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Joint Committee on Transport and Communications debate -
Tuesday, 1 Mar 2022

Urban Area Speed Limits and Road Safety Strategy: Discussion

Apologies have been received from Senator Buttimer. The purpose of the meeting today is to discuss speed limit reductions in urban areas and the Road Safety Authority, RSA, Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030. On behalf of the committee, I welcome from the RSA, Mr. Sam Waide, CEO, and Mr. Michael Rowland, director of road safety, research and driver education. From Love 30, I welcome Ms Muireann O'Dea and Ms Joan Swift. I also welcome Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy of Technological University Dublin, who is joining us remotely. All of the witnesses are welcome to the meeting. I thank them for their forbearance.

I will read a note on privilege. All witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely from outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present does. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should be mindful of domestic law and how it may apply to the evidence they give.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I remind members of the constitutional requirement that members must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House complex to participate in public meetings. I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts of Leinster House will be asked reluctantly to leave the meeting. In this regard, I would ask any member partaking via MS Teams to confirm, prior to making his or her contribution to the meeting, that he or she is on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.

Members and all those in attendance in the committee room are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19.

I call Mr. Waide to make his opening statement.

Mr. Sam Waide

I thank the committee, through the Chair, for the opportunity to speak to members today to discuss the new Government Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 and speed limit reductions in urban areas. The first topic is the Government Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030. Our Journey Towards Vision Zero, Ireland’s fifth Government road safety strategy for 2021 to 2030, was published in December 2021. This transformational strategy was designed in collaboration with key road safety partners, international experts and the public. More than 2,000 submissions were received from the public as part of the consultation process to develop the strategy.

The primary aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by 50% over the next ten years. This means reducing deaths on Ireland’s roads annually from 144 to 72 or lower and reducing serious injuries from 1,260 to 630 or lower by 2030. The strategy will be delivered in three phases. Phase 1, which runs from 2021 to 2024, is backed by a projected €3.8 billion investment and includes 50 high-impact actions and 136 support actions. Two further phases are planned up to 2030. The strategy is also the first step towards achieving vision zero, which is the elimination of all road deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by 2050. These targets are also in line with European Commission and UN global road safety goals.

The strategy is led by a safe system approach covering the following seven areas: safe speeds; safe and healthy modes of travel; safe vehicles; safe roads and roadsides; safe road use; safe work-related road use; and post-crash response. The safe system approach emphasises the shared responsibility among those who design, build, manage and use the roads, including vehicles, to prevent or reduce collision impacts. It also includes those who provide post-crash response to mitigate injury. Ireland’s road safety strategy for the next ten years will be delivered with a heightened focus on the provision of infrastructure and vehicle safety enhancements, improved road user behaviours and enforcement in addition to post-crash response. All priority actions for the strategy sit within the safe system approach and are included in the briefing document submitted to the committee.

As the committee asked that we address the subject of speed limit reductions in urban areas, I will refer to the safe speeds element of the aforementioned strategy. It involves consideration of road and vehicle planning and design, the setting of injury-minimising speed limits, as well as public education and awareness, and the enforcement of these limits. The phase 1 action plan of the strategy includes five high-impact actions under safe speeds and these are listed in the briefing document.

Excessive speed continues to be a leading contributory factor in fatal and serious injury collisions in Ireland and internationally. It has been estimated that 10% to 15% of all collisions and 30% of fatal collisions are the result of speeding or inappropriate speed. Implementing lower speed limits, for example 30 km/h limits in urban areas, will have significant safety benefits, particularly for cyclists and pedestrians. These include reducing the likelihood of collisions occurring and reducing the risk of death or serious injury, should a collision occur. The WHO has estimated that a 5% reduction in average speed could result in a 30% reduction in fatal collisions. Safe speeds can also result in decreases in emissions and noise pollution, and improved traffic flow on our roads.

Evidence shows that many drivers are choosing to speed in our towns and villages. The RSA’s free speed observational study conducted in 2018 found that over half of cars observed on urban roads were speeding. Our attitudinal survey conducted last year found that a third of drivers exceed 50 km/h limits by more than 10 km/h at least sometimes. To put this in context, if pedestrians or cyclists are hit by a vehicle at 60 km/h, 90% of them will die, but if they are hit at 30 km/h, 90% of them will live. In addition to this, many drivers are distracted while driving which puts cyclists and pedestrians at greater risk. Our survey found that 19% of drivers use their phone to read messages and emails at least sometimes while 12% admitted to using their phones to check social media while driving. We must reduce the risks posed to pedestrians and cyclists, who face an environment where many drivers are speeding and are dangerously distracted.

Urban speed limits should not serve to benefit drivers but rather benefit active travel and protect pedestrians and cyclists. Ireland is falling behind the rest of Europe in setting 30 km/h speed limits. There have been several roll-outs of 30 km/h or 20 mph speed limits by municipalities around the world. Spain set a national 30 km/h limit for all urban roads with a single carriageway in each direction in May 2021. Wales has made progress in its plans for a national 20 mph default limit for all built-up roads, to be implemented in 2023. Scandinavian countries already have a 30 km/h limit for most urban roads, with Oslo and Helsinki recording zero pedestrian deaths last year with 30 km/h as a key reason. There are other examples including in the briefing document submitted to the committee.

Our challenge and the challenge for legislators is to keep raising the bar and finding new and better ways of making our roads safer, especially for the most vulnerable members of our community. In Ireland, road deaths have declined by almost 70% since 1998. Reducing road deaths and serious injuries by 50% over the next decade is achievable. Vision zero by 2050 is also achievable and given our road safety journey to date, no target is too ambitious for us. The starting point is recognising that road deaths or serious injuries should not be the price to pay for our mobility.

I thank Mr. Waide and now invite Dr. D'Arcy to make her opening statement.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I thank the Cathaoirleach and members of the committee for the opportunity to contribute today.

Individual human behavioural decisions are influenced by the physical and social environments around people, and also their own habits, norms and perspectives. Today, drawing on my professional experience as a civil engineer, transportation planner and behaviour scientist, I would like to discuss the importance of good street design practices for safe driving behaviour and how we can balance perspectives on what constitutes a safe street or road.

Substantial work has been done by the transportation agencies over the past three decades to make driving safer in Ireland. However, practices such as overdesigning roads to increase driver comfort and an emphasis on new car assessment programme, NCAP, ratings for cars which place an emphasis on the safety on those inside the vehicle have left communities dealing with an increased threat of larger and faster vehicles on their streets. This focus on driver safety has had unintended consequences. Residential streets used to be places to congregate and play and main streets used to be meeting places and commercial hubs. Both are now becoming devoid of human interactions because of the dominance of the private vehicle. This not only has implications for local commerce, but also the health and well-being of our population.

Posted speed limits are just one tool in a suite of measures that can be used to make our streets safer. However, without enforcement and changes to the physical infrastructure to bring the design speeds of roads or streets closer to the posted speed limit, little is going to change in driver behaviour. Life and time pressures as well as the sense that we can move faster, since our 21st century vehicles need little encouragement to move considerably faster than those driven in the 1970s and 1980s, increase the temptation to break a speed limit. Each individual will make their own decision, but if others around us are going faster than us, the temptation to press the pedal can be worth the personal risk. A favourite phrase of one of my school teachers comes to mind - "You are only sorry because you were caught.".

Our metric for safe streets should not be how many people have lost their lives or been injured but a multi-criteria assessment that includes the number of people walking and cycling in an area. Reported traffic speeds should be measured against the context of the street considering time-of-day metrics, for example. Are more people speeding in low traffic and how can this behaviour be designed out? We should conduct walk-in-time or drive-in-time interviews or other ethnographic-type data collection to understand what informs in-travel decision making. We need to listen to school children, but not exclusively. They are not the decision makers when it comes to household travel but alongside our elderly, they are the most vulnerable on our roads and they deserve our attention. We must also look at social exclusion and loneliness and other population health indicators, such as the work done by Professor Donald Appleyard in the USA.

The 2020 Stockholm declaration of the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety recognises the importance of this multi-perspective approach. It recognises:

... our shared responsibility between system designers and road users to move towards a world free from road traffic fatalities and serious injuries and that addressing road safety demands multi-stakeholder collaboration among the public and private sectors, academia, professional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the media.

The task force outlined in the RSA’s document, Our Journey Towards Vision Zero, Ireland's Government Road Safety Strategy, Phase 1 Action Plan 2021-2024, is a very welcome start.

The media has an important role to play in delivering a clear and balanced message around road safety. It can highlight the impact of individual and collective decision-making on population health and well-being and on the prevention of premature death from road traffic collisions, non-communicable or lifestyle diseases or from mental ill-health, compounded by social isolation and sedentary behaviours.

Why is a default 30 km/h for built up areas a good idea? A blanket change facilitates a clear communication to the population, which in turn gives it greater awareness of the changes. Default 30 km/h speeds will facilitate the roll out and a quick delivery of active travel infrastructure and the Town Centres First strategy as street design standards at this speed will facilitate safer design for a greater balance of movement and place. This in turn helps us meet our climate targets.

There is information available and learnings from other jurisdictions on policies to reduce traffic speeds that we can learn from. We will not be reinventing the wheel. At present, digital mapping and route-finding apps are directing drivers into residential areas for trip time savings based on current speed limits. Lower speed limits will discourage algorithms from directing traffic into these areas.

Research and evaluation is important, most especially so that we have an Irish evidence base to learn from and build upon. Multidisciplinary perspectives are important. This September, TU Dublin will be hosing the Walk21 international conference on walking and liveable communities where a special session will be held to address safety where we can learn from local players and international experts.

I now invite Ms Muireann O'Dea to make her opening statement.

Ms Muireann O'Dea

Love 30 thanks the committee for the invitation to address it on the important topic of speed limit reductions in urban areas and the RSA road safety strategy. Love 30 is a national alliance of individuals and organisations that support a default 30 km/h speed limit in built-up areas. A 30 km/h as a default urban speed limit is an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of vehicle collisions and related serious injuries; to allow children to play outdoors more safely; to make our cities and towns more liveable by allowing people of all ages and abilities to walk or cycle to study, work, shops and visits to friends and family; to improve the general health of the population; and to contribute to our climate action plan

At a recent school road safety event in Kilcoole where the speed limit is 50 km/h, one of the sixth class pupils said "their speed was quite shocking. To think that there could be kids crossing the road and the cars are going at that speed." Why are we seeking a default 30 km/h speed limit in built up areas? First, it is about safety. Thirty kilometres per hour is fundamentally safer than 50 km/h for pedestrians and vulnerable road users. Where speeds are reduced to a maximum of 30 km/h in built-up areas, a decline in casualties of more than 40% will occur with fewer and less severe injuries. Lower speeds give drivers more time to notice and react to the unexpected and, importantly, reduce the severity of injury when collisions occur. The importance of 30 km/h speed limits for improved road safety and enhanced liveability is recognised internationally. Many countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and Wales have legislated for mandatory 30 km/h in all built-up areas.

With lower speeds, children can safely play, walk, scoot and cycle in their neighbourhood. Confident, independent, healthy and active travel habits form on safer streets. There are benefits for elderly people, who may have slower reaction times, and people with disabilities making it easier for them to cross the road and travel about.

Lower speeds result in less noise and pollution. Noise can be reduced by 50%, which is a major issue in cities and towns. Air pollution currently kills more than 1,000 people per year in Ireland. Introducing widespread 30 km/h zones is one of the most cost-effective ways of improving road safety. The wide area means there are no frequent speed changes so fewer signs are needed and it is easier for drivers to understand. Studies in the UK found that wide area 30 km/h limits are seven times more cost-effective than isolated zones with physical traffic calming.

There is very little impact on journey times. Much of the travel time in urban areas is spent at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. On a typical 20-minute journey, travelling at 30 km/h instead of 50 km/h will add between 20 seconds to a minute to the journey time. Local and international experience shows that drivers quickly acclimatise to lower speed limits in built-up areas.

Ireland was a signatory to the Stockholm Declaration of the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in February 2020, which mandated a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner. This same declaration also recognises that road deaths and injuries constitute a preventable epidemic. This agreed resolution needs to be acted upon here in Ireland.

At present, the setting of speed limits is a matter for local authorities subject to national legislation. Most local authorities have introduced some 30 km/h speed limits but their introduction has been patchy and inconsistent. The recent introduction of an appeal mechanism may be helpful in reducing some speed limits but is unlikely to bring about the paradigm shift that is required. We believe that the best way forward is to introduce national legislation mandating a default 30 km/h speed limit in built-up areas. It will then be up to councils to decide which, if any, roads should have a different speed limit. A default limit does not prevent a higher limit being introduced where it is deemed necessary and safe.

We were very pleased to see that the road safety strategy included a high impact action to establish a working group to examine and review the framework for the setting of speed limits, including introducing 30 km/h limits as the default in urban areas. We believe that this working group should be established without delay. It must recognise that for every one road death, there are nine serious injuries on Irish roads and pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists account for over half of all serious injuries

We urge that the members of this committee to recognise the wealth of local and international evidence in support of 30 km/h speed limits in built-up areas. By endorsing the call for a national default urban speed limit of 30 km/h, the committee will leave a lasting legacy of safe, liveable neighbourhoods that can be enjoyed by everyone.

I thank all the witnesses. I think there will be general consensus and agreement regarding the fact that we want our roads to be as safe as possible. Mr. Waide said that it is not so much about being fair to motorists when we are talking about towns. Rather it is about ensuring people are able to involve themselves in active travel. I always find that in this State, to some degree, we start from a bad place. Our road network is somewhat imperfect. I was in Strasbourg recently. You have to watch out for people on e-scooters and bicycles and there will always be the element of criss-crossing at certain points but the network in general is better and there is more space to allow that room for active travel.

I will use an example in Dundalk involving a reduction in lanes. People were obviously worried about this and said it would clog up the town to a further degree. I am talking about the far end of Bridge Street and Clanbrassil Street. The general notion was that it would probably slow down traffic and cycle lanes would not be put in because there is no room so it would be shared space. I am not sure whether it has resulted in a huge uplift in the number of people cycling on it but traffic is probably moving slowly and it has not been the disaster people might have thought it would be.

I suppose it is about how one builds in that level of planning. On a personal basis, sometimes I see a 30 km/h limit and think it is incredibly slow. You would not even realise you had gone over the limit. I suppose it would take a huge shift change to get people to that point. It would be a hard sell at this time, while accepting the argument is that we are going to save lives and facilitate the rest. What are the real moves that need to happen here? I do not believe we are in a place where tomorrow one could bring this into Leinster House, propose it and get it accepted.

Mr. Sam Waide

The Deputy asked what are the things that need to happen. We are surrounded by research and evidence to confirm the effectiveness of the 30 km/h speed limit. As the Deputy has rightly pointed out, various cities have introduced it, and the infrastructure is mixed. In essence, there needs to be a determination to implement 30 km/h. One of the witnesses referred to the inconsistency, with it being in some towns and some areas and not in others. There needs to be consistency, and we come back again to the action required. There is a plan to form a working group within the strategy to actually progress and bring forward recommendations on how this can be implemented. Yes, it needs to be implemented in a pragmatic way, but it also needs to be implemented in a transformational way, or we will not achieve that 50% reduction. We will achieve a 50% reduction if it is done in a timely manner and at pace. That working group will be set up and the expectation is that it will report to Ministers and others on progress. We intend to bring forward recommendations to implement the 30 km/h limit.

My colleague Mr. Rowland has carried out extensive research in this area. I will ask Mr. Rowland to share what others have done in implementing 30 km/h speed limits and, most importantly, some of the lessons learned from other EU member states and other countries where we have gathered insight and research.

Mr. Michael Rowland

A number of countries across the world have implemented 30 km/h speed limits. Ireland is behind the curve here. Spain has a national default of 30 km/h for all of its urban roads that are single carriageways in each direction. Wales has made progress in its plans for a 20 mph default speed limit for all built-up areas. This is to be implemented to 2023. Scotland, in its road safety strategy, has announced that 20 mph should be the default speed limit in urban and village settings, and is creating a task force to deliver it by 2025. Brussels now has a 30 km/h limit for most roads in the city. Paris has a 30 km/h limit for most roads, with many French cities following. London already has a 20 mph limit for all of its inner-London boroughs with managed roads, and Transport for London, which manages the arterial roads, plans to increase the length of its 20 mph arterial routes from 80 km to 220 km by 2024. Likewise, measures have been introduced in US cities. As Mr. Waide has said, Scandinavian countries , and in particular Oslo and Helsinki which have these 30 km/h speed limits, have recorded zero pedestrian deaths with their 30 km/h speed limit as a key reason.

That is obviously huge. I will go around the entirety of the huge piece of work that the working group would need to look at.

I am going to throw something out there that may be somewhat tangential. At this stage it is not just an issue with urban roads, it is an issue also within housing estates. Any member who was ever a councillor will know that one must go through an elongated process when looking to get speeds reduced or even get ramps installed. There is a requirement for speed tests and it needs to fit certain criteria and so on. I am not saying that the RSA wants to slow everything down so that literally there is no traffic moving, but we probably need a streamlining of that system also. Sometimes there can also be a failure at consultative level for this to occur, and people may only realise that speed limits are being reviewed after it has actually happened. Or else, it only becomes an issue when there is a fatality or near fatality.

Mr. Michael Rowland

To be clear with the Deputy, the setting of speed limits is a function of the local authorities, and for national routes it is a function of Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII. Our role in the RSA has been to do the research to see what works and what is best practice. This is what we have reflected.

It is a reserved function within the local authorities.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes. Absolutely.

It is the councillors who decide. Would these limits typically be reviewed every three years with the local authorities?

Mr. Michael Rowland


It is not an executive function. It has the added dimension that it is a reserved function also. Am I correct in that, just by way of clarification?

Mr. Michael Rowland

That is correct.

It is not about the RSA having responsibility for this; it is more about whether it has been looked at. Obviously, a lot of constituents would state that it is an issue.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Action 6 in the road safety strategy talks about a working group to review the framework for the setting of speed limits. That working group has met at least twice. They are developing terms of reference. They will also have special consideration of the introduction of a 30 km/h default limit in urban areas. The reviewing of the guidelines, I am sure, will look at all aspects of how speed limits are set.

The RSA representatives have spoken about the countries that have introduced the 30 km/h changes. Over a period of time has there been any element of work done in seeing whether there was an acceptance of this and what the story was in relation to enforcement? I accept that this can differ from country to country.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Anecdotally, we have heard that when the limits were introduced initially there was resistance, but when people became used to them and saw the benefits of reduced speed limits, people were very anxious that they were kept and maintained.

Did they have to put speed vans on every corner or anything like that?

Mr. Michael Rowland

No. As Dr. D'Arcy has said, it is to do with how streets are designed. It is about ensuring it is intuitive for the drivers to know they must reduce speeds. I am not an engineer but the urban design-----

I refer again to the example of Dundalk, where an element of this happened. Many of us who were councillors at the time had difficulties in relation to it and thought that there would be problems with clogging and so on. I am not saying that there have not been issues, but they were not the issues that we thought. It was not Armageddon.

Mr. Michael Rowland

The public has become very accepting of the limits. They appreciate that the streets are more livable and more people are engaging in active travel now because they perceive that internationally the streets are safer to engage in cycling and walking.

The witnesses spoke earlier about design. The difficulty still around a lot of urban settings is that we just do not have the space on the roads. We do not have the pavement width or what we would like to have to be able to deliver proper, active living and travel. The difficulty is in how we make the best of what we have. The RSA's argument will be that the first step is the 30 km/h speed limit.

Mr. Michael Rowland


Mr. Sam Waide

I would add to that. It can and should be done in a pragmatic way. By this I mean that outside schools, for example in an urban area, in a built-up city or town, or even rural schools, there are practical measures whereby if we are serious about road safety in Ireland, we can implement 30 km/h zones in areas where they do not currently exist, and where there is a moral argument. I would be amazed if anyone argued against having a 30 km/h zone outside the school gates. There are practical measures from which we can learn and implement without necessarily an extensive investment in basic road furniture and infrastructure.

I have driven across the whole country. There remain areas without 30 km/h limits outside school gates. The first part of the strategy is a four-year plan. I do not want to be sitting here in four years, having this debate that this is difficult to implement. The longer we leave this, the more collisions, serious injuries and fatalities will occur.

There is a moral argument about school gates. One can look at Louth or any other county. I will use the example of Sheelagh school in north County Louth. There have been attempts to have speed-limiting ramps or such installed, or to have the speed limit changed. The difficulty is that it is a rural road. It is along the road from a junction with a relatively major arterial route. If it was at all possible, if we introduced 30 km/h limits around schools, we would have to make it much easier for people to be able to deliver on this. We would have to deliver those solutions. Many people have engaged with local authorities and whoever else they need to. They constantly have obstacles thrown in their way. Many of those obstacles relate to planning laws and to the particular location. Sometimes, people decide that what they actually want is a speed limit that, in a perfect world, would only exist when children are travelling to and from the school.

Mr. Sam Waide

I accept that. I am confident that the right expertise is at the table in that working group. We need to enable that group and provide it with funding to implement change.

I understand Mr. Waide's argument that we should start from a moral point of view. This makes complete sense from the point of view of children's safety. We could just make it happen and work with the current rules. It means that parents and schools will not have obstacles thrown in their way.

I realise that my questions were all for Mr. Waide. Do any other witnesses wish to speak?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Regarding housing development areas, we have had a series of sticking plasters to fix problems as they arise. We have built new developments in suburbs and peri-urban areas on the edge of towns. We built wider roads. As a result, people started driving faster. We then built ramps and people started to buy bigger cars with better suspension to counteract that and continued to speed. There has been a chicken-and-egg situation all along. We need to design for people rather than cars and to reallocate the space.

Ms Joan Swift

Mr. Waide spoke about the free speed surveys and so on. It is important to say that we can change cultural norms and have done so in the past few years, with the various measures that we took to address the pandemic. We became accustomed to them. We thought at one time that only people in Asia wore masks, then suddenly we were all wearing them. There is a recent example of changing norms being possible. Another matter directly related to road safety is drink driving. In 2015, a survey showed that 61% of people agreed that a no alcohol limit was correct if people wanted to drink and drive. In 2017, that had changed to 71%. That example relates directly to road safety. We have not put enough effort into the speed issue. There has not been enough awareness of the difference that it makes.

Mr. Waide's contribution is exceedingly welcome, and I am pleased with it. He said that it is not a question of prioritising motorists but of prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. It is as if they are different bodies, in conflict with each other. As soon as people get out of their car or step off their scooter or bike, they are pedestrians. This absolutely should be introduced for safety reasons. The people who live in various towns and villages with a 30 km/h limit instead of vehicles flying by at 75 km/h will be able to hear their children when walking to school. Older people will be able to walk to the shop with their friends. People can mix and mingle. It will make a significant difference. It ticks all the Government's boxes. We are talking about road safety here, but it also helps with policies such as Town Centre First, Our Rural Future, health policies such as the National Physical Activity Plan, and most certainly climate and emissions policies. Mr. Waide and his colleague have really illustrated the difference that the lower speed limit would make. If it is in place, and people feel safe enough, they can make that choice about travel. We should remember that the 2019 national travel survey showed that 29% of our journeys are less than 2 km. The option is there. It is possible to change the culture. It would be a superb legacy for this committee, as Ms O'Dea said. I know the high-level committee exists. Mr. Waide and the RSA will do their utmost. To get the backing of members of the committee would be wonderful.

Cultural transformation is possible, which is the big thing here. Active travel will allow for a greater amount of public transport. We can also deal with the issue of e-scooters, e-bikes etc. I noticed commentary online a second ago. When I spoke about the time-limited speed limits around schools, I was speaking as a devil's advocate. Sometimes, planners do not necessarily want limits all the time. I agree with Mr. Waide that there is a moral obligation for us to introduce those speed limits and to accept that different things happen at different times in schools, on different days. There is a moral imperative to ensure safety. We can build the rest of the planning rules around that.

I apologise for being late. I was chairing another meeting. I thank the Chair and committee members for agreeing to hold this meeting. This is an important issue that affects every city, town and village in Ireland. We all want to have safer roads for everybody, including car users. When car users step out of their cars, they become pedestrians, perhaps holding a child's hand. This is for our children, pedestrians, cyclists and grandparents walking round the streets. We want our streets and towns to be nice places for people to go. If we had slower speeds in our towns, not only would they be safer, they would also become quieter. A road with a 30 km/h speed limit is much quieter than a road with a 50 km/h, 60 km/h or 80 km/h speed limit. The noise where there are higher speed limits creates an unpleasant, unwelcoming place for people to go. If our streets are not welcoming, it is bad for local business, which is bad for a town and eventually sucks the life out of it. As we become more car-dependent, we end up in a negative loop where we all get in our cars to drive out of town, which sucks the life out of our towns. This is primarily about road safety for everybody.

There is a guidance document on setting speed limits from the Department of Transport. When I was a member of the local authority in Wicklow, we had a blanket 30 km/h zone for residential housing estates incorporating culs-de-sac.

That was important and it was important to put the signs up, but there were many highly residential roads in my area with the same characteristics as housing estate cul-de-sac roads, being narrow with parking on both sides and much footfall, to which the blanket 30 km/h speed limit could not be applied. There was potential to include slow zones that required interaction between neighbourhoods, but you could not just put up 30 km/h signs. Does the guidance document need to be changed?

Mr. Michael Rowland

Action 6 of the road safety strategy deals with those guidelines. They are being reviewed. The document is the one referred to as the framework for the setting of speed limits. Back in 2013 or 2014, it was published by the Department of Transport. It is that document that is being reviewed as part of action 6 of the road safety strategy.

That was very apparent to me in 2013 when studying the document at local authority level. I was trying to apply 30 km/h speed limits to residential roads, not just cul-de-sac estates. Mr. Rowland said the document is being reviewed. When can we expect local authorities to have a document in front of them that states certain roads with certain characteristics qualify and should fall within a 30 km/h zone if the members so decide?

Mr. Michael Rowland

My understanding is that the working group will make recommendations on the guidelines. They have to be made by the end of the year, or in quarter 4 of 2022.

Enforcement is a critical aspect also. Putting up a 30 km/h sign on a road will probably do very little to address speeding if the road is designed such that drivers take the view that they can go fast on it. Road design, build-outs and the engineering of roads are also critical. A lot of this comes down to local authorities. They are the bodies that can act in this area. We can only set the guidance documents for them to work to. Is there enough recognition of that at local authority level?

Mr. Michael Rowland

The local authorities, through the CCMA, are actively involved in reviewing the framework for the setting of speed limits. They have the engineering expertise to be involved in the review of the guidelines. They are very much involved and are very active in the group. It has met twice or three times at this stage. There is representation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland but also the local authorities through the CCMA.

Mr. Sam Waide

May I add to that? On the joined-up approach within the new strategy, the CCMA and councils are represented in the road safety partnership, as are the Road Safety Authority, the Garda, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority. All the relevant delivery agencies sit within that partnership. There is a forum to ensure that no one is working in a silo and that everyone has access to the views and expertise of fellow delivery agencies to ensure all considered views or expert opinions are recognised and taken on board to influence the timely implementation of the actions. We have 50 actions to implement in total over the next four years. The Deputy focused on one of them. If they are to be delivered upon, it will require not only scrutiny and monitoring but also investment and pace.

I agree with Mr. Waide. We can have the best guidance documents in the world but we also require implementation at local authority level whereby local authorities ascertain how roads can be altered and the designs required to signal to drivers that certain roads are ones on which they should be going slowly. Many of the interventions do not have to involve major civil engineering works. Build-outs and planters, for example, can be used. It requires losing some road allocation and parking spaces. I am not sure we have the resources and get-up-and-go at local authority level to knock on doors to say we are going to make a street a safer, nicer civil place, including for children and grandparents, and that it will require the removal of a couple of parking spaces. We can develop really good guidance but I have concerns about applying it. I see Dr. D'Arcy has her hand up.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I want to add to that. The multidisciplinary group is fantastic, welcome and needed, but it is important that it have some environmental psychologists or urban designers who understand the relationship between how something is designed and how someone behaves in space. This is something I experienced when I moved from working as a civil engineer. Where civil engineering is concerned, professional training influences the approach in that the changing of the built environment involves a very structural change. An urban designer can be much more subtle in the changes, which might involve planters or trees. “Sense of enclosure” is the term used, the feeling being that if a place is narrower, you will move slower through it. It is important to have urban psychologists or urban designers on the team. In local authorities, we do not have enough of this kind of collaboration. One of the main drivers for us in setting up the master of science degree in sustainable transport and mobility in TU Dublin was to have interdisciplinary viewpoints regarding how we deliver the schemes.

I have a question for the delegates from Love 30, who might also address my previous question. A really good graphic that I am sure we have all seen shows that if one is struck by a vehicle at 60 km/h, it results in a fatality in nine out of ten cases. At 50 km/h, there may be a fatality in six out of ten cases. I cannot remember the figure. At 30 km/h, nine out of ten people will survive. I am sure we would all like to see a much higher level of survival than obtains where cars are allowed to drive at such high speeds. The graphic uses a normal-sized car — a saloon with a low bonnet that would have been common — but we have seen a major increase in the use of SUVs, which are monstrous, ridiculous vehicles that are not suitable for the urban environment in any shape or form. Great marketing is done and everybody wants to drive an SUV across a mountain stream with music playing in the background, but that is not the reality of driving one in an urban environment. Does the graphic need to be updated to reflect the weight of an SUV and the height of its bonnet, which, unlike a saloon bonnet, strikes a person in the upper body rather than the legs? Is the fatality rate now much higher, such as ten out of ten at 60 km/h or 50 km/h, bearing in mind that we know the SUV is a common vehicle in the urban setting? That is probably a hard question to answer. I will leave it to Ms O'Dea to answer both of my questions.

Ms Muireann O'Dea

The original research came from Sweden in the 1970s, so it is very much out of date. As the Deputy pointed out, the size of vehicles nowadays make them safe for those in them but very dangerous for those outside.

On the previous point, whether local authorities have the will and resources to produce designs that promote lower speeds, I fully agree with all the points made on designing roads that have a natural traffic-calming effect, but designs should not be a reason to delay the introduction of 30 km/h speed limits. Edinburgh is a very good example in this regard. From the middle of 2016, its authorities rolled out wide-area 20 mph zones. This involved a sign-only scheme, with no physical traffic calming. With a very modest average speed reduction of about 2 km/h, the authorities saw major benefits. There was a 38% reduction in road traffic collisions. A survey showed that 35% more children were allowed to play on the road. It was based on a sign-only scheme. It is definitely a good starting point. It can be built upon with design and enforcement.

I will proceed to Senator Pauline O'Reilly, who is to be followed by Senator Sherlock and Deputy Hourigan. They may take about seven minutes each. I will not be precious about time so if their line of questioning demands more, I will allow flexibility.

I thank the Chairman for welcoming me to the committee today. I have come from the climate committee meeting. Obviously, I come with that hat on me.

I thank all our guests for coming in. As Deputy Matthews said, that was a striking image of what the current death toll is. While reducing the death toll must be front and centre, I have heard very little - I am not referring to our guests but to others - about the climate impact of reducing speed limits. That must be critical in this. I fully agree that we cannot slow down a campaign for 30 km/h speed limits. How could this campaign be aligned with a campaign on reducing car use overall? Does the RSA have some comments on that? Is it also aligning this campaign with a reduction in car use?

The fewer the number of cars moving around, the fewer deaths there are. We also know that the lower the speed limit, the greater the number of people cycling and walking. We also need to think about the fact that making it slightly uncomfortable for road users who are in their cars can have a knock-on impact in taking people out of their cars and putting them into cycle lanes and onto buses and getting them walking. That modal shift must be part of this conversation. Is this RSA campaign aligned with another campaign around reducing car use?

Mr. Sam Waide

I thank the Senator for her question. I will answer part of the question and I welcome my colleagues' views on this as well. At the heart of the road safety strategy is road safety. It is outcome-based. It aims to reduce serious injuries and fatalities by 50% by 2030. We have developed this strategy cognisant of wider policy strategies, including the climate change challenge and the transport strategies developed with industry players and others. The road safety strategy has been developed with all those in mind. For the RSA, road safety does not single out any one particular user or try to shame one particular user into doing less or more of something. It is encouraging, facilitating and enabling all road users to share the road respectfully and that includes vulnerable road users.

On climate change and the reduction in emissions of vehicles being used, the RSA, as a road safety authority, has not got into that.

We should not look at it as shaming. I was not saying it is about shaming. I was saying both things have benefits for people's lives and it has to be seen in that way. Most of us use different forms of transport. If you are in car behind small children cycling, you are putting them under pressure all the time. That makes cycling much more difficult for them the next time they go out on the road. As such, this has a knock-on impact related to climate and safety.

Dr. D'Arcy made an excellent point on communities. In Galway, where I am from, communities are completely blocked off from each other and divided down the middle by roads on which cars are travelling very fast. I ask Mr. Waide to speak about that and the issue of permeability, which probably comes from that. The lack of permeability is probably a knock-on impact of very fast roads. Is the RSA also looking at permeability in these neighbourhoods to ensure everything comes together at once, as I think it must?

Mr. Sam Waide

I believe part of what the Senator is referencing is segregated travel, as it is known in road safety circles. Segregating different forms of travel is safe. It has been evidenced it is safer for everyone involved. Although serious injuries have increased significantly in the past ten years, they have reduced in the past year. I have spoken on this topic with officials. The RSA believes there has been a reduction in serious injuries because during Covid we put in place infrastructure for cyclists and that has had a positive impact. It has reduced the number of serious injuries. The RSA advocates segregating those methods of travel to make them safer, be that for pedestrians or cyclists and, likewise, for vehicle users because when-----

I apologise but my time is nearly up and I want to address the issue of the executive versus reserved functions. What people do not realise is councillors are given something by an executive. They do not just come up with a decision about which road is to have a 30 km/h speed limit and which will have an 80 km/h speed limit. One of the challenges for Galway City Council was that an entire package was delivered under which the speed limit in some areas, similar to the areas Deputy Matthews mentioned and just as residential as some housing estates, increased to 80 km/h, while in others the speed limit was reduced to 30 km/h. Quite apart from the call from Love 30 to have this as a national campaign or national function, how can we ensure at national level that councils are making proposals for councillors to vote on that are respectful of the guidelines?

Mr. Sam Waide

That is a very good question and I am glad the Senator asked it. It comes back to a term referenced earlier, namely, consistency. As road users, whether we are pedestrians, cyclists, motorists or heavy or light goods vehicle drivers, we need a level of consistency across the country, so we are not driving, walking or cycling into one council area and having one set of rules and then driving, walking or cycling into another council area that has another set of rules. The political system has a major role to play to ensure consistency is applied across the country. As I stated, the councils are represented on the road safety partnership board in that regard but outside my remit, there is a major role for councillors and elected representatives to ensure that consistency of approach, whether it is implementing a 30 km/h speed limit as a default or various forms of that. I would welcome that consistency and I am sure all members of the public and road users would welcome that consistency.

I keep coming back to the point that the longer we debate this in the coming months and years, the greater the number of serious injuries and fatalities that will occur. This is about outcomes, notably the 50% reduction by 2030, so I am asking everyone to help move this at pace in political circles, organisational circles and in support of the public as a whole.

I welcome that. It is good to hear the RSA is pushing this measure. We need to take a leap on this but what we are finding is that on a local authority level, those leaps are not happening. For instance, the Salthill cycle lane was voted down, which goes back to the matter of a lack of segregation and lack of safety for people. Perhaps the question for everyone is what more we can do to bring the public on board. Some of the questions asked earlier by one of the members pointed to the fact that some politicians may be worried that the public will not be on board. I do not think that is true. What more can we do to ensure everybody understands this is an imperative for safety but also for climate? We saw from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report released yesterday that half of the world's population is now impacted by climate change.

Mr. Sam Waide

I am mindful of the time. The public have spoken in regard to speed. One of the members mentioned enforcement. The RSA conducted a public survey and over two thirds of the public agree to an increase in penalty points for speeding and distracted driving. The RSA has carried out research of public opinion in the past and we are willing to carry out more public opinion research on 30 km/h or whatever the topic might be to achieve greater and safer roads in Ireland.

Senator Sherlock has seven minutes.

I will not take that long as I have to go to another meeting. First, I am glad the committee is hosting this meeting today and I welcome it. I pay tribute to the work of the Road Safety Authority, to Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy and particularly to the Love 30 campaign. Its enormous work over many years and the use of data and evidence to persuade people of the need to reduce speed limits have been critical to bringing us to where we are now and where we need to go. I fully support the call to introduce legislation to have speed limits of 30 km/h by default in built-up areas across the country. The common thread through the conversation today is that if we have a safe speed approach, it will be vital to promoting active travel within communities and to encouraging more cycling and a safer space for pedestrians.

I am based in the north side of Dublin and live in communities that are gateways to the city centre for cars. We must ensure that they are communities for pedestrians, cyclists and people as opposed to communities for cars just to pass through. The key thing from this committee today is that the evidence has been unequivocal regarding the need to move to a speed limit of 30 km/h in built-up areas. I thank the three groups of contributors for that. That Ireland is a laggard is a very important message to get across. I thank our guests for pointing to the examples in Wales, Spain, Scotland, Belgium and other countries in terms of how far ahead they have moved and how little we have done here.

For me, there is a practical impact from this. Dublin City Council has rolled out safe school zones across the city. It has been very successful, but schools on the Ratoath Road and St. Joseph's in East Wall cannot get the full school zone treatment and ensure there is full safety for their pupils and parents going to school. They cannot have a 30 km/h speed limit on their roads because they are on busy primary roads. We need to be able to change that, to have the speed limit by default at 30 km/h and ensure that schools and every other public amenity can be afforded that safe space.

I have a question about enforcement because this is continually thrown back at us. People ask: "What is the point in having a 30 km/h speed zone if there are no speed cameras or if the gardaí are not there?" The conversation this morning with Deputy Matthews has been very instructive, and the Road Safety Authority dealt with it in its contribution. That is the secondary issue here. Having the speed limit alone is very important. What are the witnesses' views on the power and the resources that now need to go into complementing the 30 km/h speed zone, if we were to have that by default? The Love 30 campaign has been campaigning on this for many years so what additional powers at national level and what resources does it believe need to go into those complementary actions? I believe local authorities need to be better resourced. What are the witnesses' views on that?

Ms Joan Swift

Enforcement certainly is an issue, but we do not make legislation on the basis that people might not like it or it might be difficult to enforce. Not everybody was happy a few years ago when the drink driving legislation was tightened. Nonetheless, it happened. People still drink and drive but that is not a reason not to have the legislation. There will have to be a cultural shift. The Garda Síochána would have to answer regarding its resources for enforcement. However, some of it is that we do not really see or have not fully grasped how dangerous the speed is. People might say: "Sure, he is only doing 55 km/h, so why bother?" A national change countrywide would make a difference because if it is only in this little estate or that little estate, it will not be seen or taken seriously enough.

Senator Pauline O'Reilly spoke earlier about what we could do to bring people along and change people's minds. I have been thinking about the myths there are about how much people will be delayed if the speed limit is changed. There was an example of it on Newstalk's "Lunchtime Live" yesterday. People were talking about the Phoenix Park and a couple of the contributors felt it would be the end of the world because they would be held up so much. Legislators have a responsibility, as well as people like us, volunteers and so on, to counter that myth. I was thinking about it this morning and about a commute where there are no bypasses. For example, if somebody is travelling from Donegal to work in Sligo, the person has to pass through four or five different villages. I worked out that if the full total of 30 km/h limits in those villages was 10 km, that would add eight minutes to one's trip of 60-odd km. A person could say that would mean he or she would have to leave at 7.50 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., but the difference it would make to the communities in Grange, Rathcormack, Drumcliff and Cliffoney if people were willing or had to give that eight minutes would be enormous.

The Chairman will be very familiar with the road from Tipperary to Limerick. That would be very similar, with Dromkeen, Boher, Oola and Pallasgreen. I have not worked that one out, but if one were to put 30 km/h zones in those villages-----

You know your geography very well.

Ms Joan Swift

-----it is probably not 10 km. It might only be 4 km. However, even if it were 10 km until one gets to the motorway to Limerick, one is talking about eight minutes. I believe all of us, and particularly legislators, have a responsibility. HGV drivers might be upset because they are tied to time and can be penalised for late deliveries and the like, but on the road I mentioned from Donegal to Sligo they are just as likely to be delayed by being behind a tractor or a bin lorry or in a traffic jam, so it is not really an issue and it is something we need to counter.

I call Deputy Hourigan.

Thank you for accommodating me, Chairman. I am not usually in this committee but I wanted to come-----

You are most welcome.

Thank you. I am a massive supporter of Love 30. It is an important campaign. I want to discuss the implementation of the design manual for urban roads and streets, DMURS, the hierarchy of the street and some of those issues, but before that I have some questions for the RSA. The conversation this morning has been very interesting, including what the witness said about sharing the road respectfully and that all users have to share the road. Does the RSA still provide high visibility, hi-vis, gear to primary school children?

Mr. Sam Waide

My understanding is that we do. I am looking at my colleague because we have been purchasing lots of hi-vis vests and we circulate them to a number of organisations. Mr. Rowland can give the details of some of the schools and organisations with which we share them.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes, we do. We provide hi-vis gear to every child starting school each year.

The authority goes to every primary school and gives hi-vis gear to all of them.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes, every child.

How much does the authority spend on hi-vis gear for schools?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It is approximately €800,000, but that is for everything.

The authority also provides schools with educational material and posters.

Mr. Michael Rowland


The authority recently ran a competition called "Hi-Glo Silver" which asked children to draw pictures of themselves in hi-vis gear. Is that correct?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It is an art competition.

It was run on Facebook. It seemed to be in every school in the country.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Every school could participate.

Was a similar competition run for SUV drivers?

Mr. Michael Rowland


Is high-vis or reflective material provided to car drivers?

Mr. Michael Rowland

If car drivers want high-vis material in the event of a breakdown and we were asked to provide it, we would do so.

Is that parity of esteem on the road?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I know the point the Deputy is making, but until the roads are safer and we have our reduced speed limits-----

Let me be explicit about the point I am making. In the design manual for urban streets and roads there is a principle set out on the hierarchy of the street, which is that vulnerable pedestrians are first, then pedestrians in general, then people such as cyclists and then we get to motorised vehicles. If we look at the operation of how we are running the country, we are placing the onus and responsibility for safety on small children whom we are asking to wear high-vis material. Is this a fair reflection of what is happening?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I agree we promote it-----

We are going into their places of education and asking them to draw pictures and posters stating if they wear high-vis material, they will not be knocked down by an SUV. There is no parity of esteem on a street for a six-year-old faced with a SUV. Is this fair?

Mr. Michael Rowland

The point I will make is that we do a lot more promotion than high-vis.

We are spending €800,000. Would this money not be better spent on educating-----

Mr. Michael Rowland

I would like to clarify that the €800,000 is our overall budget for high-vis material. It is not just strictly for children.

I accept that. We are spending €800,000 on high-vis material. Would it be better to spend this almost €1 million on educating drivers who are propelling large dangerous vehicles around our roads?

Mr. Sam Waide

I will pick up on the point made about putting the onus on children. With regard to educating children on road safety, schools welcome the RSA providing materials-----

Mr. Sam Waide

Let me just finish. Schools welcome the RSA's intervention. One of the most effective campaigns the RSA has conducted in the past, and one which it continues to conduct, is to be safe and be seen. RSA officers are enthused by the enthusiasm of children in schools to be safe and be seen. As a parent I encourage my children to be safe and be seen when they are walking on the road with me on family walks and when cycling.

Sorry, with respect-----

Mr. Sam Waide

On a professional-----

I do not want this to be adversarial. Deputy Hourigan has made a valid point. We are all trying to make the roads safer. Providing high-vis material to school children is very welcome. Is there also a need to extend the programme to include all aspects of this?

Mr. Sam Waide

I thank the Chair.

With respect, the point is that we are victim blaming small children. To be honest, research on high-vis material and cycling is poor. Research on high-vis material and pedestrians is almost non-existent. We spend huge amounts of money with very little research behind it. The question is whether we should be spending this money on educating drivers and putting money into making our streets safer.

Mr. Sam Waide

The answer is "Yes". In the road safety strategy there is a specific action on safe road use and safe travel to work. This will be a programme with employers. It will not only encourage safer driving. One of our delivery partners is the HSE. One area is van drivers wearing high-vis vests. This is something they already do as some employers provide high-vis vests for their van drivers. If there is a recommendation in the road safety strategy, we will implement it if it helps and encourages safer road use.

I will direct my next question to Love 30. It is again on the hierarchy of the street and how important Love 30 believes it is to making streets safe and making decisions on the design and maintenance over time of a street. The hierarchy sets out that vulnerable pedestrians and people with disabilities are of particular note. Is there an opportunity to include gender, for example?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

The answer is "Yes". From reading some of the documentation for today I was struck by the fact we speak about segregation but we need to be more explicit about what we mean by segregating when it comes to cycling and pedestrian routes. Along our national routes, it will be safer for people to cycle on a segregated route but not if they feel vulnerable or isolated and it is not well lit. There is a gender aspect. We have started to do a little more on this. We are training people up to consider gender mainstreaming in infrastructure delivery. It is very new and we rapidly need to upskill people throughout the country on it.

Equally on provision for people with disabilities, there are a lot of inconsistencies on how tactile paving is implemented. We need clearer guidance, education and checks after it has been implemented to make sure everything is okay. I do not think we understand enough about the limitations to people's movement. I do not think we have interviewed and walked or cycled with enough people with disabilities to understand what are the real true barriers. Designers make an assumption that something needs to be put in. Footpath parking is an issue. We tell people to go out onto the road to walk around a car when it is parked on a footpath. It is the ultimate antisocial behaviour as far as I am concerned. We need to consider these things more.

Ms Muireann O'Dea

With regard to gender, we know that women do not get enough physical activity compared with men. Men tend to get more physical activity in their day-to-day lives. We see the figures for girls cycling to school. The numbers are very low. There are one in 250 girls cycling to school. There is something going wrong there. We have to create a safer environment. Safety is what is holding women back.

Ms Joan Swift

Among the most recent research is the review of the national physical activity plan. As the Deputy knows, it is recommended that children and teenagers get 60 minutes of physical activity a week. The plan began in 2016. The 2019 review found that only 17% of primary school children were reaching the target and only 10% were reaching the target at second level. When we break this down further, boys were getting more exercise than girls. We also know that men get more exercise than women. Gender does come into it in terms of safe spaces. This includes safe speeds.

While I have the floor I would like to mention high-vis material. Some of the UK local police forces are quite vocal on social media making the point that, unless people are looking, they will not see someone. They show photographs of a police car with high-vis or, as we have seen all too often here, railway bridges plastered with high-vis material and nonetheless people drive into them. I support Deputy Hourigan in the sense it is not that we do not want our children to be safe and to be seen but is the onus on the child? We do not know whether high-vis materials make a difference or whether there are other measures that might make a bigger difference.

I am a former councillor and have been a public representative for many years. We deal with this issue on a daily basis. People in residential areas approach me to say they want speed limits reduced. I go back to the council and interact with it. I have been dealing with this for years and I understand it. The question is: what will work? I always look at things in the round. I would like my child to wear a high-visibility jacket because it is better than not wearing one. I take the point about education certainly around users of cars and vehicles. What model actually works, is practical and gets us to the same endpoint? I would like Mr. Rowland to do housekeeping on this. Is the working group the RSA recommended in the strategy up and running at this stage?

Mr. Michael Rowland


What is the membership of that?

Mr. Michael Rowland

Off the top of my head, it has representatives from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, local authorities, the RSA, the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority.

Do groups like Love 30 have interaction with this working group?

Ms Muireann O'Dea

We were not aware that it had been set up. I am delighted to hear that it has been.

I want to get down to business. For me the conduit is the working group. We need to look at it in the round. How long has it been up and running at this stage?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It met early in January, I think.

Who is chairing that?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It is chaired jointly by the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority.

Will there be public consultation involving Love 30 and other groups that have campaigned on this? Will they have an opportunity to make submissions and interact with the working group?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I am not sure at this stage. The terms of reference are being developed at the moment.

The committee will follow up on that. Ms Swift asked what we could do in a practical way.

The Chairman has made an important point. If a working group for implementation involves the Department and all the agencies, it should also have representation from groups such as Love 30. Does this come under the auspices of the Department of Transport?

Mr. Michael Rowland


If the terms of reference are not drawn up, the committee should write to the Minister and ask him to consider if a group such as Love 30 should be part of that. I am not just saying Love 30 because its representatives are here.

The Deputy might let me give my thoughts on this.

The Chairman should go ahead but I think this is an important opportunity.

I have come to a view on this after many years as a public representative. Mr. Rowland mentioned Caherconlish, which he knows well. It is a narrow lane with a significant amount of traffic going through. We need to get a bit of knowledge. We would like to get feedback on who is on the working group and its terms of reference so that we can feed into that. Is it required to report at the end of this year?

Mr. Michael Rowland


We will do a body of work on that and we will feed into it. The next step is on a practical level. Typically, people in a particular estate or road want to get a speed limit reduced not increased. Typically, the local authority only reviews that every three years or so. In the other countries Mr. Rowland mentioned, who sets the speed limits? They are moving towards a default speed limit of 30 km/h in urban areas. Were they historically set by the local authorities or a national authority like the RSA? Who sets them and has it evolved over time?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I do not have that information, but I can find out.

Have Ms Swift and Ms O'Dea looked at how other countries function?

Ms Joan Swift

We have looked at some. I understand that in the UK it is a function of the local authorities. In Wales it was actually the minister for transport and the parliament that made the decision. In Spain to start with it may have been the city authorities in Madrid, Seville or wherever. As we understand it the national government set the default in built-up areas.

Can we agree on the principle that there should be a default? It then becomes a question of the 30 km/h and how it is implemented. There are inconsistencies between different local authorities and even in specific areas within local authorities. The working group is operational but its terms of reference have yet to be defined. The committee will write to the Department to get the details on that. We will follow up on the membership, that groups like Love 30 would be included and how that would work. I presume Love 30 would welcome that.

Ms Joan Swift

Very much so. That would be very welcome.

There are two elements to it. There is the point of principle that all built-up areas would have a speed limit of 30 km/h and then each local authority could then argue that an area should not be. Has Dr. D'Arcy had an opportunity to see how it is functioning in other countries? Is it implemented by the local authority or on a national basis? How does it work in practice? What model would work?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I, specifically, have not, but members of my network have, so I know who to talk to. I cannot say right now. However, we have an opportunity to bring it back to the Walk21 conference that I mentioned earlier. I may have let the cat out of the bag a little bit here because it has not been publicly announced.

We always like an exclusive.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Yes, breaking news. We are hosting a large round-table event, we are calling it World Café, around safety discussing road safety and personal safety in the same room. We are doing it in a very interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary way. We want everyone in the room talking about this and breaking it down. We have the potential to bring representatives from all those jurisdictions to feed back to us about their experience through the conduit of the conference. I am the conference lead. We are in the process of setting this up. We have the international networks to be able to bring in these people.

That is in September.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

That is in September.

Mr. Sam Waide

I encourage and welcome the input and views. The RSA has a research team and we will facilitate what others are doing. Recurring benchmarking of what others are doing is baked into the Government's road safety strategy. I can commit RSA to helping to facilitate that.

I am a believer that in order to get something, there must be a structure. The structure around this is that a working group has now been established, as recommended under the RSA's new safety strategy. The terms of reference will be key. We need to look at that. Then there is membership and the outcome of the work. There is a process in play. For decades, speed limits have been a reserved function of local authorities. In many cases the officials were bringing these to councillors. However, in many cases councillors would bring these to officials when they get requests from people. There are inconsistencies between local authorities and in areas. If this working group can be structured in a way that everyone is included, then significant sections of society can be brought along this journey. It is a big change but anything that improves safety is important. All the research indicates that it is the next big step. We will follow up on that.

I wish to follow up on a few matters of my own. As representatives of the RSA are here, I wish to ask about something that is slightly off topic. I would also be interested to hear the views of Ms O'Dea and Ms Swift from Love 30 and from Dr. D'Arcy. Tomorrow we will have a session on scooters, which has become a big issue that also feeds into road safety. What is the RSA's view on speed limits and age limits for scooters?

Mr. Sam Waide

From an RSA perspective, we have been clear on this issue. We have been clear with Ministers that we want e-scooters to be regulated. We want them to be regulated in terms of being introduced safely. What we have discussed with the committee is about reducing serious injuries and fatalities. As a system and a country, we cannot bring on board and regulate a new form of mobility when we are taking one step forward in reducing serious injuries, fatalities and potential collisions, but taking two steps back in terms of not taking on board RSA's recommendations in regard to e-scooters.

Does the RSA have serious concerns about e-scooter safety?

Mr. Sam Waide

The key recommendations that the RSA has put forward include a ban on the use of e-scooters on footpaths, the introduction of a speed limit of no more than 20 km/h, an age restriction for users of 16 or over, the mandatory wearing of helmets and high-visibility jackets and the restricted use of e-scooters to streets that have a 50 km/h or lower speed zone. Those are the key recommendations of the RSA, as the chief adviser to the Government, politicians and committees on road safety and as an organisation and a board, on e-scooters.

Are e-scooters a bottom-line issue for the RSA as an organisation?

Mr. Sam Waide

We have based our recommendations on extensive research. We have looked at other countries, and not only what other countries have done, but the lessons they have learned from implementing e-scooters with various measures. I might refer to my colleague, Mr. Rowland, to respond here. In respect of lessons learned, other EU member states are actually rowing back on and changing some of the recommendations that they implemented. I will refer to Mr. Rowland.

Perhaps Mr. Rowland can enlighten us on some of those recommendations.

Mr. Michael Rowland

We have the opportunity to learn from other countries that perhaps took a more liberal approach initially but are now reviewing it. In Belgium, the Vias institute, the road safety knowledge group, is recommending a minimum age requirement of 16 years for e-scooters. In Austria, the age recommendation is 14. In France, it is 12 years of age, in Denmark it is 15 years of age, and in both Portugal and Switzerland, it is 16 years of age. They have all mirrored the recommendations we are making that the age restriction requirement for e-scooters should be 16 years and over, as Mr. Waide has said.

Is the speed limit recommendation on the lower side?

Mr. Michael Rowland

The speed limit is 20 km/h. The potential speed of a cyclist is between 15 km/h and 20 km/h. The recommendation mirrors the speed that a cyclist can do.

So, e-scooter users could use cycle lanes?

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes, exactly.

Is Mr. Rowland aware of any particular instances of where other countries have rowed back on recommendations in various areas?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I am not. However, I can say that Norway and Sweden, which are the leading authorities in terms of road safety, both have 20 km/h speed limits. Finland has also introduced a 20 km/h speed limit for e-scooters during the day and a 15 km/h limit at night. Austria has introduced a top speed of 20 km/h. In certain central areas of Paris, there is a speed limit of 20 km/h.

I assume the RSA is engaging with the Department on this particular issue, because the legislation is now published and Committee Stage is imminent.

Mr. Sam Waide

We have shared our recommendations with the Department. Those recommendations are based on road safety. At this point, it is over to politicians and Ministers to consider our recommendations as the Road Safety Authority.

Obviously, the whole area of e-scooters must be on the radar of Love 30. Do Ms O'Dea and Ms Swift have a view on e-scooters in terms of safety elements and so forth?

Ms Muireann O'Dea

It is not an area that we have researched or discussed much. One observation is that an e-scooter is a small vehicle, so the speed limits and regulations are more concerned with protecting the person on the scooter. Larger vehicles, such as cars and SUVs, have the potential to do more damage to other people when they are travelling at a higher speed.

Does Dr. D'Arcy have a view on the whole e-scooter debate?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Interestingly, I chaired a session for the Transport Planning Society last year around e-mobility. There was a great mix of people on the panel, including representatives from local authorities and the industry creating the scooters. The discussion went from the particulars around the speed and the nuances to the balance and allocation of road space. As has just been mentioned, there was discussion of the relative speeds of the different modes of transport, the relative risk of harm from different vehicles and how we can better allocate that space. It was really interesting because so much of the media discussion has been around regulation, but the conversation that we had was more on the question of where there is a place for e-scooters. They do have a place, but the question we need to consider is where that place is. We only have a limited amount of space between our buildings. It is about how we best share that for everybody to get around. E-scooters have a role. Those of us involved in pedestrian advocacy sometimes latch onto the fact that e-scooters are actually taking more from the walking fraternity than they are from cars, as was the intention. If e-scooters get more people out in spaces, they are a much more social way of moving around than by using a private vehicle. There is a lot to be considered. It is a nuanced issue.

Going back to the witnesses from the RSA, I wish to clarify a point. We discussed the fact that the RSA has responsibility for recording data on the number of fatalities. Am I correct in saying that the RSA has a responsibility of recording the number of road fatalities?

Mr. Michael Rowland

That is a function of the RSA.

Are those statistics compiled using Garda reports?

Mr. Michael Rowland

We download the PULSE data from the Garda. However, the Garda determines the criteria of road fatalities. There are certain criteria that define a road fatality. Sometimes, the Garda will review a case and determine that there was a medical cause of death rather than it being a road fatality.

Suicides would be another example.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes. It could also be that the death occurred off a public road, perhaps in a car park.

How often does the RSA get the downloads from the Garda on PULSE?

Mr. Michael Rowland

When the Garda review a case and reclassify it, they will make us aware of that usually pretty quickly afterwards.

If there is a fatality on the road, how quickly does the RSA get that data from the Garda?

Mr. Michael Rowland

We get that on a daily download.

How often are there reclassifications? For example, the death of a person from a heart attack may initially be recorded as a road fatality and subsequently reclassified. Similarly, in the case of a suicide, there may be a reclassification. How often does that happen?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It can happen a number of times in the year. Obviously, it depends on the coroner's findings and whether the Garda-----

Were there many reclassifications in 2021?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I do not have the exact figures to hand, but I would say that there could have been up to ten reclassifications.

Would those reclassifications involve a death being classified down, for example, to a heart attack or suicide?

Mr. Michael Rowland

Unfortunately, the reclassifications have been upwards.

Have they?

Mr. Michael Rowland


So, typically, how would that arise?

Mr. Michael Rowland

The Garda would have reclassified it. It may have been the case that a coroner's finding came in or that it was determined that the fatality was as a result of a road collision. It may have been classified as a medical case initially and then reclassified once the-----

Once the coroner's report was published.

Mr. Michael Rowland


The final determination would come from the coroner's report.

Mr. Michael Rowland

That could be the case.

It could also be that part of the Garda investigation, once it is complete, may determine-----

Of those ten reclassifications Mr. Rowland was expecting in 2021, would they all have been upward reclassifications?

Mr. Michael Rowland

We get some up and down. I know that towards the end of 2021, there were a number of upward reclassifications.

There were in the order of ten such reclassifications.

Mr. Michael Rowland

Do not hold me to the number.

Is that information available on the website? Those statistics go on the system. If there is a reclassification, is that shown?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It would not be shown. We report on the number of fatalities and once there is a reclassification, that will be seen on the Garda website. We publish a report each year and we would update the figures accordingly if there were reclassifications.

However, that would not be seen in the report. It is published on an annual basis?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It is.

The report would include a figure reflecting reclassifications that took place during a year but the RSA does not publish the reclassifications.

Mr. Michael Rowland

We do not publish reclassifications.

Mr. Sam Waide

The figures on our website are provisional. The other point I would like to make is that some of those reclassifications might extend beyond a year because they are potentially tied into an ongoing investigation into a collision.

The figures published in the report are always regarded as provisional because they may change.

Mr. Sam Waide

My colleague can comment further. It may not happen that often but there are investigations that go beyond a 12-month period.

If they go beyond a 12-month period, does the RSA revise the old report on the system?

Mr. Michael Rowland

We would revise the report.

So the figures would change in that regard?

Mr. Sam Waide

They would.

I am going to go back to my colleagues. The situation seems straightforward. We are going to write to the Department to find out where the working group is at and inquire as to its membership. We will be encouraging the Department to bring in Love 30 as part of that membership because it has a role to play. The fact that there is now a definitive structure in place and a reporting date by the end of the year is welcome. The devil is always in the detail and the terms of reference will be hugely important. If there are any follow-on issues for the representatives of Love 30 and Dr. D'Arcy, we can follow up on that. I will ask Ms O'Dea and Ms Swift if that is what they are looking for. Does that cover what they want?

Ms Joan Swift

I think so. We would like the high-level report to be available before the end of quarter four. As Mr. Waide said, the sooner it happens, the better. On the other hand, we understand there must be research, agreement and so on. There is no point in just barrelling through.

I will briefly mention a point relating to the local authorities and the reserve function versus the national function. I am on our public participation network and sit on the infrastructure committee. I remember when questions of revising speed limits came up, our director of services said it was an incredibly onerous process because there are so many roads. It would require the resources of the engineers. Our director of services would say that those engineers would not be doing other things because they would be spending all their time on the speed limits. I know local authorities are understandably jealous of the functions of their foreign counterparts because they have so few. By comparison with other countries, we are very centralised. On the other hand, it is demanding on the executive and the engineers because we have a dense road network. Perhaps local authorities might welcome a suggestion of a speed limit that applies to every road in a particular area because they would not have to agonise street by street. Instead, looking at the exceptions would be a simpler process.

I am assuming the local authorities are members of this review group. I think there is a body of work to be done. It is important that proper due diligence is conducted. I take Ms Swift's point that she would like to see the report sooner rather than later. However, if it takes an extra few months to get everyone on board and we can ensure we will get it right, that is the most important thing of all. It is a very straightforward idea. Every urban, built-up area will get a 30 km/h speed limit and there will be exceptions allowed where a case can be made. The devil is always in the detail and nothing is ever straightforward. However, there is a structured process in place.

I will ask a question of Mr. Waide. The RSA obviously put thought into that recommendation in terms of the working group. What does he see the working group doing? There is a framework. What does he see the working group doing? It is his vehicle so what does he see it doing?

Mr. Sam Waide

A lot of thought has gone into not only this working group but also into the 50 groups that will be recommending and implementing stuff over the next four years. I am not going to get into the detail of what this particular group will do. The key here is delivery. I sit on the road safety partnership board. There has been reference at this meeting to the fact that people want things done quickly. I, of all people, want to deliver stuff. We are here to deliver outcomes. However, it would be remiss of me not to discuss details. Let us get down to brass tacks. All the agencies, including the councils, were part of that partnership submission for a statement of resource. It is new money, above and beyond what was planned big infrastructure. It is an amount of money over the next four years to help deliver some of this transformational, additional stuff we have identified within the strategy. It will be available over a four-year period. For this year, the partnership has been told it is not getting that money. I know the doors of my colleagues in councils and other delivery agencies are always open. Sometimes "No" is a complete sentence.

Does the €260 million in funding set aside for active travel fall under that heading?

Mr. Sam Waide

This is additional money.

How much is the allocation?

Mr. Sam Waide

It is €18 million over four years. I need to manage the committee's expectations. We have 50 working groups over the next four years with 136 actions. If there is no money forthcoming this year, we will be squeezing all of those actions into years two, three and four, which will take us up to 2024.

This is what we need to hear. Will the €18 million come through the Department of Transport?

Mr. Sam Waide

I believe that is a challenge for the system because it is the first statement of resource for our road safety strategy.

Is the €18 million specifically mentioned in the strategy?

Mr. Sam Waide

The amount is not explicitly mentioned in the strategy but all of the agencies, including the RSA, followed due process and submitted a statement of resource. My humble understanding is that any Government strategy should have a statement of resource.

The committee will follow up on the working group. Delivery is obviously key, as is the availability resources. Will Mr. Waide come back to us on when that statement of resources was submitted? That is something we, as a committee, can follow up on. Our role is to support initiatives. There are a number of components involved. It is great that the working group is being set up but it must deliver and that requires resources. If Mr. Waide will write to us in that regard, we will follow up on that issue. Did Dr. D'Arcy wish to contribute?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I fully accept information was collected because there are a significant number of points relating to road traffic medicine and emergency medicine. I was going to suggest inputs into the committee from a health perspective, from emergency departments, schools of emergency medicine and public health.

This is because road traffic fatalities account for 0.5% of all-cause mortality in Ireland. However, cardiovascular disease etc. is considerably more. Some 14% of all-cause premature mortality in Ireland is attributable to physical inactivity. Road safety, therefore, does not just relate to those who are getting injured and, unfortunately, killed on our roads. It is equally those who are dying of cardiovascular disease and cancers because they are not getting the opportunities to be physically active. Therefore, a public health voice on that group would be very welcome.

I take the point about delivery. We all want to deliver on this, because the sooner we make the roads safer, the fewer fatalities we are going to have. Even one fatality more would have an immeasurable impact on family and friends. I will tell a story on delivery in a minute.

First, I want to talk about why I think that we will still be here in five years’ time talking about delivery. I notice action No. 6 in the document the witnesses supplied to us, which relates to this working group. It consists of An Garda Síochána, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the County and City Management Association, CCMA, the local authorities and the National Transport Authority. It talks about 50 different groups feeding into that. Does that figure count the 31 local authorities as part of that 50, or is it one?

Mr. Sam Waide

In any of the 50 projects, the voice of all the councils is the representative of the CCMA and the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA. That is one voice.

Let us start at this point. When you speak about 50, what do you mean?

Mr. Sam Waide

The figure of 50 relates to the 50 high-impact actions over the next four years.

I apologise. I thought they were contributory groups. We have to look historically here. For the past 60 years we have been planning for cars. It is ingrained in everything we tried to do. We are trying to flip that around at the moment. That takes time. It takes time for designers, for decision-makers and for road users to start adapting to that road design. I am concerned there is a predominance of the windscreen view when we design our streets. It is designed from the perspective of the car user. The Road Safety Authority may come back to me that other groups will give the cyclists’ view, the pedestrians’ view or even the shop owners’ view. It is better for local businesses when people are walking around safely in their towns. Many people have to feed into this when it comes to changing our streets. I am not attacking the RSA on this. I appreciate the work the authority does. I am just concerned we will talk about this for a long time and not implement these measures.

I believe An Garda Síochána will join us at some stage and we will have a second meeting on this. It is critical to this. I have a lot of criticism for the force, but I will save it for when representatives of the Garda are before the committee because they are not here at the moment to defend the force. The Garda needs to step up its actions on enforcement, road safety, speeding and other things such as parking on footpaths and in disability bays. The local authorities need to do so as well.

In terms of delivery, in 2015, I monitored streets. I was a fairly newly elected councillor and I was full of enthusiasm.

And now you are not.

I am a fully enthused Deputy now. I monitored the streets in Bray where I lived. I looked at the cars that were driving, their speeds, the vulnerable users and the design of those roads. I drove those roads at 30 km/h. I always had cars behind me with frustrated drivers. If you try to drive along an urban street of 800 m at 30 km/h, it is hard to do unless there are signals not to speed up. I monitored those streets. I got a map done that showed a 1 km radius from the centre of the town, as well as a 3 km radius and a 5 km radius. Then I tweaked it so it would correspond with junctions, schools etc. I presented it to the Bray councillors. They said we should go to the district engineer with it. The district engineer had a look at it and he tweaked it as well. We then gave it to the local gardaí, who came back and said they would support it. The councillors in Bray supported it. It was then sent to Wicklow County Council. That was in 2017. It is still sitting there, waiting for a decision to be made.

That is my concern. It is simple to draw a 3 km radius around town, make it a 30 km zone, put up the signage, the signals and whatever is required and say to drivers it is a 30 km zone. That is the starting point. I do not want us to spend years and years talking about this. There are simple measures.

Tell me why I am wrong. Tell me why it is not simple to look at that and adapt it to each town. In small villages and towns, there may only be a 200 m main street, with 50 m off that. They can be made into 30 km/h zones, where people are walking and cycling to schools. Bray, which is a bigger town, is 4 km wide. A 2 km radius around the town would pick up most of the urban housing estates where people want to walk and cycle. Let us face it: parents are afraid to let their children walk and cycle because of the dominance of the car. Why do we not address this quickly? Tell me when we are going to have mandatory 30 km zones, according to the Road Safety Authority strategy. What is the time limit on it?

Mr. Sam Waide

I agree with much of what the Deputy said. I cannot speak for county councils. My question to the Deputy is who is blocking all of this? To answer his question about when we will have 30 km/h as a default, this is the whole purpose of us appearing at this committee today. The RSA is certainly not pushing back on 30 km/h default speed limits. We have the governance structure in place. As part of the governance structure, we have layered a legislative group on top that will have representatives from all the organisations. I am in agreement with the Deputy. I am not here just to talk about this for the next four or five years. I want to deliver. It is the case that we should have the respectful debate with whoever is blocking it. They may be blocking it for a valid reason.

Ms Swift talked about the council engineer having to drive through every town in the local authority area to monitor it. Why not go the other way? We could look at each town, village and larger urban centre and tweak it with a 3 km radius around it and say it is a 30 km/h zone. Does the RSA think that is a quick approach we could take to this? Put this before the councils and that the councils make the decision. I am not trying to take the decision-making away from the councils. I am looking for a way to do it. Sometimes this can just be stuck in the way that councils are overstretched in many areas and nobody is driving this. Unless I had done up that map and produced it-----

Mr. Sam Waide

I would be delighted if the committee were to write to the councils, the CCMA, the LGMA, or whichever is the overarching body.

I have an observation. The terms of reference of this working group will be key because they will determine the outcomes. What is needed is almost an implementation plan coming out of the working group. If it was straightforward, it would have been done. However, it involves myriad local authorities. We can take up the terms of reference of the working group. It is there and it is up and running. The membership is key. The terms of reference are vital because they deal with putting in place an implementation programme, more or less straight away, rather than it just being a report.

I agree with Mr. Waide. Equally, I know one thing from my years around this. In the long term, it works to put in the work, to get the due diligence right and to have a structured approach. Otherwise, what happens is, there is great enthusiasm, the balloons go up, and then, basically, the document is found to be toothless. The devil is in the detail. I do not know if Ms Swift or Ms O'Dea would agree, but there is an opportunity here in implementation. I agree with Deputy Matthews. The question here is not just about Bray; it is about a multitude of areas. Everyone wants safety and everyone wants us to reduce speeds. Equally, there will be those who give out that they cannot get from point A to point B. This is about serious public buy-in as well.

There is nobody blocking a motorist from getting from point A to point B. What we want is for motorists to use the streets courteously and for the streets to be shared with everybody. The streets are not just for cars. We are ingrained to think they are, and that has happened over many years. The amount of street space allocated to cars is disproportionate given the modern society we are in.

I am not criticising the RSA. I want delivery on this, as does the RSA. We all want safety. I want to save lives and I want it done quickly. I think this measure would save lives and, not only that, it would make for more pleasant living on streets in towns.

On some level, both speakers are right in the sense that it is an action plan from the working group. Is the working group to report in the fourth quarter of this year?

Mr. Michael Rowland

That is correct. The working group has to examine and review the framework for setting the speed limits. It is not just the 30 km/h default and it is not just in urban areas, it is the overall scope. Consideration is to be given to recommendations on the 30 km/h default limit as that mirrors the programme for Government. That is where the action is generated from.

The RSA specifically mentioned the 30 km/h default in the framework for the recommendations for the working group that was established.

Mr. Michael Rowland


I imagine it would be very difficult to get what Deputy Matthews or anybody else is looking for without that. It is a vital piece of work.

I was taken with a point Dr. D'Arcy made earlier about seeking short-term fixes and that mitigations occurred. I remember on the county council that people would look for ramps, which were necessary at times, especially for reasons of child safety in estates, and if they were lucky enough to get them there would be complaints from residents because people would hit the ramp at speed and continue on. It is a case of accepting if something has not worked and looking at something that works better.

We all know the significant issues with planning; the elongated processes involved in dealing with local authorities and from time to time local authorities trying to do their element of due diligence. We need to do our piece of due diligence. We will have to invite in the local authorities, be that the LGMA or whoever else, just to see exactly where they are in this regard, because they might say it is all well and good but that they need to deal with X, Y and Z to get to the bottom of it. I also assume the working group will deal with some of the issues. Beyond that, it is a case of getting on with it. Do the witnesses from the RSA think there are other issues that will impact, such as planning and the elongated way of dealing with local authorities or whatever else? At the end of the day, there is one item on the agenda, which is to try to bring about a safer urban space that will also allow for active travel.

Mr. Sam Waide

We discussed very specifically one project here today in terms of the 30 km/h default. That is one of the 50 projects over the next four years. Three common themes have been identified in the Government's road safety strategy: data, legislation and funding. I have touched on the funding already. I have not touched on the data and legislation as I am mindful of everyone's time, but there will be challenges, perhaps not necessarily in this particular project on the 30 km/h default, but I accept and respectfully acknowledge that a consultation of sorts will be required for many of the 50 high-impact actions and projects over the next four years. There will be legislative and data challenges. We discussed data briefly in one regard but those are systemic challenges that we all need to be courageous about in terms of what needs to change from a legislative point of view. An example was given about the role of an organisation in the system and what role it plays in the decision-making process. There are complexities.

In response to the Deputy who wants to do things quickly, the sooner we deliver, the sooner we will see reduced collisions, serious injuries and fatalities but it is complex. Some things are more complex than others but data and legislation are two massive challenges that I expect I and others will be back to discuss with the committee.

We spoke about the difficulties and that we do not necessarily have the network we would like. Many would say we are starting from the wrong place. What can be done regarding planning to build in improvements in the system that would facilitate this in the future? Are there any game-changer pieces that need to be done in that regard?

Mr. Sam Waide

Our delivery partners are the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the councils and other organisations that are involved. They include the Departments of Transport, Justice and Education. This is a multifaceted, multi-Department, cross-agency challenge. There will be difficult conversations, challenges and issues at many junctures. I will not go through some of the obvious ones today, but I touched on the fact that the data and legislation will be very challenging for all of us. It is important that we discuss, debate and address these matters.

I understand the need for legislation but what does Mr. Waide mean when he speaks about data? Where will the difficulties be in that regard?

Mr. Sam Waide

In my professional experience, in different jurisdictions there are different levels of data-sharing both legal and otherwise. I have said before and I will say it again that we will continue to share data on a legal basis but we need encouragement and support from the system as a whole because countries around the world share data to save lives and whether it is for diabetes, cancer or whatever the condition might be, road safety is no different and we should be sharing data in a more agile way to save lives.

Could Mr. Waide give me an example?

Mr. Sam Waide

The Garda Síochána and the RSA share data on the topic we touched on earlier, namely, provisional fatalities. We are sharing data and following specific parts of the law in order that we are doing it in a legal way. I am not saying there will be, but there may be areas of the law that we need to consider amending so that the information can be shared, as technology comes more and more to the forefront.

If we take the sharing of information between the Garda and the RSA in terms of fatalities coming through and where there may be reclassifications. The initial data from An Garda Síochána would refer to a fatality or a non-fatality, or it could be the case that it stated a person died of a heart attack and now the death is being attributed to a car crash. Can the RSA show the live reclassifications on the system at the moment?

Mr. Sam Waide

I will ask my colleague, Mr. Rowland, to respond to that.

The question is about getting an accurate figure on road fatalities. That will inform the data, which will inform policy and so forth.

Mr. Michael Rowland

The Garda has data and we as an agency have enforcement data. The HSA has data. However, we cannot share the data with one another to inform enforcement interventions. What I think Mr. Waide is referring to regarding data is our ability to deal with the sharing of data to enhance all of our working relationships, which is called out in one of the strategy actions. At the moment, there are constraints which mean we are not able to share that data.

That is just a-----

That is from the RSA to the Garda. What form would that take? Is there an example the RSA can share?

Mr. Michael Rowland

It could be particular information on organisations we may have concerns about in terms of road safety or where we would have seen issues-----

Is it data protection that prevents the RSA from sharing?

Mr. Michael Rowland

Yes. We have identified it as a key determinant.

Obviously, there will be items coming from the Garda that would assist the RSA as well.

Mr. Michael Rowland


The RSA believes it may be inhibiting it having a better strategy. Would that be fair comment?

Mr. Sam Waide

That is a fair comment and it is one of the reasons one of the key enabling groups across all of the delivery agencies is the data enabling group. They will be able to highlight the challenges or issues across all of those 50 projects and will then work in tandem with the legislative group.

The RSA has 50 actions where it is looking at €18 million over five years. Is that correct?

Mr. Sam Waide

It is four years up to 2024 - the first phase of the strategy.

It is multilayered. The RSA is looking at that, and it is roughly breaking out at just over €4 million a year.

Mr. Sam Waide

Our colleague highlighted the concern about the challenge. There is a massive challenge but, in relative terms, it is not a big amount of money.

We ask the RSA to give us a bit more detail so we can go forward. I call Senator Gerry Horkan.

I apologise that I was not able to be here for all of the discussion because I had another engagement. However, I read all of the briefing documents and the opening statements and I was here at the start. I watched online the RSA’s launch of the strategy back in December and its chairperson, Liz O'Donnell, is a former Deputy from my area, so I certainly fully support the work the RSA has done, which has been phenomenal in bringing the figures down. In 1972, there were close to 600 deaths a year at a time when there were far fewer cars on the road, although cars were not as safe in terms of seat belts and other equipment. I fully support the work of the RSA.

I get from the briefing documentation the 30 km/h issue in that Ireland seems to be a good bit further behind than many other countries. Although I had not been on the M50 for a long time, I happened to be on it recently and I was coming off at an exit which has a 30 km/h limit on the loop from the M50 to the M7. Even when I was trying to do 30 km/h, everyone was flying past me. If we put a camera there, we would find there is not a single car that is doing 30 km/h or anything like it. I look at the arterial roads in Donnybrook, Ranelagh, Rathmines and Stillorgan. If we were to make all of those roads 30 km/h in the morning, I could not see many people doing 50 km/h half of the time. Obviously, they are stuck in traffic when in traffic, but when the traffic is not there, the challenge is to get them to even do 50 km/h. I apologise if I am repeating questions that were already asked. How do we get people to slow down? Is there telemetry that can do this? Hopefully, we are transitioning to electric cars and so on. As I drive near a school or into a town centre, could there be some type of beam that tells my car that it can only do 30 km/h and it slows me down from whatever speed I am doing towards 30 km/h in a measured way, and the car just does not let me go any faster than that? Is that technology there?

I imagine it is there but can it be enforced? Can we insist on every new car being that way? It is not the job of the RSA and I know insurance companies do their own thing. However, insurance companies could say to people that if they put the equipment in their car, the insurance company will give them a significant discount when it tracks their behaviour and sees what they are doing.

I was recently on a motorway for the first time in about six months. I was doing no more than the speed limit at any stage but there were plenty of cars going past me and the speed limit was much higher than 30 km/h. I wonder how enforceable it is. I know we can enforce it in certain areas and, for example, in a built-up housing estate there are ramps and potentially a lot of parked cars which force people to slow down, but how do we get people to drive at 30 km/h? I see many people will not even do 50 km/h or 60 km/h in the areas where that is the speed limit. I live in a built-up urban area in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, where I sometimes see this in housing estates. If people could do 50 km/h and stick to it, that would be a good start, in my opinion, but how do we get all of us to drive at 30 km/h?

Mr. Sam Waide

Let me dissect the question.

There is a good bit there, so sorry about that.

Mr. Sam Waide

As a first observation, I will pick up on the technology. For the past couple of years, the RSA has been working with the European Commission and the European Transport Safety Council. Ireland has taken a lead and has influenced intelligent speed assistance and the mandatory requirement for car manufacturers to have that intelligent speed assistance. I agree with the Senator that many cars already have that functionality which tells drivers they are breaking the speed limit. Whether they pay heed to that or ignore it is a personal choice. More and more, and similar to delivery, the technology is often ahead of policy and legislation. At the same time, it creates opportunity. The majority of vehicles now have a map application in the cabin so that as soon as a person drives from a 50 km/h zone into a 30 km/h zone, it tells them on a screen in front of them that they are in a 30 km/h zone, so not only is there an audible warning that the driver is at an inappropriate speed, there is also a visible warning. My colleague has much more detail on this in terms of the research.

To answer the question of what we can do as a country, there is one transformational intervention in that we can make it law that vehicles do not exceed the national speed limit. That is transformational.

That would still be 120 km/h rather than 30 km/h.

Mr. Sam Waide

It would be. There are other transformational interventions. I have engaged in continued conversations with my colleagues in Europe on automation so that it takes the stress off drivers and the car automatically switches to the permissible legal speed limit. However, those are things which are not only transformational but would need extensive consultation with EU members.

Are they implementable?

Mr. Sam Waide

Are they implementable? I am not a technology expert but I know enough about technology to know that the technology is there.

It is a mix of technology and policy, and whether we can get policy to follow technology or to use the new technology. I was a councillor and was the chair of the transport special policy committee in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, which is five miles wide and eight miles long and has a significant population living in a built-up urban area. I cannot count the number of times we got requests for ramps everywhere. If we could take out the ramps or not have to spend a fortune putting in ramps and, instead, as the car turns off the main road or off a side road it has to be brought to a certain speed, we would not need to repair ramps and we would not have trouble with car suspensions and people getting their lights set before the NCT because every time they go over a ramp, it knocks them out. There is so much technology but we are way behind. Has the RSA ideas that it could bring to us, as legislators, and that it wants us to implement so that every new car has this technology? It is all very well saying a car cannot go past 120 km/h but, equally, as it drives into a town and it hits a 30 km/h limit, it should be forced to slow down to that speed. Can we do that?

Mr. Sam Waide

At the appropriate juncture, I would welcome coming back to the committee to share the conversations that will be had over the next couple of years and months.

This is not just about the here and now, but about ourselves, our children and future generations in 2030, 2040 and 2050. Technology is moving apace but there is a great opportunity for Ireland to lead on road safety, not just follow. Recently, a Spanish television channel came over to interview me because there was interest in what Ireland was doing on road safety. Our Celtic neighbour, Scotland, wants to find out what we are doing because everyone in Ireland is talking about road safety.

We have put in place an ambitious strategy. It is achievable, but it needs everything that we have discussed today and more.

In terms of the Love 30 group's campaign for a 30 km/h speed limit, is the working group that is being established the main vehicle to drive that change?

Mr. Sam Waide

The main body or governance vehicle is the road safety partnership board. All of the delivery agencies have signed up to all of the 50 plus 136 actions. The board will be reporting to, and accountable to, the Ministers.

The working group that is being established-----

Mr. Sam Waide

It will report to the partnership board. We have agreed with the Ministers to meet on a quarterly basis to report progress.

Is the partnership board new or has it always been there?

Mr. Sam Waide

It is new. It is part of the new governance model.

For how long has it been up and running?

Mr. Sam Waide

We had our inaugural meeting in January.

The working group was established at the same time but feeds into the board.

Mr. Sam Waide


The working group is like the partnerships. The funding will come down. There are 50 actions and the working group is specifically dealing with one of the key areas, namely, the 30 km/h default speed limit in urban and built-up areas. At this stage, it is about delivery. I assume that there are specific timeframes for each of the 50 actions.

Mr. Sam Waide

Yes. The partnership board will be requesting all agencies, including the RSA, to report within the coming months on the delivery plans for the 50 projects, each with a start, middle and end.

I will pass over to my colleague.

As someone who cycles more to Leinster House than I drive, I appreciate that there is a balance to be struck. For example, we could all drive to Cork at 10 km/h but it would take us four weeks, 40 hours or whatever. No one is suggesting that. Much of the time, I see people flying past me but, when I get to the lights, I am going past them because they are in a queue of cars. I do not understand people who accelerate to lights just to sit in a queue, but that is a separate issue because the queues are not there at night and people are flying up and down many arterial roads at much more than 50 km/h or 60 km/h.

We must do whatever we can to harness technology that tracks people's behaviour. It was a former Minister for Transport, Mr. Séamus Brennan, who asked me to run for local office the first time. He introduced penalty points. All of a sudden, we saw driver behaviour changing considerably. At the time, it was three offences. Is it 70 now? I believe it used to be just seat belts, mobile phones and something else. Whether we liked it or not, the penalty points system was transformative. Dr. D'Arcy might speak about the technological aspect of speed limits and how deliverable that is. It will be the game changer, given what happens when people are monitored, be it via a tracker device in the car or any other technology.

I would love to see ramps gone from estates because they wreck cars, are annoying and expensive to maintain and do nothing for the environment. They are a blunt tool and were necessary 20 or 30 years ago. I would love to see them being replaced by intelligent technology in cars that stops people from speeding wherever they are.

Mr. Sam Waide

I will pick up on the enforcement part of the Senator's question. My understanding is that this committee is inviting the Garda to appear before it. I hope that, like me, the Garda would welcome the Senator's question on there being no cars on the road at night-time. The other night, I was travelling down the motorway and a car overtook me. I guesstimated that it was probably doing 200 km/h. This relates to section 38, which deals with whether someone is driving 5 km/h or 55 km/h over the speed limit. I would encourage the committee to take up that question with the Garda.

Graduated penalties and so on.

Mr. Sam Waide

Absolutely, because speeding is poor and reckless behaviour and there needs to be a graduated consequence for it.

I thank the witnesses for their replies.

Before I call Deputy O'Rourke, Dr. D'Arcy wishes to make a comment.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I will address the cultural change piece. Technology is a sticking plaster, in that it takes away the individual's personal responsibility for his or her behaviour. If we want a cultural change in terms of adhering to traffic speeds, we need people to have personal responsibility. There needs to be a cultural acceptance of not travelling faster. The RSA has done an excellent job with its information campaigns down the years – New Zealand has brilliant ones as well – empowering people to say to the driver of the car to put away his or her mobile phone, to stop being distracted and not to break the speed limit. There are ways and means of drawing on people's hearts and minds to adhere to that. These initiatives come in cycles and we have to keep reminding people of the "Why". If we place an over-reliance on technology, it removes personal responsibility, so we have to think of creative ways of getting people to adhere.

I thank the witnesses for their contributions. Unfortunately, I have a direct clash at this meeting's time – that happens sometimes – but I will be happy to watch it later.

I am familiar with the RSA's strategy. I believe its launch was before Christmas. What changes does it entail for the RSA's structures, governance and relationship with other agencies? Is the strategy sufficiently resourced to deliver on its objectives in the timeframe that has been set out?

Mr. Sam Waide

The new governance model has already encouraged better partnership working. As a country, we have been successful in reducing road fatalities. The previous strategy comprised a number of actions and, using their best efforts, people delivered a lot of good stuff. However, they did not deliver some other stuff because there was a lack of funding or funding was reallocated. The difference with the new strategy and governance model is that a partnership approach is being taken. We have already mentioned the various organisations and pressures involved, but we are in a partnership room together and I look forward to us helping one another to address problems rather than going "He said, she said" and pointing fingers.

We have already covered the second part of the Deputy's question on funding. We are talking about a 50% reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries between now and 2030. Does anyone believe that a 50% reduction in anything is possible without additional or new moneys to transform road safety in Ireland for the good? It is the right thing to do. There needs to be a recognition that this is additional. I have shared with the committee what the additional request for the first four years will be. Our organisation and our delivery partners are all determined to have break points in the strategy – 2024, 2027 and 2030 – so that we can step back and determine whether it is realistic and whether we need more funding than was set out originally.

There may be areas where we have good strands, make good progress and do not need as much funding as we thought but I do not believe that. I believe this will always be a case of an ongoing commitment to provide new, different money. This is not just about building new roads and putting in extra cycle lanes. It is much more than that.

I have shared with the committee the statement of resource for the next four years. Concern was expressed earlier about there being so much to do. My delivery partners in all the agencies and I have committed to delivering those 50 high-impact actions in that time but we need support and funding to make that happen. Otherwise, I will be here in one year or four years and it will sound repetitive. I will be saying it has not been delivered because the funding was not released or allocated.

We cannot have Mr. Waide coming back saying that. The amount of money involved does not appear enormous. It is €4 million per year, basically. There is a strategy. We will follow up on that. I am conscious that we are here to discuss the 30 km/h campaign. We want to push on that.

On the Love 30 campaign, the overarching framework, policy and strategy are in place. How does Ms D'Arcy reflect on that? Does it align with her objectives? What is the framework for change? If we got the behaviour piece right, we could do without the constraints in terms of infrastructure, engineering and, in some cases, regulations and enforcement. What are the most important elements to get right initially to deliver the transformational change needed?

Ms Muireann O'Dea

Two fundamental legislative changes are needed. The first is to change the current default of 50 km/h in built-up areas to 30 km/h. That makes it simpler for all local authorities. They know what the default is and only need to discuss roads where a higher speed limit is more appropriate.

The second change relates to the definition of "built-up areas". It is out of date and many newer towns are not included. That list of built-up areas needs to be updated.

Will Ms O'Dea elaborate and put a bit more flesh on that?

Ms Muireann O'Dea

There is a bit about it in our briefing document. The definition of "built-up areas" comes from the old borough and town councils. Many newer housing estates and some towns are not included. It needs to be updated.

They are outside town council boundaries but are very built up. Balbriggan at one stage had more people living outside the town boundary than inside it.

The review group should be doing that. That should be key to that group.

Does Ms D'Arcy have anything to add on the overall framework? She gave examples of initiatives for behavioural change in New Zealand and elsewhere. Are there some examples that have worked well in Ireland that have been taken from elsewhere or that might be helpful?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I welcome the content of the strategy. It is comprehensive, and it is clear that the RSA listened to its stakeholder consultation. There is a broad reach to it. In my opening statement, I mentioned that traditionally we have been about protecting the people in the car and driver safety. That was the remit of the RSA when it was set up but there is a broader viewpoint now and it is great. We do not know what we do not know. Sometimes, speaking from experience as a civil engineer, we get taught a particular viewpoint on something and to solve problems in a certain way. It is only when we start to consider different viewpoints that we understand better. The RSA has been great in commissioning and funding research but we need more research in this space. From an Irish perspective, we need to invest in more active travel research. We do not have enough. Active travel interventions have a high burden of proof, as we well know. Every time we try to do something, we come up against the fact that we do not have Irish research. There is a lot internationally for us to feed from.

I will use one example that has come to mind a few times when people have mentioned putting the foot down and speeding between junctions. When we design for walkability and put the pedestrian first, as per the street user hierarchy we are meant to be implementing as part of DMURS, and put more pedestrian crossings along a route, it slows the car because it moves slowly between the sections. A driver can feel he or she moves faster but then is waiting, when actually the average speed over the journey can be quicker by travelling at lower speeds. Slower is faster in some cases.

Preliminary results have emerged from London recently concerning when lights are on a default pedestrian mode. Respecting that hierarchy, in urban areas the pedestrian has priority at every light. The default setting of lights is the green man. When a car approaches, the microwave technology causes the light to change if there is no pedestrian waiting. This was found to have resulted in no overall change in travel times. Travel times have not increased for cars but have been greatly decreased for pedestrians. We then get more people walking and cycling on 2 km trips or short trips in our neighbourhoods and have more walkable neighbourhoods because it reinforces itself. People will drive more carefully because they expect to see pedestrians and cyclists and have got used to seeing them.

A cultural change needs to happen. In neighbourhoods like Donnybrook, Ballymun and around the country, such as in Sligo, wide roads cut through urban areas. We have to consider how we redesign these because we have segregated neighborhoods and there is a research area around that. We do not want segregated neighbourhoods because of the impact on climate, population health and road safety.

It is slightly off-topic and the witnesses may not have the data to hand but as a committee we cannot engage with the RSA without bringing up driver licences and waiting times. What is the position at the moment? How is the RSA on resources? Where is it at generally?

Mr. Sam Waide

On driver licences, we are down to an average waiting time of six weeks in most areas.

That was up at----

Mr. Sam Waide

It could have been as high as 20 or 22 weeks.

Is it down to six weeks now for the driving test?

Mr. Sam Waide

Yes, that is for the driving test. Our statutory obligation is ten weeks so that is good news.

Can the RSA bring the waiting time down further?

Mr. Sam Waide

No, because people need time to prepare for their driving test.

Is the waiting time at pre-Covid levels?

Mr. Sam Waide

Pre-Covid, it was about six weeks.

What about the driver theory tests?

Mr. Sam Waide

There are no problems and there is no backlog. That full service is up and running and I am pleased to report that everything is normal.

Is there a backlog in any area connected with driving tests?

Mr. Sam Waide

In terms of driving tests, no. As for other key services, it would be remiss of me not to mention the national car test, NCT. That has been challenging but 20 years ago, quarter 1 in every calendar year saw peak demand for the NCT and it still is a peak. That is linked to the sale and registration of new cars. There has been a challenge in the NCT service.

Our provider is working to address that challenge and to bring that service back to pre-Covid levels.

When does Mr. Waide anticipate the RSA will get to that point?

Mr. Sam Waide

We are working with the provider and it has identified a plan. It has a challenge with staff attraction and retention, as many employers and organisations do. We are looking to return to normal service levels at the end of quarter 1, in March or April. That is linked into coming back from Covid and the many attributes of that challenge.

The only other point I will make, and it was a part of your question, Chairman, is about the driver testing resource. We have continued discussions and submitted a proposal to my departmental colleagues to address the temporary nature of the workforce delivering driver tests. From an organisational point of view, and for any organisation delivering services, there is a known ongoing demand for driving tests in this country. We have submitted a proposal to the Department identifying the number of substantive testers required.

How many is that?

Mr. Sam Waide

It is 130, and we currently have 90 substantive testers.

That is an increase of 40.

Mr. Sam Waide


It is an increase of 40 in the number of permanent posts, basically.

Mr. Sam Waide

We have a large number of temporary testers who were provided to us, but I cannot deliver a public service for which there is a known future demand in the medium and long term based on a temporary workforce.

The RSA has 90 permanent staff. How many temporary staff has it on top of that?

Mr. Sam Waide

I would be estimating. There could be 50 or 60, but I will confirm that with the committee.

Mr. Waide might come back to us on what he has put to the Department so we can follow up on that as well.

Mr. Sam Waide


I will turn to my colleagues briefly. I will then allow the contributors to make-----

I will be brief. I have very straightforward questions and hope to receive straightforward answers.

They are never straightforward.

This question is to the RSA. Are all the road traffic collision data maps up to date?

Mr. Michael Rowland

The road collision maps to which I think the Deputy is referring are updated once we have closed off a year, that is, there are no reclassifications. They are always a number of years behind because of that.

Okay, but, as far as Mr. Rowland is aware, they are all up to date. They inform the road measurements taken. I refer to the number of collisions, not just the number of fatalities. They are all up to date, in Mr. Rowland's view.

Mr. Michael Rowland


Is there any legislative blockage or legislative requirement in order for a local authority to declare a default 30 km/h zone within its town area? Is there anything blocking it from doing that?


Mr. Michael Rowland

Currently, I am not aware-----

It is a reserved function.

I know it is a reserved function but the guidance document on setting speed limits is waved at councillors who say they want a default 30 km/h limit. It is a guidance document but, as far as Mr. Rowland is aware, under the Local Government Act or whatever it is, there is no legislative blockage to a local authority setting a default 30 km/h zone.

That is a good question.

Mr. Sam Waide

It is a good question but it is really a question for the councils.

This is Love 30's area. Has it looked at that? Individual local authorities are doing 30 km/h zones but could they decide to make all urban and built-up areas 30 km/h zones by default and put that to the councillors as a reserved decision? Can that be done? Has Love 30 looked at that?

Ms Joan Swift

Not exactly. Our understanding is that the 30 km/h speed limit is a special one under the legislation that came in and that if it was intended to be special, it was not intended to be the default. We are not legal people, so it might be worth------

We might follow up on that with the Department and maybe the organisations before us. It is a good question. You do not necessarily always have to build a new plan if the old one can basically be remodelled.

Most things have been covered and I think I have dealt sufficiently with the RSA. As I said, we have an elongated process and difficulties with road safety and speed limits, whether dealing with TII or the local authority. In the course of the witnesses' work have they come across any wants or needs that would need to be changed in that regard to get us to a better place, excepting the obvious one of introducing a 30 km/h speed limit? Could I go to Love 30 first and then Dr. D'Arcy? Do they have any major asks in respect of road safety? It is an issue with which they are obviously completely au fait.

Ms Joan Swift

A 30 km/h speed limit is Love 30's ask generally.

Ms Joan Swift

Then we might put on other hats and might very well come back to the committee on other things. I know that Senator Horkan has left, but it was interesting that he mentioned speeding at night. I have at home a photo I took in Trier, Germany, a couple of years ago of a 30 km/h sign, but the difference is that underneath is written "between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.". It was on a residential road where the residents were not to be disturbed by speeding cars. That is another aspect of this. I was also interested to hear Dr. D'Arcy mention pedestrian lights and the fact that they do not actually delay drivers. It is logical that if I press the button and am waiting two and a half minutes, which is how long it can be in some cases, and on the new road in Sligo that was mentioned there is some fault and I could be waiting four minutes, and if I get fed up waiting and dash across the road, the light still changes and then the driver has to stop. The driver having to stop in the first place would make more sense than his having to stop when I am gone. It is therefore logical that the pedestrian priority, the green man, would not in fact impede traffic.

Yes, and that would fit into the other part of the question.

Dr. D'Arcy had not concluded her response, but in one sense pedestrian crossings had the impact of reducing the number of cars on the road. By definition, once there were fewer cars, they were getting through more easily. There was a disincentive to travel by car because drivers were hitting lights all the time. That might be a layman's view, but was that one feature of it?

Ms Joan Swift

You mention pedestrian crossings, Chairman. That is the other part of this, that is, not having to stop for anybody for 2 km, as opposed to having to stop four or five times.

The question I should have asked was about the entire planning process and what could be done across the board that the witnesses would have considered to enable this. We had a discussion earlier about the road network, pavement size etc. None of this is perfect. We have to build it into the planning process. Do the witnesses have a view on any of that? In fairness, Ms Swift's answer was a decent one. Near my house, there is a roundabout at a crossroads at the bottom of the Avenue Road, in Dundalk, and there are traffic lights at it. If somebody presses the button and wants to cross the road at only one point, it has an impact across the board, and from time to time there are probably accidents. Some people think pressing the button is not necessarily always the most sensible solution, and some people probably drive through red lights. I would say there is only a percentage of adherence to the pedestrian light. It is the worst of all worlds. I assume that something better than that could probably be arranged. It clogs traffic at busy times.

I accept the reason it is done. Rather than me pontificating, I ask Dr. D'Arcy to outline what else we can do?

Ms Muireann O'Dea

A zebra crossing is a great way to slow down traffic. As there is no requirement to press a button and wait for the green light, it promotes better awareness among motorists because that they have to look out for a pedestrian at the crossing. I have seen wide roads and streets in towns in Spain where there is a zebra crossing every 200 m and so the traffic goes very slowly and stops if there is somebody at the crossing.

It is an element for the working group as well in terms of best practice. Would Dr. D'Arcy like to comment?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I echo the point with regard to zebra crossings. In Oslo, where there are zero pedestrian fatalities at every junction, whether on the periphery of the city or in the city centre, there is a zebra crossing at every corner. Some of the crossings that are on the more heavily trafficked roads or the distributor roads have lights on them as well but there are not that many distributor roads. The default pedestrian was mentioned. One of the key challenges in terms of training traffic engineers and in learnings about junction and traffic light design is that the pedestrian is always at the lowest ebb of it. The full cycle of movement of all of the cars has to happen before the pedestrian face comes in. The pedestrian face might only happen if the button is pressed, but one still might have to wait for the three minutes regardless of whether there are any vehicles at any junctions. There is an issue in regard to compliance with red lights. We see that happening everywhere. People think that because there is nothing coming they can keep going.

Reference was made to "having to look". Zebra crossings force people to slow down and look out for a pedestrian. The person driving the car does not have the priority in that case. This refers back to Deputy Hourigan's point earlier about the hi-vis jackets. It is about the expectation that one might see something. It can be seen as victim blaming but it puts the onus on the pedestrian to be seen rather than on the driver to keep a look out and to be mindful of what is happening.

On the Chairman's point with regard to London, they are at very early days in that study. It is hard to tell yet if there is going to be what we call "traffic evaporation" in that case. There is long-standing literature and evidence around traffic evaporation in other cases when pedestrians are prioritised. Where we facilitate and make safer pedestrian and cycling trips, we see less cars on the road. This is not necessarily because people feel like they are stuck in traffic for longer. It is more that they see that bicycles can move about much more efficiently. People give out that nobody is using the cycle lanes. That is because they are so efficient people are moving through them quickly. When people are stuck in traffic they do not really take note and accept that they are the traffic that is causing the problem.

Equally, when we design for better pedestrian infrastructure and cycling infrastructure, when we are more equitable in our provision, we find that females by default are a lot more affected. When we design around the car and default to the car, we assume that everybody in the household has access to a car but it is the women of the household who are generally left without mobility. Added to that, is the issue around having a child and a buggy or a mobility issue. Anyone who has ever had to hold on to two toddlers at the same time while trying to cross a road when there is no pedestrian crossing knows how difficult that is. I refer to the KCR junction in Dublin as being one of those junctions where my heart went through my mouth so many times. If there is no pedestrian crossing, the person is forced to get into a car to drive 500 m to the shop because it is too difficult and too dangerous to do otherwise. The older person who wants to collect a pension has to rely on somebody else coming to collect and bring him or her to the post office instead of him or her being able to travel their independently. We have to consider all of these causes and balance the provision.

Walkability is my area. Walking is top of the hierarchy. For me, it is about pedestrian infrastructure and recognising walking, cycling, active travel, sustainable transport, including public transport, because every public transport trip includes a walking trip and so in providing better public transport we are providing for walkability. By default, that makes people slow down. It makes people much more aware of their surroundings. There are more people that they have to consider and therefore behave more responsibly.

I thank Dr. D'Arcy. We have concluded our deliberations. I thank Mr. Waide, CEO, Road Safety Authority and his colleague, Mr. Rowland, director of road safety, research and driver education. I particularly thank Ms Muireann O'Dea and Ms Joan Swift from Love 30, and Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy from Technological University Dublin. Following on from this meeting, we will write to the Department in regard to the terms of reference and membership of the working group and requesting that Love 30 be involved in that group. We would also like to get follow up from the RSA with regard to the funding. We have to a situation whereby when the request is submitted by the group we can follow up on that as a committee. We will have An Garda Síochána before us soon. This has been a very worthwhile exercise. We want to see things happening. Ultimately, it is about delivery.

I again thank all of the witnesses for attending and engaging with the committee today. Would any of the witnesses like to make a final comment?

Mr. Michael Rowland

I would like to make one point with regard to something Dr. D'Arcy said and also Deputy Hourigan. In regard to hi-vis, our preference would be that we would not have to distribute hi-vis. That will happen once we reduce speed limits and we have safer streets. In the meantime, we are left with no choice but to ensure that our children are safe on the roads and that is the reason we distribute hi-vis jackets.

Part of our function as the Road Safety Authority is to make people aware and to educate people. As a result of that, our annual conference later this year in December will deal with the issue of speeding. We are bringing in some international experts, including Rod King, who is an expert on 20 km/h. He was instrumental in its delivery in the UK. We will let the committee know about that closer to the time.

We hope that as part of that RSA conference there will be a discussion on the implementation plan of the working group.

Mr. Michael Rowland

I am sure there will be discussions on it.

The joint committee adjourned at 2.07 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 2 March 2022.