8 May 2023

Pedal Power's planted the seed for glacial speed limits (but it's a wheelie bad idea)

| Ross Solly
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The government is pushing people to EVs, but the benefits of cycling are greater. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

When I was younger, I admit I had a bit of a ‘lead foot’.

In fact, I think by modern standards, I would have been considered a bit of a menace on the roads.

It’s not that I was a bad driver. I’ve never had an accident (touch wood), nor have I ever caused one. But I did drive too fast on occasions, and of that, I am certainly not proud.

I grew up in the bush, with lots of open roads and drove a V8 ute. A sure speed-demon cocktail.

Contrast that with me behind the wheel today, a real cranky pants ranting at hoons who tear along motorways and freeways with reckless abandon. Only occasionally do I remind myself what a hypocrite I have become.

Suburban streets are a different matter.

I’ve always been careful in the cities and towns, usually travelling just below the designated speed limit. I think when you have children or pets of your own, you learn to become a little more careful and a little more patient.

READ MORE Pedal Power’s bid for 30 km/h speed limits laid out in Budget submission

There is a push underway from Pedal Power ACT to reduce the speed limit on Canberra’s suburban streets to just 30 km/h. When I heard about this, I went out later that same day and drove my car at 30 km/h.

My God, it’s slow! Very safe for pedestrians, wayward kids and unrestrained pets but, my goodness, it’s painful.

So I did some research to find out what speed limits other countries set in their town centres.

Most have settled on 50 km/h, including France, Germany, India, Singapore and Indonesia.

A handful have higher speed limits; some, like Belgium and Canada, even have streets with 20 km/h speed limits. Thailand has a metropolitan speed limit ranging between 60 and 80 km/h (anyone who has ever driven in Thailand will tell you, that’s a bit of a joke considering how their cities almost always resemble a giant car park).

Pedal Power argues in its submission to the ACT budget that many European cities have introduced lower speed limits and are reporting positive results. It also argues lowering speed limits is a recommendation of the World Health Organisation.

To help keep speeds down, Pedal Power suggested using planter boxes and other methods to make driving a car more difficult.

In a surprising moment of honesty, the cycling lobby group conceded it would be highly unlikely the ACT Government would even consider dragging the speed limits down. But if they can plant the seed, maybe somewhere down the track …

READ ALSO Celebrating Mother’s Day with pets around? Here’s what RSPCA ACT wants you to know

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, himself a very keen cyclist, said he would prefer the focus be on improving cycling infrastructure. He suggested rather than lowering speed limits, “let’s just all be kind to each other on the roads, make space for everybody”.

What many European cities are doing now is improving conditions for cyclists. Better paths, more lighting, more opportunities to rent. A lot of focus of the ACT Government lately has been getting people into electric cars, which is very worthy, but cycling provides so many more benefits, not just for individuals but for communities generally.

The government would do well to ensure cyclists are given many incentives to get on the roads.

Asking motorists to drive at 30 km/h might just have the opposite effect and could lead to more road rage, and that’s not good for anyone.

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Why does a Lobby Group, seem to have some much Sway, Yes its good to Ride, but lets be Sensible, 50kmh is a fine we can live with that,

Capital Retro4:46 pm 13 May 23

If Voltaire was alive today he would say this about Pedal Power elitists: ““I may disagree with you, but I defend to the death your right to take on a car”.

Jeff Cumpston11:13 am 15 May 23

What is elitist about cycling? It’s cheaper than driving

Pedal Power was the lobby group behind those ridiculous ‘Covid is Clockwise’ signs, telling people which way to walk around the lake.

For crying out loud! Why is there so much anti-cyclist attitude in this country?

Roger Shelton12:18 am 11 May 23

Was not this the group who campaigned for (and got) bike racks on the front of ACTION buses, despite the risks to pedestrians in any impact, and contrary to safe vehicle design principles? Hard to give them much credibilty in matters of general road safety.

Itsumishi The Wonder Canned Tuna2:13 pm 10 May 23

This article simply isn’t accurate. France, Germany, Singapore and Indonesia have default urban speed limits of 50km/h (ie if no signs are in place) but there are plenty of roads and areas signposted for lower limits within each country (eg most of Paris has a 30km/h limit, “Silver Zones” which are suburbs with high rates of elderly people in Singapore, lots of urban areas of Germany…). Each country has been trending towards more lower speed limits over decades.

I’m not aware of limits below 50km/h in India, but given India is famous for some of the most dangerous roads in the world I’m not sure they’re a country anyone should be pointing to for why we shouldn’t have safe speed limits in Australia.

I’m sure this would even upset many cyclist who ride much faster than 30kph!

ChrisinTurner1:45 pm 10 May 23

Most residential streets in Europe have a 30km/hr speed limit. In Germany some residential cul-de-sacs have 10km/hr and are called ‘play streets’. There is unfortunately good reason most Canberra parents won’t allow their children to ride their bikes to school. 30km/hr will also eliminate rat-running through our suburbs.

What a load of rubbish, most schools are to far for kids to ride there bikes, and most parents won’t like them ride to school because of the dangerous would e live in

What a load of rubbish, most schools are to far for kids to ride there bikes, and most parents won’t like them ride to school because of the dangerous would live in

Itsumishi The Wonder Canned Tuna2:24 pm 11 May 23

Why are the bike lockers at both my kids schools overflowing with bikes every day? It’s the same across most inner middle ring and inner suburbs across Melbourne.

No mention of the Netherlands where it is fairly common. But roads as they are designed now shouldn’t just be switched to 30, you’re right, nobody would follow that. But when they have to be resurfaced, perhaps some should be redesigned to make them more comfortable for people outside of cars (narrower, more traffic calming) and only then have the speed limits reduced.

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