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Government to reverse safer speed limits

Hibiscus Coast App

Staff Reporter

21 June 2024, 9:23 PM

Government to reverse safer speed limitsSafer speeds around schools under threat

In a controversial move, Transport Minister Simeon Brown has announced plans to reverse safer speed limits, particularly around school zones, citing a shift towards smaller safety zones and reduced timeframes.

Under the new rules, a mere 150-meter radius around school gates will enforce a 30 km/hr speed limit strictly between 8:00-9:30 am and 2:30-4:00 pm.

This decision comes despite statistics from Auckland Transport revealing that 85% of fatalities and serious injuries near schools occur outside of these specified hours, raising concerns among safety advocates.

Bike Auckland Chair Karen Hormann voiced strong opposition, stating, "We see a disconnect between the Government’s goal of protecting young New Zealanders and the clear evidence suggesting this move could have adverse effects. Communities are advocating for expanded, not reduced, safer speeds."

Hormann highlighted concerns over the economic justifications put forth by the Government, questioning the potential trade-offs in safety for supposed benefits.

She argued that establishing permanent safe speed zones has proven more effective in reducing accidents and is cost-efficient.

Data shows a 30% decrease in fatalities where 30 km/hr limits were implemented, contrasting with a 9% increase in deaths across other areas during the same period.

A recent consultation in Auckland revealed that 78% of school leaders support the continuation of permanent safer speed zones.

Expressing further apprehension, Hormann added, "A 150-meter zone does little to ensure safety beyond the school gate, severely limiting transport options for families at a time when affordable mobility choices are crucial."

Currently, over one-third of Auckland’s roads maintain 24/7 safer speed limits, which will see significant reduction under the proposed rules, affecting broader school zones than initially proposed.

A survey by Auckland Transport indicated that 74% of residents were willing to accept longer travel times to ensure safer school environments.

Dr. Jamie Hosking, a public health researcher at the University of Auckland, warned about the broader consequences on active transport modes, stating, "If walking and cycling feel unsafe, more people will opt for cars, increasing emissions and air pollution, and reducing physical activity."

Dr. Nicholas Walker, a father and bicycle commuter, emphasised the importance of safer speed limits, saying, "As an obstetrician, ensuring safe arrivals is paramount. We must prioritise safer speeds around schools to prevent avoidable accidents."

Bike Auckland is urging the public to participate in the ongoing consultation until July 11, encouraging community engagement to shape future policies on safer speed limits.