5 August 2021

No excuses for drivers flouting city slowdown

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Speed camera warning signs on Northbourne Avenue

No excuses. The signposted camera pole on Northbourne Avenue before London Circuit. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

No one likes getting a speeding ticket. It’s a lapse that can happen anytime, anywhere, so I get why people caught in the new city speed trap are sounding off.

I feel their pain, but they can’t say they weren’t warned.

The new 40 km/h zone on Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive – to make it safer for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and now scooter riders – were announced way back in March, and while the adjusted speed cameras were switched on on 21 June, fines were only issued from 5 July.

During the first 48 hours of operation during the grace period, the government reported that 5,000 drivers had flouted the speed limit and warned Canberrans to slow down going through the city.

This was despite the speed being clearly signposted before the cameras at the intersections of Northbourne Avenue with Barry Drive and London Circuit, and Barry Drive and Marcus Clarke Street.

READ MORE New Civic speed cameras 44-times more lucrative, Parton claims

By the time the grace period came to an end, about 20,000 had sped through, although they had not been sent a warning notice, something the NRMA criticised.

When the cameras went ‘live’, many drivers were still sailing through the intersections, seemingly unaware that the world had changed.

Almost 1,260 drivers were caught on the first day, and the three Civic cameras have been raking in $1.6 million a week in fines.

About 6,100 fines, which start at $260 and range up to $1830, are being issued by the cameras weekly, and those caught speeding by between 15 and 30 km/h face a $438 fine and incur three demerit points.

Proof, according to Canberra Liberals transport spokesperson Mark Parton, that the government’s failure to communicate had created a perverse outcome.

But how many announcements and media stories does it take?

Canberra drivers need to take responsibility. Lower speed limits in Canberra have been around since 2013. They have been gradually expanded to busy built-up areas that also have a lot of pedestrians.

Northbourne Avenue may be Canberra’s central boulevarde, but that doesn’t mean it should be excluded from the calmer traffic conditions, especially with light rail heading into City West where inevitably there will be more development and increased pedestrian, cycling and scooter traffic.

The evidence that lower speed limits reduce the impacts and deaths from collisions is irrefutable, and something magistrates have been telling speeding drivers since cars have been on the roads.

The government says research shows a 10 km/h decrease in speed can reduce the risk of death from approximately 80 per cent (50 km/h) to 30 per cent (40 km/h).

The point-to-point cameras on Hindmarsh Drive over Mt Mugga Mugga from Garran to Red Hill have successfully pacified a notorious and, at some times deadly raceway to the safe but perfectly reasonable 80 km/h speed limit.

READ ALSO Olympic-hopeful boxer who bashed strangers has ‘manifestly inadequate’ sentence dismissed

Speed limits change across Canberra, and drivers are expected to follow the signposted advice. Saying I didn’t see it or I forgot, does not wash.

The apparent mass ignorance in the city may reflect an increasingly distracted or disengaged populace, or in a city where the car is king, an expectation that you should be able to drive down a main road at a minimum of at least 60 km/h.

Cultural entitlement can be hard to shift, but the hip-pocket nerve is a good place to start.

Canberra, as it grows and becomes denser, needs to be people-friendly. A calmer traffic scene in the city will not only be safer but more appealing to the increasing number of people who will live there, and those working and recreating there.

A slightly slower run through the city will not add that much to a journey time, but it could mean the difference between life and death.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

This is a rather confusing policy. Apart from when in a designated pedestrian crossing, pedestrians should not be on the road, however in order to ‘protect’ them, vehicles are being requested to slow down ?

I don’t think anybody is questioning that vehicles don’t stop for traffic lights. If you don’t want pedestrians on a road, the accepted practice elsewhere is to build a fence to keep them off it.

Given there’s an example of fencing that directs pedestrians off the road on the corner just before the traffic camera, one can only presume that the motive for the camera is money raking.

I doubt the motive is money making, Maelinar, but even if it were, we shoot their motive down by not speeding. As I saw one poster quip “voluntary taxes”. Yes, you could build more fences like the one you mention, but there will still be idiot pedestrians who will climb it. Unfortunately drivers are being penalised in high pedestrian activity areas because of the stupidity of a number of pedestrians and in a battle between person and car, the car always wins.

I suspect this is less to do with cultural entitlement and more to do, at least southbound, with congestion across multiple sets traffic lights and then traffic lights going green together, allowing traffic to suddenly flow. You’re so eager to get through after stop / starting that you accelerate to get the lights and it’s very easy to be in a flow of traffic going 50km/h rather than 40km/h. If the traffic lights between Barry Drive and Alinga St were better aligned for traffic at rush hour then I wonder if the speed cameras here would be less lucrative?

I’d like to see their evidence. Is it a high accident zone?

limestonecowboy1:43 pm 08 Aug 21

It would be very interesting to see the comparative numbers, motor vehicles VS “vulnerable road users” My gut feel would be tens of thousands of motorists, if not hundreds of thousands, restricted for the benefit of a few hundred “vru’s”. Distracted pedestrians gawking at their phones should be subject to similar control. They are a hazard to themselves as well as other pedestrians and road users. This restriction will further clog the city area making it virtually impossible to navigate. It will discourage potential customers in these areas, I pity the retailers in the area, business will suffer. The place will be avoided like the plague.

Hi Ian,
I tend to agree with your views, but do think that the ACT Government have failed to consult sufficiently on what truly is a significant change for many people.

I am in favour of slower roads and think that it will reduce noise polution while making the streets safer for everyone. However, such a significant reduction in speed limit really should have been pre-empted with a complete overkill of a communications strategy to make any arguement with “you were warned” impossible.

There are several practical options available to achieve this level of awareness – Notifications in the newsletters, letterbox drops, text messages to vehicle owners, excessive temporary signage to name a few.

The staggering number of infringements resulting from the speed limit reduction show this camera to be an anomaly. I don’t think that is reflective of abnormal speeding in this location, it is due to peoples unawareness that they are breaking a law.

Hi, paulmuster. I have to confess I just can’t see your reasoning “I don’t think that is reflective of abnormal speeding in this location, it is due to peoples unawareness that they are breaking a law.” If someone drives past a speed limit sign and doesn’t see it, they are not concentrating. We are not talking about a sign that is obscured by the tree – it is clearly visible. The speed limit signs and cameras were there for a full two weeks before fines were actually issued, so anyone who “didn’t know” is either blind (query why they are still driving) or, as mentioned, not concentrating and both afflictions are dangerous. As for consultation? Do you also want a consultation period for every roadworks speed limit change – so people can get used to it. It’s about time people started taking responsibility for their own actions when they are in breach of the law and stopped looking for someone else to blame.

Interested in the justifcation for the point to point cameras over Hindmarsh Drive. I dont have a problem with enforcing speed limits, but why on this road?
To the best of my knowlege, there has been one fatal accident on the section of road between the cameras in the last many, many years. Students from a college coming sadly to grief.
Some solid reasoning for this installation would be appreciated.

The excuses/arguments being offered in response to this article would be hilarious if it were not for the fact that the posters are actually serious.
The picture at the head of the article (showing the sign across the road from Sydney Bldg) seems pretty clear and unambiguous to me. I’m not sure why anyone would need to be told in writing that they had exceeded the speed limit before an infingement is issued – especially when there has been so much publicity about reducing the speed limit in town centres to 40 kph.
Some have argued that the change is unnecessary. No matter what people might think there is an absolute here – it takes longer to stop a vehicle at 60 kph than 40 kph and, even though it is logical, there are any number of studies which prove this to be a fact. This Qld govt article – https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/road-safety/driving-safely/stopping-distances, reports that an average person (with reaction time of 1.5 secs) will travel 26 m on a dry road at 40 kph, after deciding to brake – whereas at 60 kph, that same person would travel 45 m. That extra 19 m travelled (and the consequential reduction in force of impact), is probably the difference between life and death for a pedestrian. And the cost of having that extra 19 m? The extra time it takes to travel the approx. 400m between Northbourne/Barry Drv and Northbourne/London Cct at 40kph instead of 60kph – which is 12 seconds. I for one am happy to sacrifice those 12 seconds, if it means I would not have to live with the consequences of accidentally killing or maiming a pedestrian (albeit because they were doing the wrong thing). Sometimes being in the right is no consolation.

This is a purely reductive argument. By your own logic, why not make the entire area 30km/hr or 20?

It’s only another 12 seconds more at 30km/hr after all to travel that 400m but the stopping time is reduced significantly.

Surely you wouldn’t want to put anyone else at risk by not supporting this move to go even lower?

As I said in my other post, 40 kph seems to be the universally accepted safe speed for pedestrian control, because it is used at school zones. School children are arguably the most vulnerable in traffic, so I’m satisfied that what’s seen to be good for them can work in the town centre areas.

So you’re clearly willing to endanger pedestrians and other road users by not accepting my proposal for 30km/hr speed limits. Why are you so reckless about road safety?

50kmhr speed limits were also previously unheard of. Are they now “universal” as well?

Honestly, you can’t possibly be trying to claim that there is something inherently or objectively “safer” about 40km/hr, it’s purely an arbitrary number that should be backed up by evidence, where applied. Comparing it to school zones as if young children are equal to adult pedestrians is just silly.

Its fine to say that you support the change because you believe it strikes the right balance. But don’t try and claim its somehow objectively or scientifically the correct number in these areas when no such evidence has been presented or even exists.

He didn’t say 40km/h was safe he stated it was safer than 60 and gave the reasons why.

End of the day it’s all about risk analysis. Someone had presumably done that and decided 40km/h is an acceptable risk and the consequences of accepting that risk are also acceptable.

Yes and I said 30km/hr was even safer and gave the reasons why.

“End of the day it’s all about risk analysis”

Exactly what I’ve been saying.

“Someone had presumably done that and decided 40km/h is an acceptable risk and the consequences of accepting that risk are also acceptable.”

Presumably hey? That sounds really convincing.

As I’ve repeatedly said, if a thorough analysis had been completed, then why haven’t the government released it? I haven’t found any supporting evidence for the change and no one has yet been able to link any.

Your blind faith in the government is admirable but some of us have a healthy scepticism of most government decisions. Which is why my entire commentary about this issue has been around providing the evidentiary basis for change. You might be OK believing whatever the government tells you. I’m not.

Actually Chewie, I’m going to make my position even easier for you to understand because I am not an expert in this area. I prefer to take the word of the people who have the expertise and are charged with providing advice to the government on these matters than the word of an unqualified poster on a blog, as such 40kph works for me. So by all means puff your chest out and pontificate about 30, 20 or even 10 kph speed limits but unless you can prove your expertise in this area I’m certainly not going to support any suggestion you make.
Actually, I have a couple of questions for you, Chewie. Why are you so opposed to the lowering of the speed limit to 40 kph, which has been a stated ACT policy in all high pedestrian areas in the various town centres? You have obviously sought an explanation from the appropriate authority, haven’t you? So what was their response?

Thanks for admitting you actually have little knowledge in the area, that is good. Although it makes your original comments lambasting others and the talk of simple “physics” seem a bit strange.

Also, I don’t you, you don’t know me. Calling others “unqualified” on an anonymous blog is fraught with danger, particularly in Canberra considering the nature of the town.

The arguments here should stand for themselves, regardless.

“Why are you so opposed to the lowering of the speed limit to 40 kph,”

Can you point out one post where I’ve actually opposed it? No. I’ve simply asked for the supporting evidence that justifies it.

“You have obviously sought an explanation from the appropriate authority, haven’t you?”

Yes. Meaningless platitudes around “safety” with no actual evidence provided being the response.

What was their response to you that has garnered such support?

I can answer your question grumpymark. He doesn’t like Labor. They could give him $1,00,000 and he would still complain about something.

OK Chewie, if you have some expertise in this area – qualifications, reearch, published papers by all means put it up. Otherwise my comment re an unqualified poster stands. My use of physics was to explain why I (emphasis I) choose to accept the 40kph limit that has been set. You are the one who tried to then turn it into a debate about at what level the speed limit should be set. I have ‘lambasted’ ( your word – I’d say disagreed, but an irrelevant digression) others who have talked about the unfairness of being fined for breaking the law. Anyone is entitled to disagree with the government’s decision as long as they comply with it – or pay the appropriate fine. Oh and re “their response to you”, why would I seek clarification from the relevant authority on something with which I am happy to comply?

You said you’d take the word of people who have the expertise so I assumed you must have talked to them to see their qualifications, research and papers before agreeing with them right?

Silly me, you only apply that level of rigour for online posters apparently.

As above, you’re welcome to your blind faith in government decisions, I’ll maintain a healthy scepticism. Particularly when zero supporting evidence is provided.

Not even remotely correct, although I can understand why someone who worships the ALP might take my objective criticism the wrong way.

While you don’t like it, Chewie, these people (and no I haven’t checked their qualifications) are charged with the responsibility, and given the authority, to determine the speed limits in the ACT. (I know you will jump on this, but I assume those who selected these people for their roles, checked their qualifications. Oh by the way, you will catch me out agai, as I haven’t asked to see my doctor’s qualifications). So, be a skeptic – just obey the law and stick to the speed limit or please, oh please, follow your skepticism and do what speed you think is correct – all donations gratefully accepted by the ACT government. Meanwhile the lemmings amongst us will obey the speed limits and remain fine free.

You will be pleased to know that your mockery of my acceptance of the 40 kph limit in the zone, which I now like to refer to as “Chewy’s Strip”, gave me pause to consider why it is that speed. To jog your memory, you posted “Honestly, you can’t possibly be trying to claim that there is something inherently or objectively “safer” about 40km/hr, it’s purely an arbitrary number that should be backed up by evidence, where applied.”
So, I googled “research into 40 kph speed for high pedestrian traffic areas”.
This report (https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/downloads/evaluation-40kmh-speed-limits.pdf) entitled “Evaluation of 40 km/h Speed Limits” was prepared in 2017, for the NSW government’s Centre for Road Safety Transport, by Martin Small Consulting (http://martinsmallconsulting.com) – a South Australian company specialising in road safety and regulatory management consultancy, whose portfolio of clients and projects (http://martinsmallconsulting.com/portfolio) will, I trust, satisfy even your healthy skepticism.
One thing that I found to be very informative is a graphic (Figure 1) on page 14, which depicts the pedestrian fatality risk at different impact speeds. I noted that at 60 kph, there is an 85% chance of death. At 40 kph the chance of death reduces to 25%. (Quite a substantial reduction – which may account for the ‘platitudes around safety’ you received from the ACT authorities). I also, saw that at 30 kph (the speed limit, the report states, most leading European jurisdictions have adopted for high pedestrian traffic areas) the chance of death was reduced to 10%. So, although you were being sarcastic when you suggested the speed limit should be 30 kph, now that I’ve seen this evidence, I think you should go back to the ACT authorities and argue for a further reduction of the limit on Chewy’s Strip to 30 kph.

I wasn’t being sarcastic in the slightest with the commentary around 30km/hr or even lower.

Of course making the speed limit lower will be safer, the point being that this needs to be balanced against the road functionality and other potential risk reduction measures that could be put in place.

And if you think a speed limit should be changed, it should be done so on the actual evidence and data for that area.

Although now that you’ve seen how we could make the area even safer, you’ll clearly be on board for my new push to have a person walking in front of cars with a flag to reduce the risk of pedestrians unwittingly throwing themselves under a vehicle in the area. You know it makes sense, we need to drive those deaths and injuries down to zero.

The first recorded road incident with cars is when a car hit the person with a red flag!

I see the moderator didn’t like my reponse to your flag suggestion, Chewy … probably a fair call.
You’ve never managed a project have you? In project management there is a risk register and an issues register, the former being a list of identified potential occurrences which can cause harm to the project and the latter being a list of actual occurrences. Simplistically, one of the Project Manager’s jobs is to identify risks, classify them based on likelihood (of the risk occurring) and the consequence (should the risk occur). Then they identify how to mitigate those risks – i.e. avoid it, accept it, transfer it or limit it, So, I think the persion responsible for the ACT’s Vision Zero (no deaths or serious injuries on the road transport network) has engaged a person or a team to undertake risk analysis for high pedestrian traffic areas in the jurisdiction. After receiving the risk analysis (and possibly recommendation), that authorised person has chosen to mitigate the risk of death/major trauma (remember, it’s a risk, so it hasn’t happened yet) by limiting said risk. They did so, by reducing the speed limit from 60 kph (85% chance of death) to 40 kph (25% chance of death). Now, I’m sorry that the deaths and/or major traumas you require to convince you don’t exist as issues. It doesn’t matter, because it’s irrelevant whether or not you agree with the decision to change the speed limit, because it’s happened. Now what I said I think happened, could be pure fantasy – I’m sure that’ll be your stance. So why don’t you put in an FOI request to get every document related to the decision to change the speed limit in the high pedestrian traffic areas and then you can report back on your findings.

PS No, Chewy, I won’t contribute to a ‘Go fund me’ campaign to raise the money to finance the FOI request, however, I’m sure there are plenty of RiotACT-ers who will finance your cause.

Ian John Norris1:30 pm 06 Aug 21

While I agree that the Civic area needed reduced speed limits, why is it that it’s always the drivers being made to suffer? Isn’t it about time that pedestrians and cyclist were held accountable for their actions? Far too much emphasis to drive carefully is directed at the drivers while the so called “vulnerable” can wander / cycle around with their heads in the clouds, or worse, in their mobile phones. What ever happened to owning your responsibilities? What happened to pedestrians being charged for “J” walking? Why are we expected to tolerate pedestrians who walk straight across a road WITHOUT looking, while they’re engrossed in their mobile phone?
You only need to sit back and watch all the near misses in the Civic Bus Interchange, as pedestrians walk out in front of a 12 to 15 tonne bus, without looking! No 40 kph zone is going to stop pedestrian STUPIDITY!

Think you answered your own question in the last sentence. No 40km/h zone will stop stupidity, but what it will do is reduce the damage.

For the most part I am of the school of thought if people are that stupid then they get what the deserve, but since having kids it is obvious that what as an adult I think is common sense is not something young kids would consider to be common sense. So yes we do need to cater for the lowest common denominator.

From And the near misses in the interchange are not fatalities, Ian John Norris, because a) the buses are doing under 40 kph and b) the bus drivers are aware of the conditions (i.e. stupid pedestrians) and ready to react to the unexpected – it’s called proactive driving

DucatiMonsterAu8:06 am 07 Aug 21

Rubbish JC. I walked to school every day of my school life,crossing many roads,and was taught in school and at home from an early age on how to cross the road safely. If your kids are crossing the road without an adult they show know how by then.

Why don’t they put in speed bumps. That will force everyone to slow down to 40.

There are no excuses because this is what was voted for. Many people that are being fined for this had probably voted for these inner-Canberra traffic slow downs. It had been what The Greens had been advocating for some years now.

It would have been fair, that if you’re going to change something that has been in place for decades, make it obvious, and at least let breachers know – no point having a grace period without any grace notification.
Speeding might be wrong, and inexcusable, but if so many are getting it wrong, something(s) is(are) clearly wrong. e.g. perhaps it’s the wrong limit for the location, initially signage was patchy due to construction sights, and other works, speed reduction signs should be bigger.
Write it on the road (oh, and maintain the paint whilst you’re at it) – it’s been done elsewhere in city.
Rather than just rhetoric, I’d like to see a real tangible public review – e.g. accident rate before and after (including vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to vulnerable road user), etc, etc. Facts don’t lie, idealism isn’t truth … but this government rarely relies on facts (e.g. the red trainset).

They did make it obvious with great whopping electronic signs weeks before and after the change.

I see your point however that during the grade period infringement notices as warnings maybe should have been issued.

That said speed limits vary all the time (thinking roadworks) and it’s up to drivers to be aware of what the limit is not what it might have been 6 months ago and expect it to be the same today.

Absolutely, JC, in the end it is the responsibility of all drivers to adjust to the driving conditions at the time, be it weather, road works or changed speed limits.

Speed limits may vary all the time – indeed the ACT Gov makes a habit of it because some motorists can’t read the ‘signs’ (i.e. hazards) and adjust their speed accordingly … but clearly something’s amiss if a substantial number of people, the average Joe/Jill miss it, including the whopping signs (most of which tell us to do something obvious like wear a seatbelt, or wash our hands), anyway. To my mind, that’s the issue – lots of normal people missed something.
Perhaps the motorists were watching the traffic and pedestrians instead of the signs, or negotiating potholes, or dodging the out of alignment gutters at the various intersections, etc?

… or perhaps they just thought it was Target advertising a 40% off sale, JC1? You suggest something is wrong if the “… average Joe/Jill miss it …”. I don’t know about others, but I travel along that stretch infrequently. One time I’m driving there and the speed limit is 60 kph – the next time (shock, horror) I see a 40 kph spped limit sign – I took the simple option and obeyed the law and, as expected, have not received a fine. I wasn’t aware that there was a ‘period of grace’, but I had heard that it was their to intention lower the speed limit in town centre areas (as I’d already seen in Tuggeranong). Nevertheless whether I knew it was coming or not is irrelevant – I saw a change in driving conditions (in this case changed speed limit) and reacted accordingly. The signage is quite prominent (and there’s not even a Dominos sign obscuring it!).

“The government says research shows a 10 km/h decrease in speed can reduce the risk of death from approximately 80 per cent (50 km/h) to 30 per cent (40 km/h).”

The research also shows that reducing speed limits to zero reduces vehicle/road related deaths and injuries by 100%.

So clearly Ian, you’re on board with the obvious solution of banning cars entirely as a road safety measure. Or would you admit that it’s perhaps a little more complex than that?

Seeing as this area is clearly such a hotbed of road deaths and injuries, perhaps you can link the government research showing the dangers in this area and how the specific changes are designed to lower them.

How many injuries have been caused recently to pedestrians and riders by the government’s favoured eScooter’s that are whizzing around the city these days? Hmmm, perhaps safety isn’t as much of a priority as they claim.

I’d be interested to know how many deaths and injuries you believe would be sufficient, Chewy14, to justify the introduction of the reduced speed limit in Civic?

I’d like to know how many deaths and injuries you believe would be enough to lower the speed limit further than 40km/hr? It would clearly be safer correct?

If we’re playing silly strawman arguments, you go first.

Although perhaps you might have the information I’ve been asking about showing the government’s evidentiary basis to lower these limits here. No one else does.

I have no idea what you are talking about. You sarcastically raised “the hotbed of road deaths and injuries” in the area in challenging the rationale for the lowering of the speed limit. I merely asked you to quantify what levels you needed to satisfy you. You asked for the evidentiary basis for lowering the limits. Do you understand basic physics and the principle of deceleration of a single object at various speeds? Surely that’s the only evidence needed? As for lowering the limits further? It would seem that 40 kph is the universal safe speed identified around Australia. I think if it’s a good enough speed restriction to protect school kids, it’s a good enough speed to protect errant pedestrians in town centre areas.

Yes I raised the issue of injuries and deaths because why else would you be changing speed limits other than because there was a risk that had been identified through data.

Speed limits by themselves aren’t good or bad, they are an arbitrary balance of road functionality and safety.

Your comment is meaningless because as I’ve pointed out, why not just make it even lower? If you understand physics as you say, 30km/hr is even safer. 20km/hr would be even better.

There is nothing remotely universal or innately safer around applying 40km/hr. That’s pure circular logic.

40km/hr is good because 40km/hr is used isn’t evidence or a logical argument.

Chewie, see my other comment

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.