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New challenge for SkyPath champion

For 14 years, Bevan Woodward championed SkyPath. From pipe dream to a high-tech, consented design that will be Government funded and delivered by the NZ Transport Agency.

Woodward loves a challenge and his new mission is to convince us why we should want to slow down. He’s talking about 30km/h speed limits on all residential streets and 80km/h or less on rural roads.

“This is a real passion for me,” Woodward says. “Safer speed limits may not sound particularly sexy but they have massive benefits.

Foremost they save lives by decreasing the number of crashes and reducing crash severity. But what many people don’t realise is lower speed limits are key to reducing traffic congestion. There are three primary reasons for this.

Firstly, safe speed limits enable and encourage people to get out of their cars . Less cars make it much safer for commuters and school students to walk and cycle. The resulting reduction in traffic volume encourages even more people to walk and cycle. Public transport also becomes more popular due to safer walking and cycling access. Safe traffic speeds create a virtuous cycle reducing our dependency on private motor vehicles.

Secondly, intersections, which are typically the main source of congestion, work better at lower speeds . Safer approach speeds to intersections mean less crashes, higher throughput at intersections without signals, and reduced need for traffic lights (which on average slow everyone down).

Thirdly, safe speeds enable optimal capacity on urban streets because the slower the leading car drives at the front of a queue, the closer follows the next car. From the point of view of capacity, the optimal speed for an urban street network is 30-40km/h .

So safer speeds means less traffic congestion, which means less noise, pollution and emissions. How great is that?!

Plus, there’s more good news from safer speeds… the reduction in crashes and congestion means travel time reliability improves. This is of huge value to businesses with supply chain logistics to manage.

Safer speeds are a radical change in thinking for traffic engineers. Since the 1950s, they have been building for more and faster traffic to address the problem of congestion. They’ve built roads that became traffic sewers, severing communities, preventing children from travelling on their own, and scaring most adults into abandoning cycling and walking. Meanwhile, traffic congestion has gotten significantly worse.

We’re at the juncture where we can say ‘no’ to all that. Safe speeds are the foundation of a more efficient, safer and sustainable transport system. Safe speeds are relatively inexpensive to implement and can be integrated with projects to enhance the attractiveness of our streets, a massive domain of valuable public space that we need to reclaim from being dominated by traffic.

We need to ensure the public are aware of the massive benefits of safer speeds. So let’s spread the word… quickly!”


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