Sunday, January 31, 2010

Driving in Dublin

With cities throughout the world making attempts to increase the speed of city centre traffic because of congestion, Dublin City Council have announced plans to slow down traffic in a large area of the city centre.

The map above shows most of the areas that will be subject to the new speed restrictions.  Click the image to enlarge.  The pink shaded areas were the original extent of the 30kph zone.  The yellow areas reflect the new extended 30kph sone from 31st of January.  Is this a worthwhile initiative?

According to Dublin City Council the initiative is.
It is well recognised that dangerous and inappropriate speed is the primary contributing factor to road fatalities. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable if involved in a collision with a vehicle. A review of accident statistics for Dublin City area for the period 1998 – 2007 reveals that 47% of fatalities and 24% of injured persons were pedestrians. Research indicates that the percentage of pedestrians killed when in a collision with a vehicle travelling at 50 kph is 45 % but reduces to 5% when the vehicle speed is 30 kph.
This map has markers of road fatalities in Ireland in 2006.  Here is the grim picture for the whole country showing markers covering most of the country.

If we will zoom into the area of Dublin City Centre we get the following image.  Click to enlarge.

There are two fatalities in the area of the map.  Was a motor-cycle accident on the Phibsboro Road.  The second was a pedestrian who died when struck by a truck on Gardiner Street. Neither of these roads are in the new 30 kph zone.

A report from the Road Safety Authority, Safety in Irish Cities 1997-2006, shows that shows that despite an increase in population and motor vehicles, there has been a steady decline in the number of road deaths and serious injuries in the five major Irish cities over the ten year period, 1997 to 2006.  Dublin City recorded a 73 per cent reduction in the number of killed and seriously injured, with a 77 per cent reduction in pedestrian fatalities.  This image from the RSA's 2007 Road Collision Facts publication shows that Dublin has the safest roads in the country as measured by the number of road injuries per million population.

It seems fairly clear that the safety benefits of the speed limit measure are going to be very limited.  This view is echoed by Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland.
This is an action that appears to the AA to be more vested in ideology than reason. In road safety terms Dublin City is one of the safest places in the country. There have of course been some fearful accidents. There was a dreadful tragedy on Wellington Quay in 2004, and other pedestrians have been killed or injured. There have also been fatalities involving cyclists and trucks turning left which were particularly horrific. But even in these high-profile cases the vehicles were travelling at less than 30kph to begin with. With opening of the Port Tunnel in 2007 and the subsequent removal of HGVs from the city centre the safety situation has improved considerably. The risk to road users is less in Dublin city centre than almost anywhere else in Ireland.
The Dublin Cycling Campagin disagree with AA Ireland suggesting that the reduced speed limit will reduce congestion.  Slowing down traffic seems to me to be the antithesis of congestion reduction!  This is almost as absurd as increasing parking charges to reduce congestion.

It seems this speed limit measure comes with costs of slower traffic and very few benefits.  Well maybe one benefit.  From today's Sunday Tribune

Dr Enda Murphy, of the school of planning and environmental policy at UCD, claimed that Dublin City Council's new speed limit by-laws will have the positive effect of reducing noise levels in the capital.  He said: "Generally, there is a direct correlation between reductions in speed and reductions in noise levels within cities."

Murphy, who has conducted a number of extensive studies in this area, believes that "there should be a positive reduction in noise levels in Dublin with the introduction of the new speed limits."  He also contends that even though people "may not be totally aware of the reduction in noise, it may reduce annoyance levels. For example, people get angry when a car races past quite quickly.

"Implementing the speed decrease is likely to have a slight impact on reducing noise pollution, but the real benefit is likely to be in making the city more attractive for cyclists."
But unfortunately people "may not be totally aware" of this benefit!  But at least the cyclists might be happier.

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