by Bevan Woodward
Even a small reduction in speed has huge safety benefits, a recent workshop on speed limit management showed.
The one day workshop was hosted by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), ARRB (an Australian road research group) and Austroads (an association of Australian and New Zealand road transport and
Participants learned that a 5% reduction in average speed delivers reductions of 25% in deaths, 15% in serious injuries and 8% in minor injuries. Many towns and cities in Europe have reduced traffic speeds from 50 km/h to 40 or even 30 km/h. Their rural roads often have limits of 60 or 70 km/h in what would be 100 km/h areas in this country, creating safer cycling conditions.
NZTA’s traffic speed management experts say that our speeds must come down. They explain that setting speed limits is a trade-off between mobility and safety, but there has been too much
emphasis on mobility and not enough on safety.
Two methods for setting speed limits can be found at http://tinyurl.com/nzspeedl
The first is calculated with a formula based on roadside development, and usually results in higher limits.
The other method, provided by Section 3.2(5) of the Setting of Speed Limits Rule, is for the road controlling authority to use its discretion to determine a ‘safe and appropriate’ limit. This option is
important to cycle advocacy, but many transport planners are unaware of it and think they cannot reduce a speed limit because they are bound by the formula.
Many references were made to walking and cycling during the workshop. Australian presenters commented on their rapid increase in cyclist numbers. A cyclist or pedestrian is likely to survive
being struck by a vehicle whose speed is below 20 to 30 km/h.
Think about which roads in your area would be safer with slower traffic, and ask your local authority (or NZTA for State Highways) to review the speed limits. Offer to take councillors on an
experiential bike ride, and gently keep the pressure on them. Change will take time, but speeds are coming down!
CAN paid for Bevan to take part in this workshop. He is based in Warkworth and has worked in cycle advocacy there and nationally.