What slower speeds mean for quality of life

Publish Date : 22 Mar 2019
What slower speed limits mean for public health
The shared space on O'Connell Street

Grant Schofield is Professor of Public Health, and Director of the Human Potential Centre at AUT Millennium. He is encouraging people to give feedback on AT's Speed Limit Bylaw

What is your organisation doing to make streets safer?

Our approach is somewhat counterintuitive until you think about it more. We want to get more cyclists and pedestrians on our roads. Our and others' work shows that will help drivers be more careful, slow down, and reduce accidents.

As well, we get the benefits for extra physical activity and fitness - which are one of the health behaviours which is most important to increasing the quality and quantity of our life.

In 2017, 64 people died on our roads. Why is working towards a Vision Zero goal important for your organisation? What does it mean for you personally?

Any road death is preventable. Behind every one of these deaths is a personal and community tragedy. For me, as a parent, the idea that a young person’s life could be needlessly lost on our roads runs very deep. I’ve seen the consequences of this first hand through friends. 

Why are slower speeds important for your communities? 

We have been up building our city (Auckland) around cars not people. The design of Auckland needs to fundamentally change and move towards supporting people getting places in an efficient, friendly, cost-effective, a sustainable, and healthy context.

Building more roads and roading infrastructure makes no sense in this regard. We actually need to make things a little harder for the motorist and make the other options easier. That reinvestment will make Auckland a liveable city, rather than just a city on a beautiful locale with a car problem.

What are the benefits of improving road safety for your area?

My area is public health - especially physical activity fitness and health. We need to see city infrastructure change to support a more active and fitter community.

It's great having parks and gyms and sporting facilities, but the overwhelming evidence is that moving by foot, bike, or public transport can make the biggest and most sustainable difference to how much we move.

Why are you encouraging people to make a submission on AT’s Safe Speeds Bylaw?

We encourage people to make a submission because overwhelmingly people understand that we went too far with the “Auckland city for cars, not people” concept and need to come back to the people again. It’d make Auckland a nicer, safer, and healthier place to be than it currently is. If the average person doesn’t submit then democracy will be run by a vocal minority, so have you say!

About Grant Schofield

Grant is Professor of Public Health, and Director of the Human Potential Centre at AUT Millennium.  His research and teaching interests range from understanding and improving lifestyle behaviours such as sleep, nutrition, and physical activity, to wellbeing epidemiology and human performance.  His team has a strong interest and involvement in several large international projects looking at how urban form affects human health, especially physical activity.

Grant is taking part in an AUT and AT panel discussion on safe speeds on Monday 25 March at 2.30pm, AUT City Campus, WA224A.

Email moushumi.chaudhury@aut.ac.nz to register your attendance.

See more about Auckland Transport's speed limit bylaw on OurAuckland. 

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