THE controversial 30kmh speed limit extended to other parts of Dublin city centre yesterday could become standard in built-up areas of towns and cities countrywide.
However, introducing the limits in other areas could take months.
Local authorities would first have to agree the changes at Strategic Policy Committees (SPC), before putting the proposal out for public consultation. This could take up to two months, and the SPC would then have to formally propose the new limits to a full council meeting before they came into effect.
But the main opposition party says the move would encourage a change in attitudes and reduce the number of fatalities and serious accidents in built-up areas.
"The argument is it slows down traffic, reduces noise and is safer for pedestrians and cyclists," Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said.
"In France, if a pedestrian stops at a junction, traffic automatically stops. To me, it (introducing lower limits) makes sense and we should be giving more rights to pedestrians. I think we have to change the way we think. We need to prioritise pedestrianisation, cycling and the use of public transport. We have to get people out of the car. I would favour rolling this out in other towns and cities."
The new limits in Dublin apply to all roads within an area extending from Bolton Street on the northside to Kevin Street and St Stephen's Green on the southside. It also extends from Church Street on the west to Dawson Street on the east.
National roads, including O'Connell Street, Dame Street and the north and south quays, are also affected.
The 30kmh limit already applies in parts of Ballsbridge, Marino and Ringsend.
The move has been welcomed by the Dublin Cycling Campaign but criticised by the AA, which claims the 30kmh limit would "undermine" respect for speed limits.
"Speed limits that are self-evidently inappropriate do not improve safety, quite the reverse," AA spokesman Conor Faughnan said.
"They undermine respect for speed limits generally. This leads to a population that may be on the lookout for speed traps but do not believe in the limits themselves."
Dublin City Council says a review of accident statistics for the capital between 1998-2007 revealed that almost half of fatalities and one-in-four injured people were pedestrians. Up to 45pc of people die when struck by a car travelling at 50kmh, it says, which reduces to 5pc when the vehicle speed is only 30kmh.
But a report from the European Transport Safety Council says that lowering the limits will not change drivers' behaviour unless rumble strips, road signs and speed bumps are installed to force them to slow down. The report, 'Setting Appropriate, Safe and Credible Speed Limits' notes that Ireland is just one of 10 countries in Europe which now has a 30kmh limit in built-up areas.
Dublin City Council said it did not expect to introduce rumble strips or other measures at the moment.