“20 is plenty” – If I can make it there…

Dec 04, 2013
“20 is plenty” – If I can make it there…


A 20 mph zone in London

A bill has been introduced in New York city to reduce speed limits to 20mph (32 km/h). This is intended to create a safer pedestrian and cycling environment. It has received support from an unlikely source, the taxi drivers.

There is growing concern in New York at the rate of crashes in the city. A lower speed limit is seen as one way to give non-motorists a much better chance of living or avoiding serious injury when motorists do (as we all do) make a mistake:

According to the group Transportation Alternatives, pedestrians have an 80 percent chance of surviving being hit by a car traveling 30 miles per hour and a 98 percent chance of survival if the car is traveling 20 miles per hour.

In Toronto, the Toronto Board of Health has issued a report calling for 30km/h limits in residential areas and 40km/h limits on arterial roads. Most of Toronto, like Auckland, is a 50km/h zone. Predictably, Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford (the one who likes to indulge in crack cocaine and a lot of booze, sometimes while driving and has blamed cyclists for crashes) has said this is “nuts, nuts, nuts”. Generally anyone who opposes unfettered driving for suburbanites in Toronto is considered part of “the activists, unionists and cyclists” (gasp, cyclist!).

The chief medical officer who authored the report has been slapped down for interfering in areas that dont concern him. It appears the fact that speed causes more crashes and causes more damage when they do happen isn’t a medical issue:

The fact that auto dependent sedentary lifestyles increase diabetes and heart disease is also not part of the doctor’s ambit apparently.

This is really something that NZ needs to consider. There should be legislation in place, as there is in much of Europe, to allow local bodies to easily put in place lower speed limits where this will have safety benefits. I would personally like to see all non-arterial roads limited to 30km/h. These residential roads normally only represent a small percentage of a car journey and would not increase journey times significantly. What it would do is create areas where parents would feel safe to let their children explore by bicycle or ride to school.

American example of a Neighbourhood Greenway: (photo Mia Birk)
American example of a Neighbourhood Greenway

For example, in my area of the Devonport peninsula, the only road I can see that shouldn’t be 30km/h is Lake Road. The vast majority of trips in in or out of the peninsula are made almost solely on that road. If residents are not leaving the peninsula. the distance is likely less than 3kms and cycling, bus or walking could be a great option for a sizeable minority of those journeys.

If a mega city like New York can do it, then surely a much smaller, quieter city like Auckland should be an even better candidate.


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