The issue with reducing speeds in Auckland

Weekend Life 15/12/2018
Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader

OPINION: Maximum speeds are to be dropped from 50 to 30 km/hr in some Auckland City roads. The road planners and government say the proposal is to reduce accidents and save lives.

The National Party has slammed the plan as a “blanket ban to slow Auckland down”.

That doesn’t make sense. National did the same thing here in Christchurch two years ago.

The proposal for Auckland is to include about 10 percent of roads such as Tamaki Drive, Broadway, Queen Street.

When the speed limit was first dropped here in Christchurch it seemed stupid. I felt like hopping out of my car and walking it seemed so slow. There is also little possibility of going faster because on the one-way streets the lights are phased to 30 km an hour.

However, it’s now just another irritation of attempting to drive into the CBD and by far not the worst one. The worst irritation is congestion. Much of the time travelling at 30 km/hr would be a luxury. The second is the lack of car parks and their cost. The next worst one is the shocking design of the cycleways which makes turning left across the cycleways dangerous for all concerned and the cycleways themselves dangerous for pedestrians who step into them thinking them part of the footpath.

It’s all the more annoying that these irritations are all deliberately designed to keep cars out of city centres and promote cycling and public transport.

At the same time city planners are wondering what they can do to revitalise city centres when by their own design they are killing them off.

Accidents are down in the 30 km zone in Christchurch but they are down in the 50 km zone areas too but not by as much. That’s a good result as traffic is up with the rebuild of Christchurch steadily advancing.

But what has happened is that traffic has diverted from the 30 km zone to the 50 km zone. The increase in traffic in the 50k zones has been much greater than in the 30k zones.

Has it worked? I suppose so. We have learned to adjust to the lower speed as just another thing we have to deal with. The accidents and injuries are down. That’s a good thing.

But then given the thinking why not make the speed limit 10 km/hour or ban the car entirely from the streets? And that’s where I struggle with the proposals.

The cycling, the walking, the public transport are all nice but the car is a jolly handy thing on a day-to-day practical basis, getting the children to school, getting to work, doing business, getting the shopping. It’s what we do.

The slower car speeds hasn’t seen more people go into the CBD. I would say along with the other irritations it’s seeing less. And that’s where the plans fall over. What do with do with CBDs if people give up trying to get to them? The planners all believe we will still all go but on public transport and cycling and walking. I think for a lot of us, we just won’t go.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.