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Solar speed signs milestone for Waitakere

1 Nov 2004

Solar speed signs milestone for Waitakere

Waitakere Primary School will be the first school in the North Island to use solar-powered 40km/h flashing signs, due to be formally launched on Monday 8 November.

Following new government legislation allowing councils to set speed limits, Waitakere City Council has set a school zone speed limit of 40km/h at Waitakere Primary on Bethells Road, before and after school, when the solar signs are activated.

At other times, the speed limit will return to 50km/h.

The variable 50 to 40 speed limit was trialled voluntarily with great success at Waitakere and Christchurch schools over the last three years.

Waitakere’s Senior Road Safety Co-ordinator Kitch Cuthbert says the voluntary 40km/h around schools was well supported by police and community.

“Even without legislation, communities are able to safeguard their children around schools by opting to lower the standard 50 km/h speed limit to 40km/h.

“At Waitakere Primary, we have gone one further by legislating to vary the speed limit. There is international evidence that by creating dedicated speed zones around schools there is a direct impact on children’s safety. In Canada, the limit around schools at all times is 30km/h and in Australia, the limit is 20km/h during drop off and pick up times,” says Mrs Cuthbert.

In readiness for the 40km/h solar signs launch next month, traffic calming measures around Waitakere Primary have involved both Waitakere City and Rodney District Councils – Waitakere Primary is on the Waitakere side of Bethells Rd, while the land on the other side is in Rodney.

The process of altering high speed environments around schools is only part of the package of solutions used by traffic engineers at Waitakere, in collaboration with the community. Another traffic calming measure that has been successful is working with clusters of schools to stagger start and finish times.

At Waitakere, three other semi rural schools (Oratia, Woodlands Park and Henderson Valley primary schools) may be suitable for the solar powered flashing 40km/h signs because they are sited in areas where there is the potential for high speeds.

“The 40km/h legislation a huge step forward – particularly when you consider that Waitakere’s Chief Executive Harry O’Rourke has taken a 40km/h remit for schools to the Local Government Conference two years running and it was thrown out – by rural communities,” says Mrs Cuthbert.

Other solar-powered signs have recently been installed at schools in Blenheim and Greymouth. In Christchurch, 40km/h speed signs were trialled for the past three years, they were deemed so successful that the Government passed legislation in April this year to allow local authorities to set their own speed limits (above 40km/h and under 100km/h).

Local authorities must meet a set of Land Transport Safety Authority and Police guidelines before passing an amendment to the council bylaw made to include the new school zone. There are two excellent background articles on the 40km/h trial in Christchurch and the new Speed Limits Setting Rule. Call Liz to have faxed to you (see number below).


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