I had my first drive in Auckland city today since the ‘Safe Speeds’ program was enforced, dropping the maximum speed from 50km/h to 30km/h. I thought I’d try Queen Street to see what that looked like now. Lots of empty shops, lots of people on rental scooters, many buses, and a moderate number of warmly dressed pedestrians.
It took me 25 minutes to drive from top to bottom, but that was because of traffic light phasing, not the speed zone. I have to say pedestrians get a great run and of course, they are trying to discourage cars. Mission accomplished, I won’t be driving down Queen Street again in a hurry.
Then I turned onto Fanshaw Street and it reminded me of when the North Western Motorway north of the Waterview Tunnel was 80km/h and, observing the speed limit, I was the slowest car on the motorway.
The AT Metro bus in front of me ignored the 30km/h zone and sped off at around 50km/h leaving me in its wake, to observe the legal speed limit. Several other drivers, frustrated at sitting behind me, went for the gaps to get past, giving me dirty looks in the process, for holding them up. I wasn’t going to risk a speeding ticket for doing 20km/h over the speed limit, although there wasn’t a cop in sight.
The intention of the speed change which covers more than 600 roads in Auckland, is to save lives. I’m interested to know if it is reducing the number of injury accidents and deaths, because the way people were cutting and diving around me, I would have thought that the risk for pedestrians, cyclists and people on scooters has increased.
I noted that Barney Irvine of NZ Automobile Association predicted what I experienced today on Stuff late last year. “The theme that comes through really clearly is that people don’t think the changes make sense. If people don’t see a speed limit as credible, they are unlikely to stick to it; and where compliance is low, you don’t get the safety benefits – all you get is higher numbers of infringements. That all adds up to a really poor road safety outcome.”
If you want all the details, you can find the 156 page report from Auckland Transport here, along with a cool video and some interesting statistics. I do have a question about the statistics. They talk about 54 deaths on Auckland roads in 2018, which is terrible, and 595 serious injuries. My question is, how many of those were on the roads which have been reduced from 50km/h to 30km/h?