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Roadwork Speed Zones Increasingly Pointless

MatthewOfCanberra 18 July 2010 28

Something really ought to be done about the way 40km/hr signs are deployed around roadworks in the ACT.   It isn’t working, and it’s annoying road-users.

A recent informal poll at my workplace suggested that everybody agrees that road workers need to be protected, and that 40 km/hr signs are right and proper when they are actually next to roadworks.  But pretty much everyone thinks they way they’re being used in the ACT is ridiculous, and the general view is that they don’t work.

In the ACT, 40 zones are being deployed when it just isn’t necessary – when there is no danger to drivers or workers (or even, as has recently been the case along Belconnen way, when there are no workers present at all).  Over the years, I have actually seen 40 zones put up a fortnight before any roadworks began, and not taken down for a fortnight after they were complete (Northborne avenue. 1999/2000).   The signs are sometimes placed up to a hundred meters before and after the roadworks.  Why?  What possible purpose does that serve?  If people are going to speed, they’ll speed no matter far out the signs are.  How about just putting the signs next to the roadworks?

The problem is that road users aren’t buying it.  They might as well have 60  km/hr signs on the current Belconnen way roadworks, because that’s how fast the traffic moves on weekdays.  If that’s a danger to workers, then the current approach is failing them.

Part of the problem is that the zones (at least leading in and out of Belconnen) are not being enforced properly.  Nobody believes they’re going to get caught, and they’re basically right.

A more serious problem (I believe) is that drivers feel like they’re being treated like mugs.  The signs don’t realistically consider the road conditions and they apply when no work is under way at all.   And I don’t just mean during particular hours of the day – there was a 40 zone beneath an overpass at Glenloch/GDE for several weeks while all work had quite obviously halted and there was no risk to anybody.  Nobody is going to obey that sort of silliness forever and, after a couple of weeks of ignoring the signs, drivers simply kept ignoring them when work resumed.  Total benefit to road workers – nil.   And steadily making the zones longer is no solution either – it just compounds the problem and actively encourages drivers to ignore the signs and use their own judgment.

I think we can do better.  If speed zones really do protect road workers, then we really ought to do better.  Here’s my suggestion:

(1) Start putting up sensible speed zones.  Don’t stretch them out over kilometers if the work is only happening in a small section.  If 80 is too fast because a lane is closed but there’s no actual work going on, then consider a 60 zone.  Don’t just whack 40 signs from Belconnen to Braddon to protect the witches’ hats or some machinery parked next to black mountain CSIRO.   Road users just aren’t that silly.  Ideally, I’d like to see drivers be allowed to use their judgment – perhaps allow them to do 60 in the zone, but slow down to 40 when passing any people.  It’s basically what drivers are now doing anyway.

(2) Start properly enforcing the speed zones.   If the people setting out the signs started being reasonable, I doubt many would protest if police really threw the book at drivers who ignore them.   Put in place a sensible set of rules and put a radar camera on every works site.  Lets start protecting the workers and respecting road users.

Disclaimer: I have never received a ticket for speeding in a roadwork zone.


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28 Responses to Roadwork Speed Zones Increasingly Pointless
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Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:54 am 20 Jul 10

The setp at the hospital was interesting recently. Between the hospital construction, the slip lane works on Hindmarsh and the bridge work near Mawson, the signs went 80 > 60 > 40 > 80 > 60 > 40 > 80 > 60 > 40 > 80. Was tempted to pull over to get a pic on my phone of the ’40’, ‘END ROADWORK’, ’80’, ‘ROADWORK AHEAD, ’60’ and ‘ROADWORK 40’ signs within 20m of one another just before the A&E turnoff southbound. I guess each crew is responsible for setting up signs at the start and end of their works and it just turned out they more or less joined up, but not quite.

My trip computer says our average speed over the last 6000-odd km of driving in Canberra has been a whopping 44.2km/h, so can’t say 40 zones bother me much.

Ceej1973 Ceej1973 12:13 am 20 Jul 10

And I suppose, if they were to change the speed limit after hours to 60/80/100km/hr and you were to drive into that ditch that the workers have been constructing, you would go straight to the insurance company and claim for damages, citing that the road is dangerous. You and the majorities assume that speed limits in construction zones are solely for the protection of workers and thier assets. I have worked with Workcover and alongside Dept.of ACT Roads, and yes ACT Roads do accept a lot of stupid TTM’s from Civil Constructors, but you should be rest assured, that speed limits are there for the workers and you!

MatthewOfCanberra MatthewOfCanberra 8:29 pm 19 Jul 10

To all those good folks who say “just live with it”, I think you’re missing my point.

The issue isn’t whether I speed, or whether you speed. It’s whether the majority of road users pay attention to speed signs when it’s really important – and I think the answer is basically no. Stand alongside the black mountain 40 km/hr zone on Belconnen way tomorrow with a radar gun and you’ll discover that most people are doing 60, whether or not anyone’s working. That’s the problem .

I absolutely agree with you all that lower speed limits are sometimes appropriate – particularly when there are people working beside the road. It’s not just dangerous to speed past them – it’s also downright rude and inconsiderate. That second reason is why I don’t do it.

The problem, as I see it, is that people are becoming so accustomed to seeing ridiculous 40km/hr zones that they’ve tuned out – and when they actually SHOULD be doing 40, they’re not.

darkmilk – that might be true, but you won’t see 40km/hr signs on Cross road next to Myrtle Bank because somebody’s digging a hole at the Unley rd intersection. That’s the current situation on Barry drive/Belconnen way.

Power Protect – you’re right, there are hypothetical reasons why the speed limit should be lowered. But once the signs are placed, it’s not hypothetical. Drivers will be able to clearly see when they’re being treated like mugs (which is quite a lot) and drive accordingly. My suggestion is to NOT treat them like mugs, and (really) demand appropriate behavior in return. I think most road users would applaud that.

Anyhey, I hope those 40 signs aren’t really important, and I hope that driving at 60 past workers on Barry drive (and I don’t do that) doesn’t put them at risk. Because that’s what people do. “No change” is a continuation of an obvious policy failure.

Matt 😉

astrojax astrojax 1:44 pm 19 Jul 10

nicnacvb said :

They are called “fake roadworks”.

Has anyone ever been to the coast without encountering “fake roadworks”? There is always at least one section where the speed limit has been reduced to 40km/h unnecessarily. The “road works” are deserted and look like they have been for months.

Those of you who say its only a small inconvenience, can you honestly say you always slow down to 40km/h on a stretch of road that’s usually 100km/h on a Friday night when the road works are deserted?

I’d be very sceptical of anyone who did.

ok, be skeptical of me then…

To sum up: If you sit up my ass while I am doing the posted speed limit, I will keep slowing down until you back off.

+1 🙂 have been known to ease down to near 20kmh for idiot tailgaters who seem to think it a right they can speed on the same public roads i and my family use.

actually, another offence under the motor traffic regulations often committed through these zones (and elsewhere, for that matter – often coming off round-a-bouts) is crossing an unbroken lane line. if the lane marking next to you is unbroken (ie solid) DON’T cross it. sheesh. so many drivers who should be handing back their licence.

but tailgating is a more serious issue than road work zone speedsters…

astrojax astrojax 1:40 pm 19 Jul 10

To sum up: If you sit up my ass while I am doing the posted speed limit, I will keep slowing down until you back off.</i?

+1 😉 have been known to ease to as low as 20kmh to annoy tailgaters, then speed up through where the limit stops applying and see them miles behind – like it would have made them a difference.

another breach of the motor traffic regs one sees in these zones too often is the crossing of an unbroken lane line. unbroken (ie solid) dividing line to your lane means DON'T cross it. so many people ought to be handing back their licence…

actually, tailgating is a much more significant problem than roadworks speedsters…

Sgt.Bungers Sgt.Bungers 12:46 pm 19 Jul 10

It’s the boy who cried wolf concept. Reduce the limit too often when it’s not needed and people will eventually dismiss the limit altogether… only to find that one day a slower speed was actually needed. However in this case, it is the villagers (motor vehicle operators) who are penalised if they ignore the wolf crying of the silly young shepherd (ACT gubbinment and their contractors)

Wherever possible, roadwork zones should be returned to within 20km/h of the usual limit for that stretch of road when the workers have packed up for the day.

Reduce complacency when it comes to setting speed limits and you’ll reduce complacency among the drivers/riders who must obey them.

Thoroughly Smashed Thoroughly Smashed 11:57 am 19 Jul 10
nicnacvb nicnacvb 11:56 am 19 Jul 10

They are called “fake roadworks”.

Has anyone ever been to the coast without encountering “fake roadworks”? There is always at least one section where the speed limit has been reduced to 40km/h unnecessarily. The “road works” are deserted and look like they have been for months.

Those of you who say its only a small inconvenience, can you honestly say you always slow down to 40km/h on a stretch of road that’s usually 100km/h on a Friday night when the road works are deserted?

I’d be very sceptical of anyone who did.

rb rb 11:21 am 19 Jul 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

While I find the number of 40 K zones annoying, I find them annoying for a different reason. I find them annoying for the number of lead footed idiots who sit up the rear end of my car as I drive at 40ks. Then the number of idiots who try overtake me as we’re supposed to be merging lanes, almost resulting in accidents.

This has been discussed before, and only recently too. The fact is, driving at 20 km less than 60 even over a 1km distance will only delay you by about half a minute. At 60 km an hour, it should take you 1 minute to cover 1 km. At 40 km/h it will take you 1 minute 30 seconds to cover a kilometre. Wow, with that extra 30 seconds you could have achived ….err nothing.

While I do agree some of the road works in this town seem insane, reallly there are better things to complain about. Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

Totally Agree with everything you said.

While I don’t think all of the 40kmh speed zones are neccesary, I definately dont want a speeding fine.

To sum up: If you sit up my ass while I am doing the posted speed limit, I will keep slowing down until you back off.

luther_bendross luther_bendross 10:01 am 19 Jul 10

Ah, roadworks. Here’s an idea: if you’ve got a problem with the way the speeds are set up, talk to someone other than the faceless internet (i.e. government, the contractors etc). Then when you encounter these roadworks (that you don’t agree with), OBEY THE FREAKING LIMIT! It’s not a guide, it’s a freaking law! We all get on here and look down our noses at “all those terrible Canberra drivers”, but we are those Canberra drivers, and we can drive safely. If safely means driving slowly past someone’s place of work, then I’ll continue to drive safely, and I’m not getting out of your way if you want to go 90km/h.

JessP JessP 10:00 am 19 Jul 10

How about the works on Barry Drive? The bit from Macquarie Ave down have been completed for WEEKS. It is now only the last 100metres or so of the bike track to be finished. But the whole bleeding trip is at reduced speeds (60 then 40kmh) and much of the bus lane has been closed the whole time.

Surely the reduced speed zone could be shortened and the bus lane opened? This has been going on for months…..

Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 9:24 am 19 Jul 10

Strongly agree with the OP. This is not just a Canberra thing. So often you see roadworks signs where no work is being conducted and there is no reason for the signs to be there; or you will see the signs temporarily covered up and be unsure whether there are works or not. I’m not saying we should all speed through roadworks but familiarity breeds contempt.

Alan Shore Alan Shore 8:33 am 19 Jul 10

Agree with everying OP says. But I have the additional niggle of 40km roadwork zones that never seem to end, or zones that end without ever having advised me that they’d begun. Particularly on the Parkes Way – William Hovell run, and along Ginninderra Drive, I’m just very rarely in a position to know when to drive 40 and when to drive faster. And I believe I’ve been paying close attention. Either there are signs missing, or the signposting is truly terrible.

Slashor Slashor 9:45 pm 18 Jul 10

I would concur with the sentiment of the OP. I personally drive the speed limit to annoy other road users. (Strange that driving it should do that though). Sometimes it is rather ridiculous how far out the speed zone change is and more so after it.

I think people would be far more likely to drive the limit if they were put closer to the road works and were only up for the duration of the need. If it is nighttime and the danger posed is no longer there then they should be removed or perhaps the limit increased.

buzz819 buzz819 9:13 pm 18 Jul 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

While I find the number of 40 K zones annoying, I find them annoying for a different reason. I find them annoying for the number of lead footed idiots who sit up the rear end of my car as I drive at 40ks. Then the number of idiots who try overtake me as we’re supposed to be merging lanes, almost resulting in accidents.

This has been discussed before, and only recently too. The fact is, driving at 20 km less than 60 even over a 1km distance will only delay you by about half a minute. At 60 km an hour, it should take you 1 minute to cover 1 km. At 40 km/h it will take you 1 minute 30 seconds to cover a kilometre. Wow, with that extra 30 seconds you could have achived ….err nothing.

While I do agree some of the road works in this town seem insane, reallly there are better things to complain about. Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

Yes, but you are still getting there faster yeah? Even if it is only 30 seconds….

bd84 bd84 8:47 pm 18 Jul 10

There a few issues here, one is that there seems to be no or little control or training for contractors using speed limit signs. A good example is the Tuggeranong Parkway where the roadworks zone are announced with no prior warning just sticking up 80kph roadworks signs, 50m later it changes to 60kph and 10m later it changes to 40kph. Then they forget to take down or cover the reduced speed limits signs when there is no roadworks, danger to workers, or dangerous road conditions.

Of course there is the idiot drivers, a great example were I came accross a couple of cars (one was a taxi) doing 90kph in clear traffic along the parkway, overtake them, a couple of kms later at the roadworks they’re still doing the 90kph flashing headlights and cutting in front of drivers obeying the roadworks speed limits. You can’t beat the morons on the road in this city..

It’s no surprise about the lack of enforcement, the roadworks zones are just as well patrolled as the rest of our roads..

darkmilk darkmilk 8:05 pm 18 Jul 10

Be glad it’s 40, in South Australia it’s 25 km/h !

lobster lobster 6:33 pm 18 Jul 10

If it’s an 80 zone like out the front of Russel, then then it should be 40 when workers are present next to the road and 60 when there is work going on near by that might affect the road.

Finces should be enforced for breaking the spead limits – BUT fines should also be enforced for unneccesary speed limits to the people who are putting them up. That way, there should only be road works speed limits that are neccesary.

that way, you don’t get traffic flowing really slowly for no reason and you also get traffic flowing at the speed limit as well.

Also. I am glas that they got the untrue machine that said what speed you were doing out the front of russell.It used to sya I was going up to 20kmh faster than I was acutally travelling. Checked against my speedo and my co workers speedo and on two different GPS systems and it was worng.

WillowJim WillowJim 6:12 pm 18 Jul 10

Do you really find it that hard to stick at, say, between 40 and 50km/h over a few kilometres? Why?

Regardless of whether workers are present, the speed limits are reduced because changes to the driving conditions – things like narrower lanes, narrower road shoulders, the lack of gutters or the lack of safety rails – change the margin of error for when things go wrong. These are the issues that are considered in detail when speed limits are applied.

Yes, many drivers ignore these speed limits. That doesn’t mean we all should; it just means they’re not being sufficiently enforced.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 5:34 pm 18 Jul 10

UrbanAdventure.org said :

Also, if it saves a life, then I’m happy to drive at 40.

A very good point. I wonder how many deaths there are in accidents that don’t involve pedestrians where speeds are below 60?

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