Northern Ireland

Co Down campaigners call for speed limit reduction

Campaigner Denis Wolinski on Rath Road in Warrenpoint. Picture by Mal McCann
Campaigner Denis Wolinski on Rath Road in Warrenpoint. Picture by Mal McCann

A GROUP of residents in south Down have launched a campaign to reduce the speed limit on rural and urban roads.

They argue that cutting speed limits on all roads by 10mph will improve accessibility for pedestrians, help tackle climate change, and reduce toxic emissions from cars, vans and lorries.

The campaigners in Warrenpoint have already secured around 300 signatories to a petition in support of lowering the motorway speed limit to 60mph, along with a "more sensible" 40 mph limit being imposed on all minor roads.

They would also like to see the speed limit in urban areas reduced to a blanket 20 mph, with the restrictions extended outside of towns and villages by a further mile to improve pedestrians' safety.

Campaigner Denis Wolinski said he was moved to "get something done" because three minor roads on the outskirts of Warrenpoint are "effectively being used as a bypass".

Ahead of the election he is urging the next Stormont executive to "adopt a new mindset regarding how we use our roads – a mindset appropriate to the world in which we actually live".

"If our proposals are adopted by our legislators they would make a significant contribution to meeting the challenges posed by climate change, to improving the environment, to reducing toxic emissions from motor vehicles and to making roads more accessible and safer for walkers and others with associated benefits for people’s physical and mental health," he told The Irish News.

Mr Wolinski welcomed the reduction of speed limits close to schools as a "step in the right direction"

"But unfortunately this is unlikely to have much effect in encouraging children to walk to and from their schools if that limit is restricted to the close vicinity of the school," he said.

Neighbours and fellow campaigners Emer and Sean Mullin, who live on Warrenpoint's Rath Road and have two pre-school children, said they have to keep the gate of their home securely shut, while watching their children all the time.

"We’d love it if we were able to walk with our children to and from school - it’s under a mile - but a few hundred yards from the school the limit will jump back up to 60mph," they said.

"So we’ll still end up doing the school run in a line of cars spewing out toxic fumes into the school playground – it’s crazy.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said it was committed to improving road through a programme of education, engineering and enforcement initiatives.

"The department uses the system of national speed limits that is employed in England, Scotland and Wales. and can and does introduce lower local limits where we feel it appropriate," the spokesperson said.

"While there are no current plans to change the system of speed limits here, the department will keep abreast of developments elsewhere and consider change when appropriate."