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Councillors disagree on city limit

DEEP divisions have emerged in Dublin City Council over the 30km per hour speed limit in the heart of the capital but it will take months to change the regulations.

Even the architect of the snail's pace limit, Labour councillor Andrew Montague, now accepts that the regulations need to be changed.

Cllr Montague says he will put forward a new plan which would keep the 30kmh zone between Capel Street Bridge and O'Connell Bridge, but revert the rest of the quays to their former 50kmh limit. In addition, the eastern boundary of the zone would be pulled back from Merrion Street to Kildare Street.

"I think the speed limit should be retained, but with some adjustments to the area affected," Cllr Montague said.

A source of frustration for councillors is that they cannot implement a compromise speed limit of 40kmh (approximately 25 miles per hour) without a change in legislation by Government.

A survey of Dublin city councillors by the Sunday Independent showed a wide disparity of views.

Cllr Ruairi McGinley (FG) said he believed the new limit should be retained with the possible removal of sections of quays from the 30kmh zone

"At present only available speed limits under legislation are 50kmh or 30kmh. I would welcome legislation to introduce limits of 40kmh and 35kmh which would allow greater flexibility in setting speed limits to balance traffic speed with pedestrian and cyclist safety," Cllr McGinley said.

Some councillors want the new low speed limit scrapped altogether.

"I think the new limit should go. We have spent millions in developing bus lanes to speed up public transport and now we go and slow it right down. It's simply crazy. The speed of traffic in a built-up area should be restored to what it was," Fianna Fail councillor Tom Brabazon declared.

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"However, I think this is the time for cyclists to be provided with some form of protected tracks in the city centre so as to encourage cycling and to dilute the idea that cycling is a dangerous way to travel. We can continue to accommodate all road users in a reasonable way, rather than promoting a minority at the expense of the majority," Cllr Brabazon said

Killian Forde (Lab) said the 30kmh on the quays should be limited to the section between the Millennium Bridge and Butt Bridge.

"Instead of us, as councillors, flapping around and changing our minds due to public complaints we need to see what the effect of the 30kmh is over a couple of months' period. Have a look at journey times and accident numbers and, based on evidence, make a decision whether to stick with the 30kmh or revert to 50kmh. It would be nice in Irish politics if decisions were based on evidence, not panic," he added.

Cllr Nial Ring (Ind), who was one of the councillors who voted against the original proposal, said that the new speed limits should be removed immediately and the old speed limits reinstated. But others such as Labour's Cllr Oisin Quinn insist the new speed limit needs time to bed in.

"Most of the representations I have received are in favour," he said.

He accepts that some of the teething problems were caused because drivers don't know which roads were covered by the limit.

"When we initially approved it back in October 2009, there were supposed to be rumble strips on the road at the entrance to the new 30kmh zone. Some people think the entire city centre is 30kmh so more clarity will help," he said.

Cllr Michael Conaghan (Lab) remains in favour. "When we pedestrianised Grafton Street and Henry Street, people thought the world had ended. We have been a bit slow in this city to look at how people use Dublin. I think the tide is turning on the limit. I had 10 emails this morning. Nine were in favour and one against," he said.

Cllr Eric Byrne (Lab) says the regime should be given a six months' trial and then reviewed but his party colleague Cllr Mary Freehill thinks it should be abandoned.

"The statistics regarding accidents at night I believe [show they] were committed by those who didn't even keep to 50kmh. So I would go for the status quo," she said.

Cllr Vincent Jackson (Ind) points to the potential damage to a retail sector which is already struggling in the city centre. "The speed limit should be between 40 and 50kmh. I have no problem with 30kmh near schools," he said.

Independent councillor Damian O'Farrell believes that the go-slow by-laws over such a wide area is "totally unreasonable" but the 30kmh should be retained on O'Connell Street, Bridge, College Green and other central locations.

Fine Gael Councillor Bill Tormey, whose proposal to drop the new limits will be discussed at a full meeting of the council on March 1, is convinced the new scheme should be binned. "The metro will change things considerably but, meanwhile, a policed 50kmh is the answer with use of speed cameras linked to registration plate data to fine those guilty of speeding."

That view was endorsed by Fine Gael's Gerry Breen while Cllr Jim O'Callaghan revealed that the Fianna Fail group will be meeting in advance of the council meeting to decide on their policy.

"The most important fact that has become apparent from the speed limit controversy is the extent to which the FG/Labour coalition that runs Dublin City is scared of taking or sticking with any decision that gives rise to negative publicity." he said.

Cllr Seamus McGrattan (SF) feels it is too early to decide and it should be retained until a full examination can be carried out.

Cllr Henry Upton (Lab) and Cllr Mary O'Shea (FG) say the new speed limit should be retained though the latter says consideration should be given to reducing the area within which the limit applies.

Cllr Eoghan Murphy (FG) wants the speed limit to stay until there is a proper review in six months as planned.

"We can't go to 40km as it's not provided for in the legislation, and we can't reduce the operational hours to daytime only as this is also illegal. To remove perhaps the most controversial section -- the quays -- would be contrary to our plans to increase movement between north and south of the Liffey," he added.

Cllr Mannix Flynn (Ind) wants the new limit retained.

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