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Cut Traffic Speeds To Reduce Pressure On Hospitals, Say Cycling Advocates

It’s time to lower traffic speeds to reduce crashes and free up hospital beds, say cycling advocates.

"This will reduce harm and ease the burden on our health workers and emergency services," says Patrick Morgan from Cycling Action Network. "Sadly, traffic crashes are a leading cause of hospitalisation in New Zealand."

"We're calling on the Government to take action now to save lives."

Although there's much less traffic, some travel far too fast.

Why now?

The unprecedented changes we are going through during the pandemic shows how fast people can adapt. In the face of deadly risk, we are working together to prioritise safety and wellbeing, he says. "This jolt to our habitual lifestyles is a huge opportunity to deliver urgent changes that used to be agonisingly slow."

With most people staying at home, as they should, streets are quiet. Birdsong is noticeable and delightful. The air is cleaner.

"People making fewer journeys in cars is a good thing. But when streets have less traffic, this does not translate into a safer environment for people walking and riding bikes. Wide empty streets invite drivers to increase their speeds."

If the point of the nationwide rāhui is to reduce strain on our health system, New Zealand should immediately cut speed limits - to 80 kmh on open roads and 30 kmh on city streets..

Reducing speeds nationwide would kick start health benefits for all New Zealanders. It would be a strong catalyst for enacting the central principles of the vision zero road safety strategy. And hopefully we will see a sustained reduction in car use.

There are compelling health benefits from safe traffic speeds. Making roads more comfortable for people who choose not to drive should be used as a broad, cost-effective strategy. If more of us choose to walk, scoot and bike we can have neighbourhoods that suffer less air pollution. We’ll be fitter, wealthier people enjoying stronger connected communities and enhanced well being. Cutting traffic is an essential part of a strong climate action response.

The lockdown means many people are in sudden financial strife. Reducing car dependency is an effective way to reduce living costs.

We deserve safe streets. The impact of road trauma on our health system is enormous. Even if traffic crashes are reduced during the lockdown, it would be unacceptable to see road deaths and injuries rebound afterwards.

We need our leaders to direct people to reduce driving speeds during the rāhui. People should expect roads will be used in different ways during this time.

People of all ages and abilities should be able to travel and exercise safely on public streets. There simply isn’t enough space on footpaths to permit required physical distancing, so people are walking on the street. .

"There should at the very least be official messaging for people to keep their driving speeds much lower," says Mr Morgan.

And we should hope they will stay lower forever. We’ll all be better off.


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