Down with Speed!

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
traffic authorities).

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

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.


By DANIEL ADAMS - Waikato Times, 08/07/2010

Hamilton has won regional support for its campaign to have 40kmh speed limits outside all city schools.

City council representative Dave Macpherson on Monday persuaded the regional transport committee to lobby Transport Minister Steven Joyce to trial the 40kmh speed limit measure.

Mr Macpherson wants rules which prevent some schools from having the zones sidestepped.

NZTA regional director Harry Wilson said there was no disagreement from the agency about trying to achieve improved safety outside schools but research showed lowering speed limits would not alone achieve that aim.

"It may not be the only solution, the study says there's a mix of things that need to be done," Mr Wilson said. "I support what Hamilton City Council are doing but it comes back to what is the best thing to do?"

Mr Macpherson said where the city had introduced the 40kmh zones, traffic speeds had fallen, and there were mandatory speed zones outside schools in New South Wales and parts of the UK.

"The technical arguments that NZTA are reporting are becoming out of date," he said.

Seven of the city's 55 schools do not meet NZTA requirements for 40kmh speed zones.

Under the NZTA's warrant requirements, Nga Taiatea Wharekura, Waikato Waldorf School, Rhode Street School, Whitiora Primary, Hillcrest Primary, Hamilton North and Patricia Avenue School are not legally entitled to the speed zones for 30 minutes before and after school.

Mr Macpherson said the schools' parents should lobby MPs for Hamilton to trial 40kmh zones at all schools. The city could promote awareness effectively if all schools were the same.