Private member's bill in Northern Ireland calls for 20mph speed limit on residential roads

SDLP politician says he wants to make the streets safer for everyone - drivers, pedestrians and cyclists

A member of the Northern Ireland Assembly is today introducing a private member’s bill calling fro the speed limit on residential unclassified streets from 30mph to 20mph in a bid to improve safety for all road users, whether they be drivers, pedestrians or cyclists.

Conall McDevitt MLA, who represents Belfast South for the SDLP, says: “According to research from the Department for Transport in England, if a person is hit by a car travelling at 30mph, they face a one in five chance of being killed - reduce the speed to 20mph, and their chances of being killed are significantly reduced to one in forty.

"This year we have seen twice as many deaths on our roads if we compare the figure with this time last year, many of whom were pedestrians. I believe that a reduced speed limit would go some way towards reducing the number of fatalities and accidents, and begin to really address this issue.

"The proposed legislation allows for the Department of Regional Development to issue exemptions for roads which may be unclassified, but that are major thoroughfares, which would allow roads such as Boucher Road in South Belfast to retain 30mph status."

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans welcomed news of the bill, with its deputy director for Northern Ireland, Steven Paterson, saying: "Introducing 20mph limits is a positive move for Northern Ireland. Slower speeds will save lives, improve neighbourhoods and boost walking and cycling levels.

"Slower speeds will make our streets and communities safer for all road users, significantly reducing the number and severity of accidents and encouraging people to spend more time in the places they live, work and socialise.

"Shifting to 20mph is also a cost-effective solution to achieving a more active, healthy population and reducing the burden on our health system."

Last week, more than 100,000 children across the UK, including many in Northern Ireland, took part in road safety charity Brake’s ‘Walking Bus’ project to call for increased safety around schools, including 20mph zones, as well as trying to remove reliance on cars for the school run.

Julie Townsend, the charity’s deputy chief executive, commented: "Many parents are in a difficult situation when it comes to letting their kids walk or cycle, often forced to weigh up the benefits of their kids being active and getting out and about with the risk of their child being knocked down and hurt.

"We need to make it easier for them by making roads safer for children and people of all ages. By doing this we can help kids to be healthier and have the fun, active childhood they deserve - and a proven way to help bring this about is to reduce traffic speeds.

"We're appealing to drivers to listen to the thousands of kids marching today, and take the simple step of slowing down to 20mph or less around homes, schools and shops.

"It's a case of putting kids before getting there a few minutes faster. We're also urging governments and local authorities to work towards 20mph being the norm across all communities, to help kids get walking without being put in danger."

During November 2012’s Road Safety Week, Brake and Sustrans were among organisations that combined to launch the GO 20 campaign, which calls for 20mph to be made the default speed limit on residential roads in built-up areas.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.