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Reduce speeds in the the Brisbane CBD

Originally posted on http://sustainable-transport.blogspot.com

Reducing speed limits on our roads is a cost effective way to save lives, improve business and encourage more people to walk and cycle. Brisbane City Council’s proposal to reduce speeds in Brisbane’s CBD to 40km/hr should be implemented immediately, be extended to Ann and Turbot Streets, and be strongly enforced by the Queensland Police. This policy was first proposed by the Greens in the lead up to the March Council elections and it now has the support of Liberal, Labor and the RACQ. (1)

It will literally make Brisbane more liveable. Lower speeds give road users more time to react, reduce stopping distances and reduce the severity of impact. The risk of death for pedestrians struck by a vehicle rises rapidly as vehicle speed rises above 40km/hr. (2) Road accidents cause huge amounts of physical and emotional pain and it is estimated that they cost Australia nearly $15 billion per year. (3)

Calm streets are also great for business. Slower streets give people better access to shops on both sides of the road and the relaxed atmosphere of a calm street allows cafes and other outdoor uses to flourish.

Another benefit of calm CBD streets is that they are safer and easier for people to cycle on. Encouraging cycling is an effective congestion reduction measure and has great economic benefits in terms of public health savings. While road accidents cost Australians billions each year it has been estimated that the economic benefits of cycling were $227 million in 2006. (4)

Council’s current proposal should be extended to include reduced speeds on Ann and Turbot Streets. Ann Street has heavy pedestrian traffic coming out of Central Railway Station and Turbot Street is currently an uninviting traffic sewer that cuts off the CBD from Spring Hill and the Roma Street precinct. Both streets offer cyclists direct connections between the CBD and the Valley, and Turbot Street is an access point to the popular Bicentennial Bikeway.

An important factor that also needs to be addressed is that the majority of pedestrian accidents in the CBD involved pedestrians crossing against the red signal. (5) This is due to traffic light patterns that provide long green signals for cars and short green signals for pedestrians travelling in the same direction. Crossing Elizabeth Street while walking along the northern side of George Street is a great example of this.

Intersections have also been designed so that pedestrians often need to use two or three different crossings just to get across one road, while vehicles only need one. Try crossing Wharf and Creek Streets when you’re walking along the Western side of Turbot Street and you’ll see what I mean. Council traffic engineers need to reprogram traffic lights to give pedestrians a fair go.

So will these simple and cost-effective changes have negative impacts on people driving in the CBD? The impact of reduced speed limits on overall trip times will be negligible. The main cause of delays for drivers on Ann, Turbot and other inner-city streets will continue to be the fact that there are too many cars on our roads. Governments can address this by shifting their overall transport priority from roads to public transport, walking and cycling.

Tristan Peach is spokesperson for Community Action for Sustainable Transport castqld@yahoo.com.au

(1) Walking Policy (March 2008), Green City Links inner-city transport plan (July 2007)

(2) Fildes, B., Oxley, J. 1998, `Long Term Consequences of Road Crashes', Measuring the Burden of Injury, Proceedings of a Conference held at Fremantle, WA 15-16 February 1996, Road Accident Prevention Research Unit, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands WA.

(3) Risbey, T., De Silva, H., Tong, A. 2007. ‘Road crash cost estimation: a proposal incorporating a decade of conceptual and empirical developments’, Staff paper, Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, Australia.

(4) Bauman, A., Rissel, C., Garrard, J., Ker, I., Speidel, R., Fishman, E. 2008 ‘Cycling: Getting Australia Moving: barriers, facilitators and interventions to get more Australians physically active through cycling’ Cycling Promotion Fund, Melbourne.\

(5) Sandy, A. 2008. ‘40km/h speed limit plan for Brisbane CBD’, Courier Mail 11/09/2008.