Consultation is open until 31 March 2019 on a new Speed Management Bylaw that will give Auckland Transport the power to set safe and appropriate speeds across the city.
Bike Auckland stands with a broad coalition of advocacy groups working for safer streets and better quality of life in New Zealand, in supporting this bylaw and the introduction of safe speeds for Auckland.
Late last year, when the consultation was briefly delayed, this coalition came together to encourage the Board and AT to hold to the vision. (Here’s the letter we sent: Safe Speeds Support)
We hope Auckland Transport’s safer speeds campaign will be the start of a more ambitious Vision Zero programme in Auckland, with the goal that no loss of life is acceptable on our roads. Safe speed limits are a crucial first step, one of many that will take us towards more liveable, equitable and sustainable streets across our city. We warmly encourage all of our supporters to have their say on the consultation.
Let AT know what you think before 31 March 2019!
So what should I say?
It could be as simple as ‘I support safer speeds and would love to see them rolled out across the city as soon as possible.’ This is not a vote or a popularity contest – it’s a chance for AT to make sure they hear why and how this bylaw change is important to you.
You can mention specific roads and streets proposed for initial speed changes and how you feel about them. If you know of streets that aren’t on the list but need safer speeds – around schools, for example – then by all means suggest them! You can also use the ‘drop a pin’ feature on the interactive map to comment on proposed streets or others you care about.
Why safer speeds, and why now?
In 2017 alone, 64 people died and an additional 749 were seriously injured on our roads. That amounts to more than a 70% increase since 2014 or over three times the rate of the rest of New Zealand. These are not just numbers but represent our people, our whanau and our communities, whose lives have forever changed and been devastated due to road trauma.
Safer speeds lower both the risk of having a crash, and the risk of dying or being seriously injured in one – literally lowering the stakes, for people inside cars, and those outside. On both rural roads and urban streets, safer speeds will save lives. This bylaw is worth supporting for that reason alone.
Why is this especially important for those of us who like to bike?
We’re often stuck riding amongst heavier traffic, due to the lack of safe and connected cycleways – and even to get to the cycleways, we have to encounter or cross against traffic. All across Auckland, children riding to school are legally expected to ride on, and cross over, local streets with traffic going 50kmh or more.
The young, the elderly, the less mobile or confident among us are even more vulnerable. And with the size and environmental impact of New Zealand’s car fleet steadily rising, we are literally increasingly outweighed when it comes to surviving on our streets.
And it’s not about drivers versus cyclists versus pedestrians. We’re all people, and sometimes we’re the ones at the steering wheel, sometimes we’re crossing the road. Nobody wants to be on either end of a crash between a motor vehicle and a vulnerable human being. Reducing traffic speeds helps free all of us from that risk.
Why 30kmh? Why not 40kmh?
30kmh is the suggested speed limit for town centres and local streets, where there are lots of people. That number hasn’t been plucked out of the air. It’s based on sheer physics, and on the mountain of evidence that confirms that 30kmh is the ‘sweet spot’ for safety where motor vehicles mix with people walking and biking and scooting.
You can read more about how that data is arrived at in this useful review paper by Mackie Research (2014).
The injury and death risk rises sharply above the 30kmh point. ‘Compromising’ to 40kmh as the AA seems to be suggesting would be a straightforward trade-off of speed for lives, and that doesn’t sit well with us.
Yes, physical changes – road diets, narrower lanes, signal phasing intervals, etc – will help remind drivers that they should travel more carefully than they’re accustomed to on certain stretches of road. It will be a learning process. We’re confident Aucklanders can handle it.
Will it work in Auckland?
It’s already working in Christchurch, where a 30kmh zone was introduced in the central city. Crashes and injuries have fallen substantially even as vehicle and foot traffic has risen.
But I heard that…
You know what? AT has compiled a great list of common misconceptions and questions about speeds. We highly recommend you check it out.
Looking for another great reason to support 30kmh streets?
Try this: after 30km streets were introduced in Berlin, the city experienced a bike boom. Yes, you heard that right:
It was the 30-km/h speed limit that got people riding bikes, and because people were riding the council provided infrastructure. Turning Berlin into a cycling city was an unintended by-product of comprehensively lowering the urban speed limit.
In other words, safer speeds not only save lives, they get people back out there on bikes. What’s not to like?
Of course there are many, many other benefits of safer speeds beyond this – quality of life, more lively town centres, quieter traffic, more kid-friendly neighbourhoods, more active citizens and healthier communities, more of our pets making it through to old age. We’ll cover these in the weeks to come.
But for now, we’re happy with the fact safer speeds will save lives, reduce harm – and enable more people to think about hopping on a bike. We’re up for this, and we hope you are too. Let’s try it, and see what we’ve been missing.