Emily Reeves is a road safety advocate and the Deputy Chair of the Auckland City Centre Residents' Group.
Should road speeds in Auckland's city centre be reduced to a blanket limit of 30kmh, as Auckland Transport has proposed?
For those of us who call the city centre home, the answer is yes, absolutely.
Not just because reduced speeds are proven to be safer, but also because slower speeds are an important step in the city's ongoing transformation into an economic hub that is also a healthier and more attractive place to live.
Look almost anywhere in the central city and you'll see signs of that transformation. Apartment buildings, homes for the 4,000 new residents moving into the city every year, are going up. The City Rail Link is being built in front of our eyes. Restaurants and bars are flourishing in pedestrian precincts and in shared spaces. Walking along widened and more pleasant pavements is booming; there are now 13 pedestrians on Queen Street for every car. Already more people live in the city centre than drive into it, and that trend is continuing.
Safer speeds contribute to that momentum.
They'll cut noise and pollution levels but, more importantly, they're safer. If you're hit by a car travelling at 50kmh, your chances of survival are 20 per cent. If the same car hits you at 30kmh, your odds improve to 90 per cent.
As a frequent cyclist and pedestrian, I know which odds I prefer. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October, and you can bet that we want the streets around us to be safer for them too.
City centre speed limits
There is, of course, nothing novel about a 30kmh limit. Queen Street has had one since 2008; crashes there dropped by 40 per cent and fatalities and serious injuries by 36 per cent. Wynyard Quarter went from 50kmh to 30kmh and there have been no road deaths or serious injuries since. The experience is the same in Christchurch, where road injuries dropped by 25 per cent after the city centre moved to a 30kmh limit.
Some critics say a 30kmh limit won't work on arterial roads like Hobson Street because they have a natural driving speed of 50kmh. Putting aside the novelty of the concept of 'natural speeds', what these critics forget is that Hobson Ridge is the most densely populated area in the entire country.
Cutting speeds in areas with high volumes of pedestrians and cyclists offers large safety gains because they are where vulnerable road users are most highly concentrated. This point is accepted by NZTA's Speed Management Guide, which recommends a 30kmh maximum on this class of road.
Not surprisingly, AT's proposal has been politicised. People who should know better have described it as "anti-car zealotry". It's not. Safer streets aren't a war on cars. If they're a war, it's a war against unnecessary maiming and killing on our roads. Let's just get on with making Auckland's city centre safer for the people who live, study, work and yes, even drive there.
Have your say
Auckland Transport’s consultation on its draft Speed Limit Bylaw closes this Sunday 31 March.
Visit the AT website for full information on the proposed changes and to have your say.