Feb 222012

If you’ve ever tried to ride down Exhibition Street when there’s no traffic jam, you’ll know how unsafe and unpleasant it can feel having fast cars zooming past you. The speed limit there is 50 km/h. We reckon this completely unsuitable for a CBD area. The city should be orientated to people, not cars.

Victoria’s current default speed limit (ie where there are no signs) is 50 km/h in built-up areas and 40 km/h in some shopping strip zones. Local councils can reduce speed limits to 40 km/h in particular locations, such as residential areas, but only with Vicroads’ approval. 30 km/h, considered by VicRoads to be ‘quite unusual‘, is more difficult to get approval for.

Melbourne BUG is asking the state government to reduce the default speed limit to 30 km/h for Melbourne’s residential streets, shopping strips, and the CBD. This is because 30km/h is an evidence-based speed limit that makes pedestrians and cyclists safer. Chances of survival decrease rapidly between 30 and 40 km/h. According to the World Health Organisation, pedestrians have 90% chance of surviving car crashes at 30 km/h or below, but less than a 50% chance of surviving impacts at 45 km/h or above. It is likely that similar differences exist for cyclists.

Lower speed limits should be combined with traffic calming measures that make it physically difficult to speed, regardless of legal sanctions or ineffective signs. Both are needed: without traffic calming, drivers tend to ignore speed limits, and without speed limits, there are no legal sanctions and speed limits cannot be enforced.

Reducing speeds to 30 km/h will make Melbourne a safer place for pedestrians and a cyclists, and a nicer place to walk and hang out in. Where speed limits are higher than 30km/h, governments should provide safe bike lanes.

What do you think? Where in Melbourne would you like to see lower speed limits?

 Posted by at 12:18 pm

  6 Responses to “Demand 3: reduce the default speed limit to 30 km/h in Melbourne’s residential streets, shopping strips and the CBD”

  1. […] evidence-based speed limit for areas where cars, bikes and pedestrians mix is 30km/h, as we have written about before, and this is the direction we should ultimately be headed […]

  2. Victoria Walks agrees! Not only do slower speeds reduce fatalities and serious injuries, they also result in enormous health, social, environmental and economic benefits for the whole community.

  3. I do not believe reducing the speed-limits below the speed I cycle is a wise move. Not only does it put drivers in a situation where they are much more likely to accidentally “speed” and be booked, but it puts cyclists at risk of being booked too! I cycle more than 30kmph all the time. I also don’t want to be cycling at the SAME speed as cars and therefore have to maneuver amongst cars, I’d always prefer to be either going faster than or slower than cars so I can see them coming or they can see me coming…

    There is no end to how slow you could require cars to go whilst arguing that it reduces the level of injury to pedestrians who blunder onto the road or cyclists who break the road rules and end up in front of a car (one of my greatest pet hates – as a cyclist – is other cyclists running red lights and not following the road rules) – yeah, driving at 5kmph WILL reduce injuries, but its totally ridiculous!

    • Just to qualify my statements. I’ve been hit twice by cars (St Kilda Road), both times the car was going slower than me and wasn’t checking the cycle lane in their rear view mirror – possibly because they thought cyclists wouldn’t be going faster than them.

  4. I have experienced the 30k limit for myself both as a driver and a cyclist in the same town. It makes a huge difference to the sense of safety for the cyclists as the drivers are easily able to react when a cyclist shares the same road. I was quite surprised at how readily one was able to give way to a cyclist crossing with very little notice at that speed. Higher speeds in cars tend to give the driver a sense of annoyance if forced to slow down. From my experience 30k is really the speed at which things change. Its hard at first to get used to but you do.

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