Cyclist.ie – The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network – strongly endorses Roseanne Brennan (Jake’s Legacy campaign) to force road authorities to introduce lower speed limits in residential areas and estates.
We want to see a quantum increase in the use of the bike for commuting to study, work and for utility purposes, recognising that a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists in traffic leads inevitably to safer streets. Safer streets for cyclists are also safer streets for pedestrians.
The urban default speed limit of 50 km/h means that any vehicle going at this speed has far too much kinetic energy so that a pedestrian or cyclist impacted by a car driven at this speed will have only a 50% chance of surviving the collision (see Road Safety Authority chart below).
Cyclist.ie remains far from impressed with the data revealed by the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) annual free-speed surveys which show typically that some drivers actually exceed the 50 km/h speed limit with fully 9% detected breaking that limit in urban areas in 20111. We are disappointed that no data is available for each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
We campaign for 30 km/h to become the default speed limit on residential and urban streets and in all areas of high pedestrian and cycle use. It is enabled by existing traffic law, so road authorities have no excuse for not implementing the reduction.
We accept that on some streets it may be appropriate to have a higher limit based on the road characteristics – good provision for vulnerable road users and risk assessment by use of road safety audits, etc. Retaining any limit above 30 km/h in residential areas and at the approaches to schools should be a considered and formal decision based on local circumstances.
We believe there is a need for a paradigm shift in how road authorities manage traffic, and plan urban change, so as to enable pedestrians to use our roads and streets safely and to cater for the safety of the 8-80 age cohort while cycling. This is directly in line with the latest Departmental guidelines as outlined in the Design Manual for Urban Roads & Streets (DMURS,2013), and will also encourage an increase in active travel by foot and on bikes. Road traffic planning and provision in recent years has been for the benefit of the private motorist to the detriment of other road users such as public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.
In addition to improving safety, lower speed limits in residential estates would encourage young people to move about independently and would encourage parents to permit their children to do so. This would have consequential benefits for their fitness and general health and would contribute to combating the rising levels of obesity in our society. The improved safety and perception of safety, provided by lower speed limits would transform residential estates into more vibrant living spaces, with consequential benefits for the quality of life of residents and visitors.
We recognise that reduction of the speed limit alone will not be successful in reducing speed and improving safety unless it is accompanied by improved Garda detection and enforcement and appropriate road design. We support the recommendations of DMURS, the official guidance policy for local authorities in relation to street design, that insofar as possible lower speed limits should be accompanied by psychological and physical measures to encourage observance.
Throughout Europe, 30 km/h is fast becoming the default urban speed limit. In some cities, speed limits as low as 10 km/h are in place in ‘home zones’. Even in the United States, where the car is king, 25 mph (40 km/h) limits are common in urban areas and 15 mph (24 km/h) limits are rigorously enforced at schools. In an effort to curb traffic fatalities, New York City lowered its default speed limit to 25 mph (40 km/h) from the 7th November 2014.
In the UK the “20’s Plenty” Campaign has been successful in securing reduced speed limits in many urban locations and has produced a Briefings page with many documents showing the benefits of 20 mph (30 km/h) limits.
Lower speeds result in less noise and pollution and greater fuel efficiency (high fuel consumption is associated with stop-start traffic, not slow traffic). On residential roads and shopping streets, people simply don’t want to be exposed to the noise, fumes and dangers from higher speed traffic.
The Minister for Transport called on road authorities to review their urban speed limits in a Directive issued on 15 October last