Northern Ireland news

20mph speed limit introduced in Belfast city centre

A new 20mph speed limit was introduced in Belfast city centre yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus
Staff Reporter

A NEW 20 miles per hour speed limit was enforced in Belfast city centre yesterday - though it was unclear how closely it was obeyed.

A total of 76 roads in and around the city are affected, including the back of City Hall, Dunbar link and the Cathedral Quarter.

The scheme has been introduced by the Department of Regional Development to reduce car accidents and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

It was first proposed almost three years ago.

A DRD spokesman said that the 20mph limit will be signed clearly and in accordance with national standards.

Additional black and yellow information signs and variable messaging signs will also be erected to highlight the change in speed limit.

While many areas like the Holylands in south Belfast already have a 20mph scheme in place, this is believed to be the first time it has been extended to a large business district.

Critics have suggested it will lead to increased fines, while some motorists said very few were adhering to the city centre limit yesterday morning.

Last year there was an outcry over the £500,000 raised in fines in just four months following the erection of new bus lane cameras in Belfast.

A total of 18,000 penalty notices were issued between late June and September, prompting accusations the scheme was a revenue-raising exercise. At the time, a DRD official said he was "surprised" by the number of fines.

The 20mph law will be enforced by the PSNI.

Newtownabbey, Ballynahinch, Ballymena and Ballycastle are also be taking part in the pilot.

It was due to be introduced three months but held back as the Department wanted to minimise disruption to Christmas shoppers.

A DRD spokesman said: "The introduction of these new speed limit zones are part of the Department's commitment to the Northern Ireland 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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