Speed Limits Bylaw Hearing

In March Auckland Transport consulted on the introduction of a new bylaw to set new speed limits, including lower speed limits for approximately 10% of Auckland’s local roads. Hearings are currently underway to present to a hearings panel made up of AT Board Chair, Mark Gilbert, AT Board member Sir Michael Cullen,  Exec GM Service Delivery Andrew Allen,  and another AT exec member.  Here is my presentation on behalf of the Waitemata Local Board.

Speed Limits Bylaw Hearing

Thank you for the opportunity to present today.I am here as Chair of the Waitemata Local Board representing the city centre and central suburbs of Tamaki Makaurau.  I’ve been transport lead for the board for almost 9 years and I’m also an Executive committee member of Trafinz the NZ road safety institute representing Auckland Council.  I was part of the team that launched the Auckland Vision Zero campaign in July 2016 along with Brake – the road safety charity, Cycling Advocates Network , Walk Auckland and NZ School Speeds calling for Government and local authorities to adopt a Vision Zero approach to road safety – aiming for zero road deaths and injuries.

Tragically since that time the number of road fatalities and serious injuries has continued to increase.  We’ve just had an horrific 10 days on NZ’s roads with 28 people losing their lives.  Just in the last 24 hours 2 people have been critically injured in Auckland . In Waitemata a pedestrian was seriously injured last week just near here on Quay Street.

We as politicians, governors, decision makers, enforcement officials need to take responsibility for the fact we have overseen a 78% increase in DSIs over a 5 year period on our watch.

This is clearly unacceptable.  I’d like to thank CEO Shane  Ellison and the AT board for their leadership in confronting this crisis head on and for taking the first serious steps in Auckland to make our streets safer.

As you are all well aware, one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce road danger is to implement speed reduction measures.  A drop of just 10km/h can make a huge difference to the safety of our streets. Reducing a 50km/h local street to 40km/h reduces the risk of pedestrian death from 60% to 25%.   Speeds of 30 km/h are the maximum any vulnerable or unprotected road user can withstand without sustaining death or serious injuries. In fact, lowering speeds is the most valuable move any local authority can make if we are serious about saving lives. The World Health Organization has concluded that a five percent reduction in average speed can result in a 30 percent decrease in traffic fatalities

There is of course a heap of evidence that backs up why implementing safe and appropriate speeds works.     I will leave that to the experts but I was really pleased to hear AT Board chair Lester state at the launch of the consultation that the final decision would be based on the evidence.  An evidence based approach is essential as we navigate through a highly emotive topic .

With regards to the Local Board position I would like to highlight our key initiatives from our local board plan, our on going advocacy and our feedback on the consultation that supports Auckland Transport taking forward the proposed speed limit changes and moving on to the next stage as soon as possible.

We were the first local board to adopt Vision Zero.

In the Local board Plan 2017  Outcome 5: “An accessible, connected and safe transport network with well-designed streets” we have an Objective  to “Improve safety for all road users” including the following Key Initiatives:

  • Work with Auckland Transport (AT) to implement slow traffic speed zones in the city centre and residential areas, and through town centres.
  • Advocate to AT to adopt a target of zero serious injuries or deaths on our roads as part of a comprehensive approach to road safety.
  • Advocate to the NZ Transport Agency to change the give way rule at side street crossings to favour pedestrians.

We are now currently in the process of updating our annual advocacy positions to Auckland Transport. These will be agreed to as part of our Annual Local Board Agreement 19/20) but are proposed:

  • Safer Streets – Auckland Transport to adopt a target of zero serious injuries or deaths on our roads as part of a comprehensive safe systems approach to road safety including safe road design, enforcement, safer speeds and driver education.
  • Safe and appropriate speeds – Support slower speeds that are safe and appropriate in residential areas, through villages town centres and in the city centre

We are taking this approach with the support of our communities who have consistently told us they want safer streets – where kids can walk to school, streets that are healthier, and attractive, and streets are destinations.  Slower speeds will bring a range of additional benefits – it is good for business, reduces pollution and makes for a kinder more caring community.   Slower speeds will also help the city welcome small wheeled mobility like e-scooters without introducing more conflict on our crowded footpaths that need to be prioritised for pedestrians.

We are responding to fundamental changes to the way the city is growing.  The City Centre population is almost at 60,000 – it is no longer a CBD.

We are host to the region with hundred of thousands of people coming into the city centre every day for work, study and play and as tourists and visitors. There are now 118,000 City Centre employees.

We are yet to see the AT feedback report for Waitemata  so I am not in a position to give specific feedback on each proposal but we know there is general support for safe and appropriate speeds and in fact for more extensive changes.  For example the Freemans Bay School parents who are asking for the inclusion of Wellington and Hepburn Streets in the Freemans Bay zone.  Residents on John Street have questioned why they are not part of a Ponsonby slow speed zone.

We know there is push back on streets that are designed like motorways such as Hobson/Nelson Street that encourage speeding. However, this is now the most dense residential area in Aotearoa so we have to re-imagine how these streets function and who is prioritised.

The speed needs to come down but as part of a much broader package of safety improvements such as removing motorway style signage, pedestrian focused treatments and road diets.  In the long term the local board supports Hobson and Nelson being restored to two way streets.

A hearts and minds campaign is also needed to bring Aucklanders along on a shared understanding that slower  speeds are pro-community, pro- business, pro children. It will make our streets more accessible and safe for people of all ages and abilities.

In concluding I’d like to acknowledge the AT staff who have fronted the consultation and are doing the mahi.  I know it has not always been easy but this is important work.

And finally but not least to acknowledge the victims of the road safety crisis and the loved ones they have left behind. If we are serious about reducing road trauma the speed limit must be reduced.