Professor Simon Kingham Professor Simon Kingham CREDIT: University of Canterbury

UC transport expert calls for reduced traffic speeds in rebuilt city

Tuesday 19 March 2013, 1:19PM
By University of Canterbury


A University of Canterbury (UC) transport expert today appealed to the planners of the Christchurch rebuild to consider more widespread use of 30kmh speed limits beyond those proposed.

Professor Simon Kingham said there was strong evidence that the chance of a fatal injury is more than 85 percent if vehicles travel at 50kmh and about 10 percent if vehicles travel at 30kmh.

He also said faster travel speeds discouraged people from walking and cycling.

``Now is a great opportunity to reduce speed limits to 30kmh in the central city and see a real change to a more liveable city.

``I have just returned from the Asia Pacific Cycling Conference in Australia and the former head of Cycling England, Philip Darnton, talked about travel speeds and he encouraged Christchurch to reduce its speed limits.

``He said many cities in Europe are now reducing speed limits to 30kmh with remarkable benefits. Lowering the speed limit in built up areas to 30kmh would be the single most effective way to increase safety, reduce fatal and serious accidents and encourage more women to cycle.

``Why is it so hard in New Zealand to introduce something like a 30kmh speed limit when they have been shown overseas to be fantastic at reducing road crashes and encouraging more cycling and walking?’’

Professor Kingham said in Germany, lower speed zones led to car drivers changing gear 12 percent less often, braking 14 percent less often and using 12 percent less fuel.

As crashes fall in severity and frequency, so do legal and repair bills. This will be reflected in motor insurance premiums in the United Kingdom dropping in 20 mph limit post codes, Professor Kingham said.

``Primary age children can only reliably judge traffic speeds up to 30kmh. Cars are the biggest killer of children and young adults in New Zealand.

``People’s fitness improves with slower speeds. Health improves with cleaner air and through more active travel exercise, increased walking, cycling and public transport. Children play out more. There is a positive spiral.

``Active lifestyles help reduce obesity and heart disease, saving money spent on the national health bill.

``Those whose roads are not dominated by traffic have more local friends and known neighbours. Children have more playmates. Neighbourliness brings a culture of exchange, ‘looking out for each other’ and favours that further enhance quality of life through a stronger community,’’ said Professor Kingham, who is a member of the Canterbury regional transport committee.