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).
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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: http://www.howwedrive.com/2009/12/22/twentys-plenty/