Lowering Speed Limits Will Save Cyclists’ Lives

This was one of the key messages to come out of a series of two Road Safety Symposiums held in Sydney on 11th March and Melbourne on 12th March.

Speakers included Professor Fred Wegman from the Netherlands who is widely regarded as a world leading expert on road safety, John Merritt, former CEO of Vic Roads and now a Director of the Transport Accident Commission, and Professor Brian Fildes from Monash University who has recently completed a major trial, in conjunction with the City of Yarra in which they reduced the speed limit on a grid of local roads to 30 kph.

John Merritt and Fred Wegman had both recently attended the Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety which was attended by 130 nations and held in Stockholm, Sweden on 19th-20th February.

There it was noted that a staggering 1.35 million people die each year on the world’s roads of which 250,000 are children crossing the road to get to school. In fact road crashes are the single biggest cause of death for those aged 5-29 years.

Resulting from the conference was a declaration agreed to by all but one of the participating nations including Australia. The only dissenter was the United States who objected to a reference to climate change in the declaration.

Two of the goals agreed to are of particular relevance to the bicycle industry.

One agreed to speed promote higher levels of walking and cycling as well as integrating these modes with the use of public transport.

The other agreed to mandate a maximum road speed of 30 kph in areas were vulnerable road users (ie cyclists and pedestrians) mix with motor vehicles in a frequent and planned manner.

Australian 30 KPH Trial

Meanwhile at the two Australian symposiums Prof. Fildes shared detailed analysis of the 30 kph trial within the City of Yarra and predicted that there was a slight, but significant improvement in the safety outcomes for cyclists and pedestrians if the lower speed limits were implemented permanently.

Part of the reason the improvement would be relatively small was because of the narrow streets and existing traffic calming infrastructure in the test area (which included inner city Collingwood) which meant that on average, most motorists were already travelling at just below 30 kph before the trial limit was put in place.

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