30kph Speed Limits will save lives and promote Active Travel!

5th February 2015

Dublin Cycling Campaign is a member of Cyclist.ie (www.cyclist.ie), the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network and the European Cyclists' Federation (www.ecf.com). Our national cycling coordinator is based in An Taisce offices at Tailor’s Hall.

Dublin Cycling Campaign is championing a default speed limit of 30 kph in all urban areas, but in particular in residential areas and in all areas of high pedestrian and cycle use. This includes residential estates as well as the centres of villages and towns and the areas surrounding schools. We believe there is a need for a paradigm shift in how road authorities manage traffic, and plan urban change, so as to enable pedestrians to use our roads and streets safely and to cater for the safety of the 8-80 age cohort while cycling. This is directly in line with the latest Departmental guidelines as outlined in the Design Manual for Urban Roads & Streets (DMURS,2013), and will also encourage an increase in active travel by foot and on bikes. Road traffic planning and provision in recent years has been for the benefit of the private motorist to the detriment of other road users such as public transport, pedestrians and cyclists

In addition to improving safety, lower speed limits in residential estates would encourage young people to move about independently and would encourage parents to permit their children to do so. This would have consequential benefits for their fitness and general health and would contribute to combating the rising levels of obesity in our society. The improved safety, and perception of safety, provided by lower speed limits would transform residential estates into more vibrant living spaces, with consequential benefits for the quality of life of residents and visitors.

30kph as Default Speed limit

We propose that 30kph be implemented as the default urban speed limit, and that any higher speed limits be introduced only after a full environmental and risk assessment. In the interim we recommend that periodic 30 kph zones be implemented around schools and other places of assembly (cinemas, theatres, community centre, religious buildings, etc.), in particular those that have large numbers of people arriving and / or departing at the same time.

Regarding personal safety, 30kph is fundamentally safer than 50kph for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. It is well established that lower impact speeds result in fewer and less severe injuries. The images below (Ref DMURS 2013 and RSA) demonstrate this.

Throughout Europe, 30kph is fast becoming the default urban speed limit. In some cities, speed limits as low as 10kph are in place in ‘home zones’. Even in the United States, where the car is king, 25 mph (40kph) limits are common in urban areas and 15 mph (24kph) limits are rigorously enforced at schools. In an effort to curb traffic fatalities, New York City lowered its default speed limit to 25 mph (40kph) from the 7th November 2014.

Image 1: Illustration from the Road SafetyAuthority showing the impact of vehicle speeds on pedestrian fatalities.

In the UK the “20’s Plenty” Campaign has been successful in securing reduced speed limits in many urban locations and has produced a Briefings page http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/briefings.htm with many documents showing the benefits of 20 mph (30kph) limits. Here in Ireland you may have heard of the Jake’s Legacy Campaign - http://www.thejournal.ie/jakes-legacy/news/ - which was set up by the parents of Jake Brennan, who was tragically killed by a car in a 50kph zone on a housing estate in Co Kilkenny.

Lower speeds result in less noise and pollution and greater fuel efficiency (high fuel consumption is associated with stop-start traffic, not slow traffic). On residential roads and shopping streets, people simply don't want to be exposed to the noise, fumes and dangers from higher speed traffic. While 50kph isn’t particularly noisy/polluting in itself, the acceleration from stop to 50kph is noisier and more polluting than the acceleration from stop to 30kph. Reduced acceleration also means improved fuel economy.

The reduced fuel consumption from lower speed limits would contribute to the reduction in emissions that is required to help us meet our transport greenhouse gas emission targets.


The overwhelming international evidence in favour of lower speed limits in urban areas, and the substantial community benefits accruing from their introduction, needs to be recognised.

This is a campaign that all An Taisce members can take up with the Local Authority in their area. Dublin Cycling Campaign fully supports the initiative of the Minister for Transport Tourism & Sport in relation to the introduction of 30kph speed limits in residential estates and further supports the expansion of the existing 30kph centre city zone speed limits, as well as the wider introduction of 30kph limits throughout the city.

If you would like to know more about this campaign check out http://www.dublincycling.ie/cycling/sign-now-30kph-liveable-streets, or contact Damien O Tuama, the National Cycling Coordinator at damien.otuama@antaisce.org