Peter Williams: Auckland’s laughable speed limits

Opinion 28/02/2019
Auckland skyline. Photo: File.

By Peter Williams, Magic Talk Mornings host.

OPINION: I know it’s only a proposal but isn’t the Auckland Council’s idea to cut speed limits on hundreds of streets in Central Auckland and semi rural areas to the north and south of the city akin to smashing a walnut with a sledgehammer.

In case you haven’t heard, Auckland Transport has decided because there were 64 deaths and 749 injuries on the streets of Auckland in 2017, speed limits must come down.

Now on the surface, it seems sensible, but some of the restrictions seem laughable.

Here’s a couple of streets - Hobson Street and Nelson Street. Those of you who spend a bit of time in central Auckland know them both well. One goes uphill past SkyCity to join the southern and north-western motorways at the top of the street.

The other comes downhill off those motorways to feed motorists into the central city.

Both are quite long, they’re one way, they have 3 or four lanes most of the way. Yet Auckland Transport is proposing that as from the middle of June this year, both those long arterial streets connecting to the motorway system, both streets around I think 2 kilometres from top to bottom, and if things come to pass, the speed limit on both those streets will be 30 kilometres an hour. Think about that.

Streets that I know pretty well, sure at times they get a bit busy, but they have slow changing traffic lights at the major intersections at Victoria and Wellesley Streets, so you never get to go that fast for long anyway, but I’ve just never seen an issue with cars and other vehicles on those streets travelling at 50.

Can you imagine cars crawling up and down those streets at 30 kilometres per hour?There will have to be a clog up behind, especially on Nelson which comes off the motorway. If cars are travelling slowly down Nelson, won’t there be a back-up on the motorway itself?

The amazing thing is that the NZTA, the transport agency which knows a bit about these things, has recommended that the speed limit drop to 40, but Auckland Transport has gone down another 10 kilometres an hour.

Out in what might be called the country, or certainly used to be the country, in Franklin to the south and Rodney to the north, there’s a whole raft of roads where the limit is currently 100 kilometres an  hour and the proposal is to drop it to 60. To be honest they are roads that I’m not familiar with, but dropping the speed limit by 40 kilometres an hour does seem draconian to say the least.

The idea is to make Auckland safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and encourage the use of public transport, which one presumes will also have to abide by the new, lower speed limit?

Just how efficient will this be?

I always use to find it frustrating driving on Ponsonby Road in the quiet hours of the day. The limit down there is 40 but that is really annoying when there’s nobody in front of you and you feel like you could very safely go at 50.

Now there is no proposal to change the limit on Ponsonby Road, but Franklin Road, which runs off down through Freemans Bay, has a 30 k limit on it. Mind you, the roadworks on that street has been so bad for the last couple of years, you’d be happy to be able to go 30 ks.

Presumably it will be finished one day, but that’s a case of a significant connecting road, and it’s proposed that the limit will 30 kilometres an hour.

Some of these proposals are just nuts  and that’s just from the streets that I’m familiar with. There is plenty of time for consultation. I just hope there are many complaints from road users and common sense prevails at Auckland Transport, particularly in relation to the main arterial roads.

Peter Williams is host of Magic Talk Mornings.