Councillors are pushing for a new lower speed limit of 20 kilometres per hour in Laois housing estates, as suggested in the Government’s speed limits review.
The new limit can be considered for ‘quiet lanes’ and ‘urban shared spaces’, as part of nationwide improvements to the speed limit system.
The changes could be in place by the end of 2015, however any area proposed for the 20km limit must first undergo research and a trial run.
At the July meeting, Cllr Jerry Lodge had called for an urgent meeting of the speed limit committee to include a 25km/h limit for estates, but he was happy to hear it could be as low as 20km.
“I specifically wanted to deal with the question of housing estates. Every member has raised the issue of safety in estates. Many estates don’t have ramps but it’s no excuse for speeding. Some parents are worried seeing their own neighbours speeding. I want every residents association concerned to have their views included. I want to set a lower speed limit in every estate,” he said.
Cllr Lodge said Gardaí needed more money to enforce speed limits, as recommended in the speed limits review by outsourcing speed detection and office work.
“With their current resources they are unable to patrol housing estates,” he said.
He had the backing of Cllr Padraig Fleming and Cllr Mary Sweeney.
“The nature of children is just to run, it can be very difficult, We are all under pressure to create greater safety awareness. The council are not always able to install ramps, residents need to be reminded of the dangers,” Cllr Sweeney said.
“Last December we looked for a 30km limit, I agree with Cllr Lodge on the possibility of reducing it to 20km, is there any way estates can be done a bit quicker?” Cllr Fleming asked.
Limits were no good unless they were enforced said Cllr James Kelly.
“It’s great but the detection and enforcement is all down to resources. Boy racers will slow down at ramps but then they speed up again. Speed is the new alcohol, you may as well be sitting on the beach trying to stop the tide coming in. I remember when it was acceptable to have a few pints and drive home, now it is rightly not so. Until it is socially unacceptable to speed, you are fighting a losing battle,” he said.
Ramps were a “crude” method of cutting speed, said Kieran Kehoe, who said enforcement of the speed limit was down to the Gardaí.
“Modern estates as approved in Laois County Council have substantially different road layouts, with narrow streets, lots of bends and parking on the streets, so people naturally slow down, such as in Kilminchy.
“To retrospectively put in ramps is very uneconomical and a crude measure. It is done properly through road design, education and finally enforcement, and that’s down to the Gardaí,” he said.
Pressure has been put on Laois County Council to improve safety in housing estates since last March, when five year old Maria Greene was killed by a passing van in St Brigid’s Place, Portlaoise.
Extra safety measures are planned but not yet installed in that estate. They include new ‘all stop junctions’, pedestrian crossings, and more ‘children at play signs.
Following a request by residents of St Brigid’s, an extra speed ramp will also be installed at the top of the green, near to where the tragedy took place.