownabbey, Ballynahinch, Ballymena and Ballycastle and apparently a spokesman said they “will see how successful it is and take it from there”. Aye right.

Usually I take the train into Belfast because parking is a nightmare, but I needed the car, as I’d to go to the City Hall, then Stranmillis and Lisburn for two other messages shortly afterwards. I always venture into town when I’m driving via the M3 Bridge because the Westlink is a more like the wacky races and I hate it. I come off the M3 and swing around the front of the SSE Odyssey Arena (pronounced Addussey) and approach from the East — where all the wise men come from.

I first realised I was entering some kind of X-Box, Wii, PS4, game hell when I made it over the Queen’s Bridge and had to turn into Oxford Street. God help anyone who doesn’t know the area because that magically materialising bus lane in the middle of Oxford Street combined with the slip lane for buses on the left before the Waterfront Hall (pronounced Wadderfront) is like a teenage mutant Scalextric set.

Of course I was on the wrong side of the bleedin’ bus lane as I’d remembered the publicity about the new speed limits and panicked looking for signage for them. I don’t care that a big sign says May Street This Lane Only — I never remember what the street between St George’s Market and the back of the High Court is called, so between that and trying to stay at 20mph I was in the wrong lane.

To compensate I had to veer over to the inside lane and do a U-turn into the Wadderfront and around that wee dopey roundabout there at what I’ve discovered is called Lanyon Place to get me back out and facing up May Street. Once the lights changed, I was back on track but of course at my new sedentary speed and acutely aware that there are also new bicycle lanes that miraculously appear and disappear as the road widens, narrows, or simply runs out when the moon is in the wrong phase.


There was an unloading taxi with flashing hazard lights on double yellow lines, which gives them some kind of God given undiplomatic immunity and allows them to block the lane. There were signs for 20 mph. There were bus lanes, cycle lanes, red lights for bus lanes, green lights for traffic lanes and confused pedestrians fooled into stepping out because they don’t realise only one lane is stopped.

There were no parking spaces for 20 minutes of driving in circles. When I did find one, I needed the eyes of an eagle and an A level to work out the maximum time allowed for that 20ft of road, whether it was a clearway after 4.30pm and so much coinage to feed the meter that when I produced it I looked like a busker to bystanders.

 I’m going to try Russian roulette next week — it’ll be safer.

Online Editors

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