I almost let the one slip past – meaning to post last week but only just remembering it last night. I just have to comment though when something like this ends up in the NZ Herald’s “Ask Phoebe” column:
Can you please tell me who sets the speed limits on our roads in New Zealand and what criteria are used for determining these limits?
Generally, we have one limit of 50km/h on all urban roads, regardless of whether that road is a main road or a side-street. Compared to Australia, for instance, where the limit is 60km/h on main roads and 50km/h on routes carrying less traffic, our somewhat sedate limit of 50km/h seems unnecessarily restrictive.
For instance, East Coast Rd between Pinehill and Northcross is an incredibly wide road with footpaths set well back from the kerb offering unobstructed visibility in both directions, and it has a 50km/h limit. Not surprisingly, there is a speed camera located at the middle of that stretch, which is the second highest revenue-earning fixed camera location in Auckland. In any other developed country the limit would likely be 70 or 80km/h.
Geez where to start? Let’s just consider pedestrian safety for a moment, if you get hit by a car braking from 50 kph you’ve got a decent chance of surviving. If you get hit by a car doing 60 kph or more, even if it brakes your chances are dramatically lower.
Now let’s consider urban amenity. The faster the speed of traffic is along the route the noisier it is and the more that road severs the community it passes through. I had thought that Auckland was trying desperately to see its streets and roads as more than just a pipe for cars, but for their place-making values. Higher speeds is perhaps the most detrimental thing you could do to a street’s place-making function.
How about cyclists? Oh yeah I’m sure cyclists will feel just as safe along a 70-80 kph road as they would along that road with a 50 kph speed limit. The wider stretches of East Coast Road include on-street cycle-lanes of the green paint variety, meaning that people using them are definitely not shielded from the traffic.
Every other developed world country would NOT make an arterial route like East Coast Road into a 70-80 kph road. Most cities are trying to get away from this obsession about “everything to make the car go just that little bit faster”. We’re the outlier here in Auckland in terms of our continued obsession with building more road, yet even we aren’t stupid enough to be turning too many more (now that Manukau City Council has thankfully been disbanded) arterial roads into defacto motorways.
What on earth was Phoebe thinking?
Update: It seems that some of what I had thought was Phoebe’s answer was actually part of the question. Thanks to Andrew for pointing this out and apologies to Phoebe.