by Dr Grant Hewison, Specialist in Local Government Consultancy

To make Auckland’s roads safer, Auckland Transport (AT) wants to introduce a new bylaw to set new speed limits, including lower speed limits for approximately 10% of Auckland’s roads.

Auckland has a serious problem with people being killed and being seriously injured on our roads. In 2017, 64 people were killed on the region’s roads (44% of which were speed related deaths) and 749 people seriously injured. This represents a 78% increase in road deaths since 2014.

Perhaps this mirrors the pattern in the UK where the number of people killed on the roads was falling steadily until 2010, at which point the decline suddently ended. Why? “Because, while fewer drivers and passengers are dying, the number of pedestrians killed has risen by 11%. In the US, it’s even worse: a 51% rise in the annual death rate of pedestrians since 2009. Guardian journalist George Monbiot says there seem to be two reasons: drivers distracted by their mobile phones, and a switch from ordinary cars to sports-utility vehicles. As SUVs are higher and heavier, they are more likely to kill the people they hit. “Driving an SUV in an urban area is an antisocial act.”

One of the most effective ways of minimising road trauma involves reducing vehicle speeds. That’s because speed determines both the likelihood of a crash occurring and the severity of the outcome.

Therefore, Auckland plans to reduce the speed limits of more than 700km of road in areas which pose the greatest safety risk to people.

Under the new Speed Limits Bylaw 2019, Auckland Transport plans to reduce the speed limits of some high-risk rural, urban and residential roads, as well as various town centres and the city centre.

The roads have been selected based on a number of criteria, namely their risk of death or serious injury as well as those with large numbers of vulnerable road users like pedestrians. 90% of the roads Auckland Transport plan to reduce speeds of are rural roads.

Residential and urban roads have been selected where they have: large numbers of vulnerable road users (people walking and cycling); they’re often near schools, kindergartens and other community facilities; AT research into speeds and risk factors; and concerns raised by the community.

Town centre and Auckland city centre areas have been selected because: this is where the highest number of vulnerable road users are – that being people walking and cycling; population increases mean more people are walking and cycling in these areas; and reducing speeds here has the greatest potential to reduce the chance of serious injuries and deaths occurring.

Some ‘self-explaining’ roads, or sections of roads, have been included. These are areas where the road conditions already cause drivers to travel at a lower speed – such as traffic-calmed urban areas. These proposed speed limit changes form part of a wider road safety programme. The nominated roads have been prioritised based on a number of criteria. In the future, Auckland Transport may consider speed reductions for other roads around Auckland.

Although no changes in speed limits are planned for Rosebank or New Lynn, a number of roads in West Auckland are proposed for changes in their speed limits.

Consultation is open at present on the proposals.

In addition to reviewing speed limits, Auckland Transport are implementing a comprehensive road safety programme that will complement lower speeds across Auckland, which includes:

  • Residential road safety improvements, including engineering measures like speed tables or humps, kerb buildouts and raised intersections.
  • Town centre safety improvements, including a combination of speed limit reductions, signage, speed tables or humps, and raised intersections.
  • Setting new urban traffic boundaries, with more appropriate speeds for newly developed residential areas.
  • Implementing a 30km/h speed limit in Auckland’s City Centre.

Some of these aspects of road safety programme are being implemented in Rosebank.