The Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2021 is under consultation. Submissions close tomorrow at 5 pm.
We’re slowly seeing some reductions in speed limits in places, along with nice education material from Auckland Transport.
Meanwhile far too little enforcement means some drivers are showing very little regard for safety and for others on or near the road.
In New Zealand, discussions about speed limits often seem to be focused on fairness to drivers. For some, the highest consideration seems to be ensuring a driver can’t possibly be blamed for driving too fast. If a driver can see a lot of road, and speeds up, or if a corner’s radius is set to allow a driver to turn without slowing much, for example. Unless the environment is telling the driver what speed to drive at – without any ambiguity – some people claim it’s understandable to drive too fast for other people’s safety. Any ambiguity, it seems, must not leave the driver at risk of blame.
Or else they’re focused on fairness to business. That above all else, drivers ought to drive at the highest possible speed that’s safe, so as not to hold anybody up, and everyone around them need to be alert at all times to keep themselves safe, in order to honour the needs of the economy. Time is the stuff life is made of, but it seems we only value it when cut up into chunks called travel time.
It’s weird, really, given the extraordinary number of lives of people we love who are lost forever. Families ripped apart, with scars left for generations, just because the system is set up to let people drive too fast.
There exists, of course, an entirely different set of values we can adopt.
We do need to aspire to a road and street layout that makes the speed intuitive for drivers. But how long will such changes to the built environment take? The Planning Committee at Council is today deciding whether to endorse the $36 billion business-as-usual RLTP. If we want an intuitive street layout, they must reject the plan and start over. They must assert that it fails to give effect to the GPS’s key strategic priorities of improving safety (at the pace required) and moving rapidly towards a low carbon transport system.
But even if they do the decent thing and send the whole plan back to the drawing board so we can jumpstart a new paradigm, it will take decades to repair the streets of this broken city, and the roads of this systematically unsafe country.
What do we do in the meantime? We need to discuss speed limits like adults, which means focusing on fairness to children. Children need safe speeds for their development, based on what they can be expected to understand and remember and judge – as they run, scoot, cycle, play and move freely around their environments.
Anyone who has sufficient mental ability to drive a car can be expected to understand safe speeds. They can be expected to drive slowly enough to be able to stop at a moment’s notice. Slowly enough to use their peripheral vision well, so that if children on bikes swerve off a footpath or out of a cycleway through sheer lack of coordination or silliness, they’ll survive. People privileged enough to be in charge of an amazing piece of engineering like a vehicle can be expected to respect the science. And the science says that in cities, towns, or anywhere else children can be expected to be – like outside rural schools – the safe speed limit is no more than 30 km/hr.
Tomorrow, submissions are due on the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2021.
It’s time for a new paradigm for how we set speed limits.
The summary and overview says:
On 11 November 2019, Cabinet agreed to the wider Tackling Unsafe Speeds package, which comprises:
- introducing a new regulatory framework for speed management to improve how speed management changes are planned for, consulted on and implemented
- transitioning to lower speed limits around schools to improve safety and encourage more children to use active modes of transport
- adopting a new approach to road safety cameras (also referred to as ‘speed cameras’) to reduce excessive speeds on our highest risk roads…
Speed continues to be a major contributing factor to deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads. Evidence shows travelling too fast for the conditions is consistently one of the highest contributing factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. In the event of a crash, regardless of cause, the speed on impact is the most important determinant of the severity of injuries sustained and the probability of death.
The current process for setting speed limits under the 2017 Rule has been costly and inefficient. It has led to poorly coordinated speed limit changes across the network that often lack infrastructure changes. It has also caused some RCAs to delay or avoid making speed management changes due to uncertainty around when and how to amend, replace or revoke current speed limits, as well as on when to consult on speed limit changes.
The summary of submissions on the previous rule, just four years ago, showed that “a large number of submitters” asked for lower default speed limits, and some indicated how out of step New Zealand’s speed limits are:
This request was denied, with the following reason given:
Wholesale change to the default speed limits would be a high impact change and is not considered necessary or desirable… Wholesale change arising from default speed limits would also involve significant cost.
And yet, changing the default speed limits is cheaper than changing speed limits every few streets, and we saw recently that the Ministry also argued that achieving the UN safety targets would be too expensive.
There’s a different government this time. It’s worth trying for default changes again, to get our speed limits in line with what our people need for survival.
There are many improvements in this rule. The Automobile Association and Road Transport Forum are no longer named as privileged organisations who must be consulted for every speed limit change.
But here are some questions. Would readers have the answers?
Why did the summary and overview page say the following?
International considerations: The proposed Rule is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations in respect of land transport.
I don’t think it is. I think it ignores that if we were to follow the advice of the Stockholm Declaration, Austroads, the International Transport Forum as well as our own Road to Zero Strategy, which is formed on the basis of Vision Zero, we would recognise that speed limits should be based on the needs of the people using the environment, not just on what the driver can be blamed, or not blamed about. Ours are way too high and need changing by default.
Will consultation be streamlined at all? Speed limits are an expert matter, like aviation. Consultation is slowing the process of bringing safety to our streets to save lives. Is something better intended, that shares the burden of democracy more fairly and is more respectful of people’s ability to learn subjects to the level required to answer intelligently?
Will the benefits of planning upfront be worth it? I worry about the lack of flexibility in requiring:
all road controlling authorities that are territorial authorities (including Waka Kotahi) to include their proposed speed limit changes and safety infrastructure treatments (including proposed placement of road safety cameras) for the coming 10 years into speed management plans
Will this rule be more straightforward?
Costs of implementing the proposed changes: The new approach of creating Plans every three years will be a significant change for territorial authorities, Regional Transport Committees (RTCs) and Waka Kotahi. Under the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017 (2017 Rule), every speed limit (other than temporary or emergency speed limits) must be set using a bylaw, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Under the proposed Rule, Plan development will be relatively resource intensive. However, it is anticipated once Plans have been finalised, it will be much simpler for RCAs to make changes to individual speed limits during the life of a Plan.
There will be costs for Waka Kotahi in establishing, migrating existing speed limits onto, and then operating and maintaining the Register of Land Transport Records (Register). The Register will become the single source of truth for all speed limits (other than temporary speed limits). A speed limit will become legal when it is entered into the Register (other than temporary speed limits). Most of those costs arise from the Regulations rather than the proposed Rule but have been considered in this overall policy process.
Finally, to help with your submissions, you might like to consider these points raised by others:
You can scroll within each one to read it all.
The submission of reader Robert McLachlan:
Submission on “Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2021″
22 June 2021
1. I acknowledge the drawbacks of the present system for the setting of speed limits and that the proposed Rule will go some distance towards creating a safer transport system.
2. Some of the deficiencies of the present system include: steadily increasing fatality rates, unacceptably high rates of death and serious injury, a slow and opaque process for reducing speed limits, noncompliance with international best practice and international agreements, and poor communication between Waka Kotahi, other road controlling authorities, and the public.
3. For example, Waka Kotahi have never replied to my enquiries as to how to get a section of state highway considered for assessment, either through the head office or the local office. A council official reported meeting with NZTA officials for decades concerning an urban section of state highway, and said that the meetings always ended with NZTA saying, “This is great, let’s keep working on this together.”
4. I am disappointed, though, that the opportunity has not been taken to ensure safe speeds in a more determined way. In particular, that
(a) there is no universal requirement to set safe and appropriate speeds;
(b) that the Austroads guidance, developed in part by New Zealand for New Zealand, is not referred to or followed (e.g., “30 km/h where there is the possibility of a collision between a vulnerable road user and a passenger vehicle. . . 70 km/h where there is the possibility of a head on collision between passenger vehicles”);
(c) that there is no reference or compliance with the Stockholm Declaration to which we are a party (“. . . mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries”);
(d) that there is no discussion or analysis of international experience with Vision Zero, the concept behind Road to Zero;
(e) that there is no range of options presented; and
(f) that some of the most important issues (discussed below) are only mentioned in passing.
Thus, overall I feel that the consultation and development of this proposed Rule has not been genuinely inclusive.
(a) New Zealand first trialled lower speeds outside schools in 2000. Twenty years later we are not much further on. Under the proposed rule, even by 2029 we will still have a patchwork of 30, 40, and 50 km/h limits outside schools (“use reasonable efforts. . . provide an explanation. . . ”). It could take until 2040 to fix this relatively simple and minor aspect of the speed limit system.1
(b) The language, “help encourage motorists to comply with lower speed limits” is far too soft. How about “ensure”?
(c) The rollout is too slow. Why only 40% by 30 June 2024, and most by 2029? The documents talks about speed limits in some cases and infrastructure changes in others. But there is no reason given not to impose 30 km/h limits now and plan any associated infrastructure changes later.
(d) Some reference is made to making active transport to school “appealing”, but there is no evidence that these tiny changes will help very much. This seems a bit ad hoc. Active school transport should be considered as a whole.
(e) The main reason, surely, is to improve safety. Edmonton, Canada, has a lot of experience with school zones. One study (“Are school zones effective in reducing speeds and improving safety?”, Sun, El-Basyouny, Ibrahim, and Kim, Canadian J. Civil Eng. 6 July 2018 https://doi.org/10.1139/cjce-2018-0060) found that school zones reduced deaths and injuries by 55%. In a related development, and subsequent to adopting Vision Zero in 2015, Edmonton in 2018 extended the 30 km/h zones to all 393 schools and playgrounds from 7.30am to 9pm every day. Who is more likely to achieve zero road deaths, Edmonton or New Zealand?
(f) The exemptions that allow 40 km/h zones instead of 30 km/h weaken the whole proposal. The discussion document is disingenuous when it says, “the proposed Rule sets out the circumstances under which [40 km/h limits] may remain in place and do not require further attention.” On looking at the Rule, it seems that any 40 km/h limit can remain in place. Likewise, any other school zone can be 40 km/h if the RCA provides an “explanation.” What kind of explanation suffices? This is a key point that is not addressed in the rule or discussion.
(g) An earlier NZTA document said that school zones should be 300–500 m long. This has been dropped, the length is now left up to the discretion of the RCA. We don’t know what they might determine or how the Director might view their determination.6. “Whole of network” plans seem to be a major requirement and innovation of the rule. But they are not explained or developed. Does it just mean that the speed limit of each and every road should be examined every three years, or does it mean that the network effects, e.g. the impact of speed limits on the overall flow of traffic and which routes drivers take, are to be considered?
7. It is stated that a Rule must assist with ensuring environmental sustainability, and it is briefly stated that lower speeds lower emissions. But this is not mentioned in any of the detailed provisions for setting speed limits, i.e. only lip service is paid to this requirement.
8. The proposed Rule appears to put a lot of weight on RCAs to develop plans that comply with a lot of different criteria (GPS, the government road safety strategy, the whole-of-network approach, Waka Kotahi guidance, and monitoring the impact of past changes, public input) and on the Director for assessing whether they have done this correctly. This looks like a tall order to me. Surely some of this work can be done at a national level? Why should similar roads with similar traffic have different speed limits around the country? I can imagine that this might happen in exceptional circumstances, but surely not often.
9. There is also a lot of weight put on the government road safety strategy, which (in the form it will be used) does not exist yet. This limits our ability to assess what is intended by the new Rule.2
10. The public is at a disadvantage in the whole process, in that they do not have access to WK’s assessment of what is a safe and appropriate speed limit for any particular road. We know from media reports that WK considers nearly all roads to have currently unsafe speed limits. It is not clear why setting safe and appropriate speed limits has not been made a higher priority or been a more absolute requirement. Currently RCAs just have to provide an “explanation” for different speed limits.
11. The matters considered in 3.14.2 only refer to the current state of the road, not the desired state. On the face of it, if a road has no cyclists because it is too dangerous to bike on, then there is no risk to cyclists and no need to take them into account.
12. RCAs are supposed to review the effectiveness of their speed management plans with respect to speed, but not (apparently) with respect to safety.
13. WK is both the RCA of state highways and the employer of the Director. There is a possible conflict of interest here when WK wants a different speed limit on a section of state highway to the RCA of the adjacent roads (e.g., urban state highways). This is a current problem that is not addressed in the proposed Rule.
1. Require all speed limits to be safe and appropriate.
2. Publish the results of WK’s model of safe and appropriate speeds.
3. Make the urban school speed limit 30 km/h by 2024 at the latest, except in specific exceptional circumstances. Remove the proposed exemptions.
4. The Speed Management Committee (and possible RCAs as well) to review whether the speed management plans are reducing deaths and injuries fast enough to meet national targets, and to make recommendations accordingly.
5. Add emissions reductions to each list of matters to be considered when setting speed Limits.
6. Add safe provision of active travel to each list of matters to be considered when setting speed limits.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit on Setting of Speed Limits 2021.
A press release by Lucinda Rees of NZ School Speeds:
CHILDREN SET TO BECOME PRIORITY OUTSIDE SCHOOLS?
Media Release by NZ School Speeds 27th April 2021Schoolchildren – our most vulnerable road users – are set to benefit from proposed changes to lower speed limits on roads outside schools to a maximum of 30 km/h for urban schools and 60 km/h for rural schools. NZ School Speeds, a road safety organisation representing school children and concerned adults, is delighted by the announcement and thanks the Minister of Transport for his consideration, but asks for consistency of speed limits to protect all children.Implementing consistent road rules is an easy and effective way to make roads safe for children and families. Our Minister of Transport, Michael Wood, has realised this and is now considering a whole-of-network approach to speed management. “Simplifying and standardising rules to enact a consistent 30 km/h limit outside schools, rather than the ridiculous current limit of up to 100 km/h. These rules are a great way to enforce a safe speed limit around children travelling to and from school,” states Lucinda Rees from NZ School Speeds.
The proposal suggests that in some cases the speed limit should be 40 km/h outside some urban schools. A universal 30 km/h limit at peak times must be considered to ensure drivers always know what is expected of them. The difference of outcomes between these speeds of a vehicle hitting a child is staggering: according to the World Health Organisation, an increase in average speed of 1 km/h typically results in a 3% greater risk of a crash involving injury. At the increased 40 km/h, the likelihood of a child being killed is doubled, despite being ‘only 10 km/h greater.’ As such, raising the speed limit to save drivers a slight amount of travel time is unconscionable when weighed against the safety and wellbeing of our children.Furthermore, a 60 km/h speed limit outside rural schools is initially acceptable, but must be reduced to 30 km/h at peak times to ensure safety, provide consistency to regulations, and minimise driver uncertainty. Rural schools often depend on school buses, which currently have a universal passing speed limit of 20 km/h. Why should speed limits around schools not be similarly consistent for all areas? A child at a rural school is just as vulnerable as one at an urban school. The 30 km/h limit must be in place for every child, no matter their area.
Children, as our most vulnerable road users, must be the main consideration within a school zone, not drivers. Children can act impulsively and are easily distracted. Young children are unable to judge speeds of vehicles. If travelling to school via foot or bike is made to be a safe and attractive option for families, children will benefit the from exercise and mental stimulation this offers. Implementing safe speeds around schools gives children this opportunity to improve their wellbeing.NZ School Speeds is pleased that this potential benefit is considered in the proposal, which states that “RCAs [Road Controlling Authorities] will be encouraged to consider speed management treatments in the broader area around a school (e.g. road narrowing and raised platforms).” The intent of this change is to help improve safety and access for children who may use active modes of transport to get to and from school.However, the proposed timeframe for these changes is unacceptable. Under the current proposal, ‘RCAs will be required to introduce an initial 40% of changes by 30 June 2024 and use ‘reasonable efforts’ to complete the remaining changes by 31 December 2029. This is much too long a time to wait to make travel safer for our children. NZ School Speeds would like to see the revised speed limits implemented before the first term of 2022.
Ms Rees adds: “If this proposal goes ahead, it will be a giant step for road safety of all vulnerable road users, but only if a consistent 30km/h speed limit is implemented for all schools. Children need to be the main consideration within a school zone.”NZ School Speeds will be submitting on the proposed rule change and would like to encourage the public to submit by 25th June 2021 at www.nzta.govt.nz/speedrule2021. ENDS
Some thoughts from Movement:
The rule requires regard to the “road safety aspects of the GPS”, however traffic speeds can significantly contribute to other aspects of the GPS, such as mode shift, travel options, reduced environmental harm (air pollution, noise, emissions, etc.). Hence should the rule not be required to have regard to the broader strategic priorities of the GPS (per NZTA’s obligations under the LTMA)?
The rule uses “mean operating speed”, which by definition means up to half of the vehicles are travelling in excess of this speed (potentially significantly in excess). Looking at international practice, it is more usual to use the “85th percentile operating speed”. Is “mean operating speed” an improvement?
The provisions for speed limits around schools only appears to apply to the road directly outside a school and can be restricted to very limited periods. This is inadequate for improving safety for children walking and cycling from their homes. It appears to be merely for the benefit of those children being driven to and dropped off at school. Can these provisions be amended to require a wider zone around the school and the default of a 24 x 7 safer speed limit, not just the few minutes for the times kids are dropped off by car?
Section 3.14 (1) (a) focuses on the function, use, crash history, traffic volume, etc but does not specifically include perception of safety for active transport uses nor the potential for mode shift.
Will the speed management committee be a publicly announced committee that carries out public consultation? We would not want such a committee to be similar to NZTA’s traffic control device rule committee that is a confidential membership and not open to receiving submissions.
Does the rule go before the transport and infrastructure select committee or NZTA Board as part of its approval process? Please advise the approvals process.
The “Stockholm Declaration” (signed by our Government in March 2020) calls for 30 km/h traffic speeds as follows:
Focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries;
We note that the final sentence of the quoted text supports our discussion point 1. What legal weight does the Stockholm Declaration carry in New Zealand and how does the proposed Setting of Speed Limits Rule recognise the Government’s commitment to the Stockholm Declaration?
A comment in a post, by reader Translex:
This new draft rule accepts that requiring all speed limit changes to be made using the clumsy, slow and expensive bylaw process was probably a mistake. So they are dropping that requirement.
The problem is that they are arguably replacing it with a new system that is almost as clumsy, slow and expensive. A requirement on both Waka Kotahi and the local council style Road Controlling Authorities (including AT) to produce another planning document every three years. Speed Management Plans sound superficially like a reasonable idea but local government is already overburdened with planning documents (particularly transport planning documents) and so adding another one on top of the pile with a particular focus on setting safer speed limits as well as engineering proposals to reinforce driver behavior change around speed limits seems like it might just be a waste of time and money that could be spent on actually doing the engineering and assessing the right speed limit for each road.
It is hard to see how there is much need for each council to write their own plan only to have them all be approved by Waka Kotahi against how well they comply with the Waka Kotahi speed limits guidance document. How different will the plans end up being if they all have to show they align with what Waka Kotahi says anyway.
The whole need to publicly consult about speed limits is also arguably a thing that should be done away with for decisions about what is a safe and appropriate speed for a particular stretch of road. In reality this is more of a science than an art and to the extent that it is also an art it is one that should only be practiced by qualified artists. Arm chair experts are pretty much always just to fall into two groups – those who hate the idea of being told to drive slower and those who are “thinking-of-the-children” and want the speeds to be even lower. Doesn’t it make more sense to just have good national guidance and then let the experts at each council apply them to the roads they are responsible for. The sort of thing they do with vehicle standards and the design of traffic signals – just because the public use transport infrastructure doesn’t mean their opinions on it are more important than expert advice.
Good to see the proposed rule make it clear that the intention is that all schools will have lower speeds.