Don’t forget: 30km central city submissions closing soon!

At last, Wellington City’s got a proposal to institute appropriate traffic speeds for some inner city streets. Make sure your submission’s in by 5pm Tuesday.

You can see the rationale for it all on the proposal site (spoiler: it’s all very sensible). They’ve got a map there too, of the streets getting a proposed reduction.

If you just want to whack in a quick “yes” submission, and want some tips, scroll down to the bottom here and check out the submission our editor put in today.

If you’re still feeling a bit skeptical about it all, or think there should be fewer streets getting lower limits, read on…

Question: Why 30km/h for city streets?

Answer 1: less death and maiming = good

Jolisa Gracewood on The Spinoff puts it well:

Because physics. Thirty is less hurty. It’s the impact speed beyond which things rapidly turn pear-shaped for human beings, whether you’re inside or outside a car. (Effectively, we’ve evolved to survive sprinting into solid objects, but to survive vehicular impacts at speed we’d have to look very different indeed.)

Accordingly, 30km/h is increasingly the international standard anywhere people and cars cross paths: city centres, shopping streets, schools, local neighbourhoods.

Here it is, by the numbers, courtesy of Auckland Transport:

People: 80% risk of dying vs 10% risk of dying. Gosh which one do we prefer?!?

Answer 2: it’s nicer for people, and nicer is better for city streets

Streets can do either one of two things really well: either they can be nice and stress-free to drive through, or they can be nice to be in outside a car. There aren’t many black-and-white tradeoffs in life, but this is one. And mostly this is because physics.

Physics knows all about us even if we don’t know about it, or choose to ignore it. 50(59) km/hr is, as we know, much more “hurty”. Humans have evolved to protect ourselves: in environments with lots of big things that could hurt us, we adjust our behaviour. Most of this is subconscious, but for everyone except adrenalin junkies, adjusting our behaviour essentially means cramping our style. Think about it:

Walking, you hang onto the kids’ hands tightly, and don’t let them run ahead.

If you’re old, or carrying bags, or have an impairment, you hesitate and gather yourself for crossing the road in case something goes wrong. Or you don’t go to town.

You don’t bike or scoot on the road even though you’d like to, because the traffic’s too often scarily fast – so you’re on the footpath, being a pain, or you’re not doing it.

When this subconscious anxiety is lifted, it’s like a weight’s come off you. You feel freer, more comfortable in the street – whether walking, wheelchairing, scooting, biking, or just sitting and chilling.

If you’ve been to another city where traffic speeds – true, operating speeds – are 30km or below, you’ll know it just feels nicer.

An example of a 30km street (Barcelona)

This is worth dollars to any businesses that benefit from people. The evidence is unequivocal all over the world: where places feel nicer, people linger more, they meet up in the street, you can stop and chat, you window-shop and browse (popping in and spending) because the street’s a nicer place to be.

And the point of cities is the things we can all do when we come together in space (which is why it’s so bizarre and sad to see the people-less streets imposed by Covid-19). Livelier streetscapes enrich everyone who spends any time in them.

So do I have to bother submitting? Isn’t 30km/hr cities just commonsense?

It’s a good question. Who could possibly be against better speeds?

  1. A non-trivial number of nice reasonable people including leaders

These folks are presumably nice people like you and me, but who, it seems, can only conceive of the city from behind a car steering wheel. Or they are mistaken about the purpose of lower speed limits: “there’s no point cos mostly the traffic’s at 30km anyway”. (Note: this non-trivial number of people has in the past included plenty of city councillors.) Let’s be clear, peeps: congestion and traffic lights shouldn’t be the only things keeping drivers at survivable speeds in our inner city.

  • We all know what happens when there’s a bit of clear road in front: we speed up – and a few of us are always trying to drive at 9km above the posted limit “because that’s what I’m entitled to do”.
  • And more importantly, what happens when Let’s Get Wellington Moving delivers us fewer vehicles on central city streets, as we all called for? Will our streets get deathlier as remaining drivers go “aaahh, at last I can go faster”?

Some commenters on the site even indulge in bizarreness like “cars going faster put out fewer emissions so this is worse for the climate”. Others worry about public transport being slowed down, perhaps not realising that steady speeds (i.e. less bunching) is better for buses to achieve reliable travel times. Also they’re overlooking the fact that a citywide 30km/hr limit will help encourage people not to bring their car into the city centre at all if they want to drive around fast.

2. The AA

The AA opposed lower speeds in Wellington the last time this was proposed and, more recently, opposed much of Auckland’s 30km proposal. And they advocated a so-called “compromise” of 40km/hr on some very heavily-trafficked, dangerous streets. Their “compromise” was a few seconds saved, by those driving cars, at the price of a 20%+ jump in likelihood of dying, for those outside cars. And this in a city where, per capita, more people outside cars are killed by cars than anywhere else in NZ.

We really hope they’ve seen the light and will take a more sensible approach in Wellington: after all, every “driver” is actually a person who just happens to be in a car right now. (Note: we couldn’t find their submission; we’d love to hear they’re doing right. If you have seen it, please post in the comments.)

Pop in a submission pronto!

So get your submission in!
If you want to add an extra spice, look for the jolly bollard in our earlier post.
Alternatively, there’s a real life submission here [17KB Word], by TW editor Isabella.
(Top tip: councils don’t take straight copy-paste submissions very seriously, so add your own flavour.)

It can be 2 minutes only – just get that submission in!

Image credits:

  • Barcelona: Michael Kodansky (Eurist eV)
  • 30km sign: Newshub

One comment on “Don’t forget: 30km central city submissions closing soon!”

  • KLK says:

    Barcelona street looks amazing.

    Cars drive too damn fast in NZ in these environments. The 30km makes so much sense just from a safety perspective. Bring it om.

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