28 May 1998 Edition

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RUC block road calming

By Mick Naughton.

RUC objections to road calming measures have at last been pushed aside with the announcement that a traffic scheme is to go ahead in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast.

However in West Belfast, particularly in Poleglass where several young children have been killed in accidents, the RUC are still blocking attempts to slow traffic through the area. It emerged during the months of campaigning by SF councillor Mickey Ferguson and the Greater Twinbrook and Poleglass Community Forum that the RUC had consistently blocked their attempts to get the Department of the Environments Road Service to construct traffic calming measures like ramps and chicanes.

Plans in the New Lodge Road area, where the local Neighbourhood Centre's plans to slow down traffic to between 5-10mph by narrowing streets at junctions and signs warning of children playing in the streets were similarly foiled by the RUC.

Despite a comprehensive survey of local residents carried out in partnership with the British government funded, `Making Belfast Work' which recommended a scheme in April 1997, RUC objections were again the rule, a move strongly criticised by New Lodge SF councillor Gerard Brophy.

``A key feature of most nationalist areas was the fact that in `near-misses' people do not report them to the RUC. Consequently when the DOE assesses the incident rates in many nationalist areas a true picture is not presented. This is in turn used by the RUC to block traffic calming'', he said.

Margaret McClenaghan of the Ardglen Residents Committee, joining children in Ardoyne, welcomed the DOE's `ground-breaking' announcement last week. The DOE announcement included plans for ramps on the Berwick Road, Etna Drive and crucially Brompton Park, all main thoroughfares.

`Hatching' measures for Alliance Avenue are scheduled and the Glenard areas will become a 20mph speed limit zone.

``I'm delighted that the RUC have now lifted their security objections to the traffic calming in Glenard. The lives of local children have been put at risk for years by the RUC's refusal to move on this issue''.

Also welcoming the news was local SF councillor Mick Conlon, who added a cautionary note, ``the Ardoyne residents groups are to be congratulated, they have fought this battle for years. These measures are well overdue, but I would demand that the DOE be transparent during the forthcoming consultation process and canvass the views of the entire community''.

Conlon was critical of the DOE over allowing the RUC to vet the groups invited to the announcement of last week's scheme.

``I would appeal to the DOE to contact Ardoyne Community Centre where the Ardoyne residents' groups are based. Its not good enough for an exclusion policy to be dictated by the RUC and they should never have had a veto over the safety of our children. It is the DOE's responsibility to ensure inclusiveness''.

DOE regulations take into account the accident rate for any five year period when preliminary studies are being considered. At present there are in excess of 700 requests from different groups in Belfast alone for traffic calming measures.

In areas like Poleglass with a densely populated community of over 5,000, with six schools, a leisure centre and major arterial routes there were child fatalities. A two year old was killed in Poleglass in May 1997 and in the following December a 12 year old girl was killed on the Stewartstown Road.

Importantly, the residents in all the concerned areas received support from Community Technical Aid, local schools, Sinn Fein councillors, local doctors, bus and rail firm, Translink, and the Ambulance and Fire Services.

However, according to Michael Ferguson, the RUC object to the implementation of traffic calming plans on the grounds that it would put their personnel at risk.

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