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ACT Gov behind the times, again

By Sgt.Bungers 24 December 2009 28

A recent post about the ACT Gov considering 40km/h zones in pedestrian areas, stirred up a bit of debate about nannying.

Australian research shows that a person who is hit by a car at 60km/h, has a 75% chance of being killed. At 50km/h, 38%. At 40km/h <20%. At 30km/h, <10%. Yet many residential streets in the ACT still have 60km/h zones. We tell kids to stick to the footpath and nature strips… stay off the road… no worries… except many Canberrans have no dramas with illegally parking on foot paths and nature strips in order to keep the road clear. Forcing pedestrians, kids on bikes, people in wheelchairs, onto the road to go around their blocked path, is apparently not considered an issue, and less important than keeping their car off the road to enable people in cars to pass through at high speed?

Our CBD, naturally a pedestrian heavy area, still has pedestrian unfriendly roads with 60km/h speed limits (Northbourne, London Cct, Barry Drive, and particularly Marcus Clarke Street).

Meanwhile, the US has had 25mph (40km/h) residential streets for decades, and authorities in Europe and the UK are already implementing blanket 30km/h zones in residential streets. Melbourne CBD has had 30km/h streets for years, and the folk up in QLD have had 40km/h zones in Brisbane for some time… not bad considering they're generally stuck in the 70's in regards to everything else 🙂

In some European cities, the benefits found from returning the streets to pedestrians through blanket shared zones and removal of all traffic control devices, have been results of up to 95% decrease in fatalities, ~25% decrease in travel time for those who must drive, as well as local businesses doing better, given more people walking around means more people wandering into shops. (A typical design; think of Canberra’s city walk with just a little bit of clutter removed so cars may pass through slowly ie: Drivers travel at walking pace.) Major roads running near to major pedestrian areas are not converted to shared zones, however the ease for pedestrians to cross is considered and engineered into the road. A pedestrian having to wait more than 60 seconds for a light to change is considered unacceptable… a far cry from the up to 5-6 minutes, that is legally crossing Northbourne Ave using pedestrian signals. Imagine if a person in a car, the only vehicle on the road, attempting to traverse 100 metres, had to wait up to 6 minutes to legally do so due to traffic light timings… there would be uproar! Yet it is acceptable practice to make pedestrians wait this long in Canberra’s CBD?

My 2c: Do we need 40km/h zones on CBD streets? No… they should’ve been in place decades ago. We need education programs for everyone. Education is key. We need shared zones with a speed limit of walking pace in the CBD and high density housing areas. We need CBD roads to be ripped up and redesigned with pedestrian ease of access coming first, cyclists coming second, motor vehicle drivers coming third, given this is the most successful strategy at reducing road trauma worldwide. We need 50km/h zones on existing wider residential streets, and 30km/h zones on narrower back streets. We need penalties of several hundred dollars and points for endangering pedestrian lives by parking on the foot path, not the measly ~$80 fine that exists at the moment. In short the ACT needs a complete new way of thinking when it comes to road safety. Problems can’t be fixed using the same logic that created them.

The ACT Gov is attempting to get people out of their cars and onto their feet or onto bikes, good idea, the benefits of more exercise and less pollution are well known. IMHO, the first step should not have been to eliminate car parks and raise parking fees in the CBD, that has just bred resentment… the first step should have been to create a pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists at the expense of high speed for motorists. Not the setup that we currently have, where pedestrians and cyclists are considered a nuisance who shouldn’t be anywhere near a road.

More info on the worldwide push for 30km/h residential streets:

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ACT Gov behind the times, again
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p1 9:13 pm 04 Jan 10

I’ve driven on roads without speed limits. It didn’t feel any different then any other highway I’ve ever driven down. I think that in areas with high numbers of non-car road users, speed limits are important so that everyone knows how fast car might be going, thus allowing them to judge when stepping in front. This isn’t the case on highways.

deezagood 6:55 pm 04 Jan 10

I doubt that changing the speed limits will achieve much; every day, on my morning/evening run I see young drivers hooning around suburban streets at around 80 – 90kms – especially the circuit streets around Fadden and Macarthur. So many young people have no regard for the potential to accidently kill a child, kill themselves or damage property – all acts that could potentially damage/change their young lives forever. I wish I could tell these kids about my cousin who was killed by driver in his suburban street at the age of seven – and the absolute ruination of the driver’s life afterwards (and the lives of my Uncle, Aunt and wider family). I think education and some hard-truth messages are the key – young drivers just don’t seem aware of the consequences of their ‘fun’ – maybe they feel bullet-proof in their youth?

spinact 4:49 pm 04 Jan 10

Mordd said :

Frankly if everyone took more responsibility for their actions maybe we wouldn’t need speed limits, but seeing as we are talking aboutr infallible humans this really isn’t much of an argument is it?

Get serious, NOBODY is responsible for ANYTHING they do anymore, it’s ALWAYS someone elses fault (insert sarcasm icon).

We would still need speed limits, it’d be the speed cameras that would be reduntant.

Mordd 2:04 pm 04 Jan 10

Sgt.Bungers said:

“If every single road was built with an appropriate maximum speed in mind, people were taught to drive cars properly, rather than just pass a driving test, then we could have a blanket speed limit of Mach 1 across the entire country without any dramas, as nobody would travel faster than an appropriate speed for the conditions.”

The problem with your argument here is that it presumes every road driver knows the conditions of every road in Australia at all times, which is obviously ludicrous. The maximum speed limit is there to guide drivers who are not familiar with that area, among other reasons.

Let us not forget the speed limit is NOT the limit you have to sit at, our road rules already cover driving appropriate to the conditions, and you are legally required to drive slower on anything from a 60kmh road to a 110kmh zone if the conditions require it. The main problem in my opinion is people see a speed limit sign and think “I have to travel that fast, and if im not im getting ‘ripped off’ somehow”.

Frankly if everyone took more responsibility for their actions maybe we wouldn’t need speed limits, but seeing as we are talking aboutr infallible humans this really isn’t much of an argument is it? Frankly I agree with some of what you say Sgt.Bungers, but you really have gone overboard with this Mach 1 speed limit argument. Lets keep this discussion centred in reality not fantasy yeh?

Jim Jones 2:01 pm 04 Jan 10

Sgt.Bungers said :

People speed, therefore, it’s the fault of the road.

You’re either trolling or completely insane.

Sgt.Bungers 1:34 pm 04 Jan 10

Palifox said :

Then a few years ago limits were dropped to 50kph to save lives. Now someone was wrong or lying in the 1960s and early 1970s or their successors were wrong or lying recently. This reduction coincided with the introduction of speed cameras which are a whole other controversy involving “donations” to political election funds and in at least two US states, charges of bribery or attempted bribery of politicians by speed camera makers.

Further fiddling with speed limits is likely to be counter-productive. Drivers are already confused by a plethora of different limits imposed here and there.

Couldn’t agree more. I hate the conflicting speed limits, poor speed limit signage in the ACT. The primary focus of my blog,, is outlining just how incompetent the ACT Government is at maintaing speed limit signage.

I also hate speed cameras. They are an admission from any road authority who uses them, that the road they have built was engineered and built to a standard that is inappropriate for the area it is in. Not to mention all Australian state/territory governments have come to rely on and even budget in advance for their revenue.

If every single road was built with an appropriate maximum speed in mind, people were taught to drive cars properly, rather than just pass a driving test, then we could have a blanket speed limit of Mach 1 across the entire country without any dramas, as nobody would travel faster than an appropriate speed for the conditions.

In the opinion of many experts overseas, an appropriate road in residential and commercial areas, is not actually a road. It is just a corridor of space that everyone must share. Kids are welcome to play in said space. People are welcome to walk unhindered. People are welcome to cycle on them at sensible speeds. People are welcome to drive on them at sensible speeds. Check out living streets on wikipedia: This is the setup that’s resulted in a massive decrease in road trauma.

My biggest gripe is that roads in residential and commercial areas, are almost considered the same as motorways. In Canberra, along with the rest of Australia, too many people think roads are for cars, nothing more. This attitude has developed through decades of roads being built wider and wider, speeds limits being raised higher and higher, roads becoming more and more dangerous and intimidating to pedestrians. This is beginning to change however, and motorists who are used to being kings of the road are not happy about being dethroned.

All that said however, I am only talking about residential and commercial areas. Suggest a 110km/h on the Parkway, 110km/h on the GDE when it’s finished, 120km/h on rural dual carriageways in NSW, and 130km/h on their freeways, and I’ll be one of the first to put my hand up in support.

30km/h on residential streets should be an interim step, until Canberra’s back streets are redesigned and rebuilt to be more pedestrian friendly whilst instead being more intimidating to motorists. Thus, there would no longer be any speed limit confusion, as no speed limit would be required.

Sgt.Bungers 12:43 pm 04 Jan 10

Anna Key said :

This is typical anti-ALP propoganda from Liberal party stooges, or are stories and comments only partisan if the criticise the Libs???

Political parties didn’t even cross my mind when posting my OP. I can guarantee that the Libs would not have implemented such zones either. The ACT, along with the rest of Australia, needs to catch up with the success that the rest of the world is having whilst thinking outside the box regarding road safety.

Sgt.Bungers 12:41 pm 04 Jan 10

JC said :

The UK is 30MPH not 30km/h. As for our streets and your melodrama, sure some residential streets have 60km/h limits, but these are generally the main suburban roads that do have good footpaths where the issues you raise above are not of concern. The smaller suburban streets are 50km/h which is good enough.

The UK had been 30MPH for decades yes, however 20MPH zones are now becoming the norm. 20MPH = 30km/h.

JC said :

As for the CBD you mention roads like Marcus Clarke, Northborne, Barry Drive and London circuit. well unless I am mistaken the only time pedestrians come in contact with the road is when crossing it, controlled by lights. You don’t need 50km/h in these situations. You compare to other cities such as Brisbane and Melbourne, if you have ever been to these places you would see the roads are different, there are more people so a lower figure may well be sensible. It doesn’t mean it should be the case here.

If you’ve ever traversed Marcus Clarke Street during peak periods, you would know that pedestrians are *everywhere*. Not just at traffic lights. Pedestrians are required to use pedestrian crossing facilities only if they are within 20 metres. Otherwise they may cross the road anywhere, and they do.

The problem with expecting pedestrians to only cross at lights on any road, is that it creates a more certain and comfortable road environment for motor vehicle drivers. Comfortable environment = higher speed. Higher speed = more serious trauma when something out of the ordinary happens. Hence why converting entire networks of CBD streets to shared zones has been so successful overseas. Pedestrians meandering all over the road is no longer out of the ordinary. High speed is not comfortable for motor vehicle drivers, so people in cars naturally slow to a crawl.

JC said :

You also seem to ignore that many roads in the ACT with a 60km/h limit in Sydney for example would have a 70km/h limit. You also forgot one stat. Vehicles moving at 0km/h produce 0 fatalities and injury’s. Maybe we should aim for this figure rather than 40 or 30 as you suggested.

You’re quite right about the 0km/h would = 0 fatalities, but it’s hardly practical is it 🙂 However 5km/h, for short 100-200 metre distances in high pedestrian areas however, is hardly an unreasonable request, particularly given the chance of a fatality or even injury at that speed is near zero.

I’m not sure which 70km/h streets you’re referring to in Sydney. In my experience up there, 70km/h streets are on main arterial roads. 50km/h applies on almost all residential streets, even on wider ones. It is worth noting however that international experts regarding pedestrian friendly roads slammed Sydney a few years ago, for having such a pedestrian unfriendly road network. Perhaps my original post should’ve been Australia is behind the times?

The ACT does have the interesting practice of implementing 60km/h zones on wider residential streets, that should really be of a lower speed. Then implementing 60km/h on sections of wide spacious arterial roads with no private entrances… and enforcing that limit with speed cameras. Never been to sure about ACT GovCo’s priorities.

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