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NZ slow to reduce speeds to the detriment of road safety

New Zealand slow to reduce speeds to the detriment of road safety

March 23, 2014

New Zealand has been slow to reduce traffic speeds in cities to the detriment of its road safety record, particularly for walking and cycling, a University of Canterbury (UC) transport expert says.

Dr Glen Koorey, a member of the New Zealand Transport Agency panel on cycle safety, says speed is the main safety issue facing the country’s road toll.

Dr Koorey, a UC transport engineering lecturer, addressed the Automobile Association national conference in New Plymouth this week today about cycling and highlighted the role that speed management plays in providing for safer cycling.

To help identify patterns in New Zealand crashes, Dr Koorey has produced a report on common patterns in cycling fatalities. From crash records and reports, more than 90 cycling fatalities were identified between 2006 and 2013.

Providing lower speed environments was directly identified as being a key preventative factor in only 11 percent of the fatalities. However, Dr Koorey found the survivability of virtually all cycling fatalities would be greatly improved if lower impact speeds were present.

``Latest (2013) statistics show a 15 percent increase in cycle commuting nationally. There’s a lot more desire out there to do more cycling, but the perceived existing safety environment is not helping,’’ Dr Koorey says.

``Although we tend to perform slightly better than similar countries like the United States, Canada and Australia, we do lag behind most European countries where commuting rates of five to 10 percent are not uncommon and some are above 20 percent, like The Netherlands and Demark.

``The countries with the best cycle safety records do not have cycleways everywhere; even they couldn't afford to do that. But what they do have typically are traffic calming and 30km per hour limits in urban residential or CBD areas and also lower speed limits on some rural routes. That makes a huge difference to the likelihood and severity of cycle collisions.

``Both speed management and cycling infrastructure is relatively inexpensive. We currently spend less than one percent of our national transport budget on cycling and walking projects, despite 18 percent of all trips undertaken these ways.

Dr Koorey says cities in New Zealand are just starting to realise the potential for safer cycling provision and speed management.

``Christchurch is embarking on a $69 million major cycleways programme, which may seem a lot but is probably only three to percent of the amount we will be investing in transport in the city over the next decade. They are also proposing a 30km speed zone in the central city that will greatly encourage more walking and cycling.’’


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