We know that raising vehicles speeds on motorways will attract drivers from local roads to motorways, may encourage more travel by motorway (and maybe overall), but will increase safety risk on motorways (but arguably might reduce risk overall, as drivers divert from less safe roads to safe roads).
Doing both could be a politically powerful bargain, improving our urban environment. But how does this net out? Will the safety improvements on local streets from fewer vehicles and lower speeds outweigh the increased risk on motorways?
Because we don’t know how this nets out, and the risks of being wrong are fatal, I propose that we study this.
Hypothesis: Raising speed limits on motorways and lowering speed limits on local roads in urban areas reduces traffic deaths per capita.
How do we test this?
We can simulate this in silica, but that only goes so far. We don’t really know the demand response to complex changes in travel speed limits (how much does speed actually change when the speed limit changes depends on the design of the road), and models are not particularly accurate. In the end, we will need to do trials, find a motorway network (or multiple networks) and set of local roads where the change can be implemented, along with a control case where it is not, and compare.
The evaluation should assess traffic safety, mode shares, and environmental impacts, along with speeds and speed limit compliance.
The answer could make it politically expedient to lower urban speed limits, and shift car crash risk from pedestrians and bicyclists to motorists. I look forward to seeing the answer.
It’s always good when people take to the streets. Below are some official street festivals, markets, and the like that take place in Greater Sydney in 2022. While COVID did a number on these over the past two years, the city is awakening from its pandemic slumber. If you know of other active open street festivals, let us know. Always check the website of the host organisation to confirm date, time, and place.
Unless there are signs that specifically prohibit them, bicycles may be ridden on the footpath by:
Children under the age of 16
Adults supervising a child under the age of 16
Children 16 years and older with an adult accompanying another child under the age of 16.
Over 16 years bicycle riders cannot ride on a footpath without a medical exemption.
Foot scooters, skateboards and rollerblades may be ridden on footpaths unless signs specifically prohibit them, however, riders must keep to the left and give way to other pedestrians.
Motorised wheelchairs or mobility devices that travel at no more than 10kms can use footpaths.
All bicycle riders may ride on a shared path.
When riding on a footpath or shared path, riders must keep left, overtake on the right and give way to pedestrians.
On shared separated pathways foot scooters, skateboard and rollerblade riders must use the section designated for bicycles, but must keep out of the path of any bicycle.
What about e bikes, motorised bicycles, and scooters?
There are two types of e-bikes permitted to be used on footpaths and shared footpaths.
Power assisted pedal cycles.
Electrically power assisted cycles.
These must be designed to be propelled primarily by the rider – they cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor. The motor is intended to help the rider, such as when going uphill or riding into a headwind.
There are legal requirements which cover what is a permitted e-bike.
Power assisted pedal cycles
Has one or more motors attached with a combined maximum power output of 200 watts
Cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor/s
Weighs less than 50 kg (including batteries)
Has a height-adjustable seat.
Electrically power-assisted cycles, etc.
An electrically power-assisted cycle has a maximum continued rated power of 250 watts. This power output must be:
Progressively reduced as the bicycle’s speed increases beyond 6km/h
Cut off when:
The bicycle reaches a speed of 25km/h; or
The rider stops pedalling and the travel speed exceeds 6km/h.
Powered foot scooters and skateboards cannot be used on footpaths, roadways or in any public places in NSW.
All petrol-powered bicycles are illegal on NSW roads and road-related areas such as footpaths, shared paths, cycle ways and cycle paths. This includes bicycles that:
Have a petrol-powered engine attached before or after purchase
Are powered by other types of internal combustion engines.
The reason for this is set out on Transport for NSW website.
“Petrol-powered bicycles are faster than regular bicycles, and are comparable with moped and small motorcycle speeds. Petrol-powered bicycles have regular bicycle brakes that are not designed for the higher speeds. These bicycles also take much longer to stop than regular bicycles which increases the risk of a crash that can kill or seriously injure the rider, and other road users.”
Bicycle riders are required to comply with the Road Rules (Rule 14 Road Rules)
Road Rule 250 requires a bicycle rider to keep to the left on a shared pathway and give way to pedestrians. If it is a separated footpath the pedestrian must not walk on the bicycle section of the footpath unless they are pushing a wheelchair (Rule 239) Similarly it is an offence for a cyclist to be on a pedestrian section of a separated footpath. (Rule 249)
It is an offence to ride a bicycle negligently, furiously or recklessly (Rule 245)
While there is no Road Rule generally requiring motor vehicles to give way to pedestrians, there is a road rule requiring cyclists to give way to pedestrians on shared pathways!
For more detailed information about what motorised bicycles, scooters, etc are allowed on public footpaths and road related areas see the Transport NSW website link above.
There is a perception that Australia is a great country for children to grow up in. While certainly, Australia has some of the best nature and weather on offer, not all children are benefitting equally from this.
Unicef published a report on children’s wellbeing from rich countries. Australia scores 32 out of 38 on child well-being outcomes.
While it is hard to break down the exact causes for this low score, there are some more in-depth finding. For example there were strong links between happiness and the frequency of playing outside.
Researchers have found overwhelming evidence that neighbourhoods that encourage active travel have an high impact on physical and mental wellbeing. Walking and riding not only provides exercise but it is the only way to independently travel to places. Streets that are not safe for kids steal their independence. Freedom of choice is a significant factor in influencing children’s overall levels of subjective well-being
Last week the one of the most liked post in my local community Facebook page started with the following words: “We are a generation that will never come back. A generation that walked to school and back. A generation that did their homework alone to get out asap to play in the street. A generation that spent all their free time on the street. [..].”
My experience growing up in Germany in the 80’s was exactly like the above “Australian” experience. But interestingly, growing up in Germany has not changed as much like it has here: my 7-year old nephew walks to school unsupervised. And it is completely normal for kids to play on their local streets. Walking to school unsupervised from the age of 6 is encouraged by schools, local governments, road safety organizations and even the car lobby.
In Australia, it is almost the opposite. The NSW Centre for road safety recommends: “Children up to 10 should be supervised around traffic and should hold an adult’s hand when crossing the road.”
The Netherlands that scores highest on children wellbeing is famous for streets that are safe for people of all ages to enjoy – and for children to be independently travelling from a young age.
Cars and children are competitors in local streets. In Australia, we have chosen cars. Probably not on purpose but the result is visible. Most children are driven everywhere and not many children are allowed to play in their local streets. Usually, children spend their afternoons inactive if their parents don’t have time or money to drive them to afternoon activities. Australia has one of the lowest share of children walking or riding to school out of all OECD countries.
Since the 1970s the number of cars has increased by a factor 4 on Australian streets and not much has been done to reduce the negative consequences this has on our children who need to navigate traffic when walking to school or meeting friends. Countries like Germany and Sweden started introducing 30km/h speed limits in neighbourhoods in the 1980s. Drivers are expected to watch out for children and be ready to break in local streets. By making the streets safe for children to walk, there are less journeys made by car. Less traffic creates a better environment for children.
More often than we think we need to accept that change is necessary (like reducing urban speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h) to keep things we value (children being active and independent).
The tables below give an overview on travel time and safety impact of 30km/h speed limits:
In Australia, we have introduced tiny 40km/h speed zones around schools that are just big enough that children that are driven to school and need to walk to school from a parked car are not endangered by fast-moving cars. The school zones don’t do enough for children that walk home. Once children exit the school zone, drivers around them are reminded to speed up again to an unsafe speed of 50km/h or more. Many of the streets outside the school zones are simply too hard to cross for children which means they are not allowed to walk and are driven instead.
According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety, in a crash between a car and somebody walking, there is a 10 per cent risk that the person will be killed at 30 km/h, 40 per cent risk at 40 km/h, and a 90 per cent risk at 50 km/h.
Why do we expect drivers to slow down in school zones but find it too much to ask also to slow down where the children live?
Australian holiday parks provide an impressive example of the free-range, active childhood, kids in many northern European countries still enjoy. There are streets where kids are allowed to play, scoot or ride their bikes unsupervised. Here we find low-traffic, low-speed streets where drivers watch out and where parents feel confident in their children’s abilities to be independent outside without constant supervision even when surrounded by strangers.
We don’t need a large amount of expensive infrastructure in Australian neighbourhoods to create a better balance between children and cars, we need drivers to slow down and watch out more.
There would even be cheap in-car technology available that would stop us from exceeding the speed limit. In the EU all new cars are required to have a technology called Intelligent Speed Assist included, London buses use it already, why do we not request it here for all new cars? Do we think there is a right to exceed speed limits and put our most vulnerable road users in danger? Why would we let taxis, fleets and repeating speed offenders drive without this technology on board that is proven to save lives at a low cost?
To make our children happier, we should try to give our children back independence and encourage more incidental physical activity and unsupervised outdoor play.
We should aim for neighbourhoods where kids can meet their friends outside and explore, play on the streets and walk to school and afternoon activities.
One important step is to create a better balance in our neighbourhood streets and that means that here drivers will need to slow down to no more than 30km/h, the international best practice. An alliance of 13 Australian organisations including the Heart Foundation, the Australasian College for Road Safety, the Climate Council and the Telethon Kids Institute made “lower urban speed limits” the number one priority for transport for the 2022 federal election.
Will this make our kids more happy? Well it is not guaranteed but from all evidence that researchers have gathered it might be a good start.
On 29 January 2022 changes to The UK Highway Code came into effect. The Highway Code is the UK’s version of the road rules.
A hierarchy of road users assists all road users and guides decision-making in situations where there are a variety of road users in the same public space. Changes to the UK Code are part of a campaign to improve infrastructure for walking and cycling.
Traffic from the right (including cyclists) has priority.
Traffic on rotary intersections has priority, unless the signs indicate otherwise.
Police cars, ambulances and fire trucks always have priority. This goes for trams as well.
You’re required to stop for pedestrians who want to use a zebra crossing. Swiss drivers don’t take this rule lightly and do indeed stop even if pedestrians are only approaching a crossing. As a tourist you are expected to do the same, and pedestrians expect to get right of way. Trams don’t need to stop for pedestrians.
WalkSydney continues to ask that road rules be changed to acknowledge that where pedestrians must cross a road such as at corners and on marked crossings, vehicles must yield.
Rewriting the road rules to include the priority concept such as in the UK Highway Code would support road safety outcomes.
If you have time and are in the area today, go check out car-free Redfern Street (Sunday 23 Jan)!
It’s really exciting to see City of Sydney transforming local streets into car-free zones for a series of special events, an initiative to support small business, and provide outdoor entertainment for residents.
Some observations from people enjoying last night’s event at Potts Point / Kings Cross:
Keep an eye out for upcoming Summer Series dates and locations:
On analysis it was found that these attributes make a high street work:
Reduce speed (to 30km/h)
Frequent zebra (pedestrian) crossings;
Critical mass of local customers;
Victorian Buildings (not too high).
Aspects of a high street which lead to its demise are:
Speeds over 40km/h;
Car park crossings;
Absence of places to sit.
This is a most interesting investigation. If you are interested in community life, access to necessary and convenient services read the report. You can check if your high street has been assessed and otherwise learn. Congrats to Committee for Sydney.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht have written to parliament and the cabinet calling for a reduction of maximum speeds on most urban roads to 30 kph, the Parool reported on Wednesday. The move would lead to a significant reduction in the number of people being killed in traffic accidents, the cities say. Around half the roads in the four cities already have a 30 kph speed limit but more, officials say, needs to be done. Amsterdam’s traffic chief Egbert de Vries told the AD that 80% of traffic accident victims are injured on roads with a maximum speed limit of 50 kph. ‘Cars used to have too much space in our cities, but now livability is primary,’ he said. ‘If we want to better protect pedestrians and cyclists, then we need to take action.’ In addition, electric scooters, super fast electric bikes and other light electric vehicles must all move from the cycle lanes to the roads, De Vries said. In 2020, 610 people died in traffic accidents, including 229 cyclists and 41 pedestrians. Traffic safety research institute SWOV says cutting the speed limit from 50kph to 30kph would cut this by 20% to 30%. Cabinet intervention is need to change the laws so the lower speed limit can also be imposed on major roads, and to remove the legal requirement to place speed bumps and other traffic calming measures on all 30kph roads. The new speed limits would come into effect in 2023
When a road crossing is an extension of a footpath our road rules sometimes give right of way to pedestrians as the illustration below refers
According to NSW Centre for Road Safety brochure ‘Top 10 Misunderstood Road Rules in NSW’, drivers do not understand the rule concerning giving way to pedestrians when the driver is turning left or right right at an intersection – the driver must give way to any pedestrian crossing the road which the driver is entering. This applies to intersections with and without traffic lights. It does not apply at roundabouts.
Recent research for Greater Manchester that 83% of adults feel more confident crossing the road with a zebra crossing. Zebra crossings are the most obvious sign to drivers about who has the right of way.
If authorities were serious about reducing road fatalities and injuries, zebra crossings between footpaths, especially alongside main roads, would help correct the confusion and ambiguities created by the road rules and help drivers understand their responsibilities.
Local Government Elections take place on 4th December 2021. Local Government plays a crucial role to improve walkability within their local government area (LGA).
WalkSydney sent a survey to all councillors in Greater Sydney about their views on walkability in their respective LGA. Councillors were encouraged to forward the survey to other candidates within their party. Find out what your local election candidates think about different measures to improve walkability here.
64 candidates from 25 LGAs participated in our survey. A striking 100% of councillors who responded said that we need to make it safer and easier for children to walk and ride a bicycle to school.
The majority of candidates who replied support low speed, low traffic neighbourhoods, and increasing tree canopy over walkways.
Councillors were also given the chance to reflect on what motions they supported in the past on council that aimed to improve walkability.
We do love footpaths but improving walkability involves more than just building footpaths. We also need streets that are easy to cross, we need lower speeds, low traffic neighbourhoods, and more shade.
The Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, the second of the 46th Parliament, was established by a resolution of appointment that was passed by the House of Representatives on 25 February 2021 and the Senate on 15 March 2021. It follows the previous Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, which tabled its final report on 30 October 2020.
Building on that earlier work, the committee is inquiring into and will be reporting on measures that can be taken to reduce trauma and deaths on Australian roads. It will investigate and identify opportunities to improve road safety programs and relevant policy in the health, education, industry, transport and other sectors; embed road trauma prevention across agencies; and reduce road trauma in the workplace, including a focus on heavy vehicles and the gig economy.
The Committee is due to present a final report on or before 1 July 2022. Submissions closed 24 August 2021.
Limit speed to 30k in residential, school and many commercial zones.
Prioritise responsibility of road users so that a road user which has more capacity to harm another road user must give way as set out in the UK Highway Code.
Alter road rules so that the law reflects the hierarchy of care.
Abandon victim blaming as the vehicle which causes injury is controlled by a driver – it is drivers who cause injury.
Road design should be safer and the public space needs to be shared more equitably where there are many pedestrians and cyclists. Furthermore If paths need to be widened and cycleways constructed then space for transport needs to be found.
Our transport culture need to be changed so that care must be exercised in favour of the more vulnerable user. This cultural change will guide decision making where the routes and needs of different users intersect.
Transport for NSW proposes to reduce traffic lanes, create new walking links, cycleways and dynamic community spaces, WalkSydney has provided a submission. If you would like to comment on the proposal, you have until midnight on Monday 4 October 2021.
WalkSydney is pleased to make a submission about the proposed Sydney Park Junction walking and cycling upgrade
WalkSydney is a community group working to make it easier, safer and more pleasant to walk in Sydney. With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk to public transport, local shops and services, and shared transport options. The proposed Sydney Park Junction walking and cycling upgrade provides another opportunity to achieve those outcomes.
More space for paths and cycles:
WalkSydney welcomes and supports the proposal which will improve Sydney Park by better integrating the Park with its surrounding environment. The repurposing of road space for wider and continuous paths especially at May Street and Goodsell Street as well as permanent cycleways along Princes Highway/King Street and Sydney Park Road are welcomed.
Expanded areas of plantings:
The proposed increase in the tree canopy will complement the residential areas adjoining the park and provide for a more convivial landscape. A walking experience is enhanced by a green landscape. Although peripheral to the scope of the project, an upgrade of Camdenville Park with trees and street plantings between Camdenville Park and King Street would assist achievement of the objectives of the St Peter’s Square upgrade.
All the intersections with other road users need to be fair and not privilege vehicle drivers. A walker should not need to wait long to cross a road. Therefore all the raised pedestrian crossings as well as the proposed mid-block crossings along King Street and the Princes Highway are welcomed. Where there are traffic lights, these should be responsive to demand or automatic for pedestrians and cyclists. The lower speed limit is supported.
Consideration should be given to removing signals at the Mitchell Road and Sydney Park Road intersection especially as the area is to be used for local traffic. The intersection should be reconfigured as a roundabout with pedestrian/bicycle priority on all arms (also known as a protected or ‘Dutch-style roundabout” – see Figure 1). This would eliminate intersection delay for pedestrians and bicycles.
Figure 1: Protected roundabout
The above improvements would have the added benefit of reducing the effective road capacity and therefore traffic volume and associated impacts – consistent with the project objectives to improve walking movement and connectivity, and state and local government priorities and strategies.
WalkSydney thanks Transport for NSW, City of Sydney and Inner West Councils for the proposal which has been promoted with excellent explanatory material. Thank you for taking the time to read our comments.
Bridge Road Glebe changes from single lane to two lanes for a short distance along the Blackwattle Bay foreshore (between A and B on the map above). Two lanes are unnecessary and dangerous because they enable overtaking and speeding. The second lanes on Bridge Road are required to cater for the high number of walkers and cyclists in the area especially during construction of the new Fish Markets.
WalkSydney has written to the Transport Minister requesting the road space be reused for pedestrians and cyclists
Between Taylor Street (A) and Wattle Street (B), the Foreshore pedestrian and cycleway ends at Bridge Road. Pedestrians and cyclists continue toward the City and Pyrmont, overflowing onto the road at times. There is no alternative. When construction requirements close the footpath, construction directs pedestrians and cyclists across Bridge Road.
If Bridge Road were a continuous single lane in each direction, there would be more space for all the users on the foreshore and a single lane would reduce speeding. It would also enable a permanent cycleway to be established along Bridge Road and provide for continuation of the pop-up cycleways.
This area has high foot traffic in particular because Bridge Road intersects parklands and connects densely occupied places. As outdoor life is likely to remain a health priority, safe networks for people and cycles are required.
Sydney is filled with canals, funnelling water into the Parramatta, Cooks, Nepean, and other water courses. These spaces are blocked off from use by chain link fences, and cut through our neighbourhoods, blocking dog walkers and children from walking from one side to the other. When there are bridges, they are often blocked for anyone with a pram or mobility device, with stairs or bollards.
Once you start to see these spaces, and all the lost pocket parks and pathways, you can’t unsee them. So much space for community gardens and playgrounds! Trying to find new places to walk within our five kilometres during the Covid lockdowns brings choices about land use into even sharper focus.
One such canal runs through our community, from the Ashfield Pool all the way to the Bay Run. Our Council had already planned on opening this up for public use, but had no budget or time frame, so we started the Friends of Iron Cove Creek – a non-partisan, grassroots, community group, whose aim is to bring momentum to the campaign to turn Iron Cove Creek, otherwise known as the Dobroyd Canal, into a walk and cycleway. Please see our website for more information, and to take the community survey.
We were formed in early 2020, and have already seen some success! Our community survey run in 2021 has received almost 500 responses from a diverse range of residents, 98% of which want to see this project progressed as soon as possible.
This project has been given unanimous support from Councillors, who have organised a meeting with Council staff, and have passed a motion supporting the walk and cycleway. This was followed by an amendment to the Budget to include funding for the master plan, which was also successfully adopted.
We are now gathering further community support, and reaching out to the local schools and businesses. There are nine schools within one kilometre of the creek – we are hoping that this can form the backbone of a larger network of safe cycling routes, so children can walk and cycle to school independently.
On Saturday, the 28th August we held our Annual General Meeting, and we welcome the new WalkSydney committee for the next year:
Brigid Kelly – President
Lena Huda – Vice-President
David Haertsch – Treasurer
Regina Haertsch – Secretary
Federico Marcantognini – Technologist
David Martin – Committee member
Barnaby Bennett – Committee member
David Levinson – Committee member
Anna Harvey – Committee member
We thank the outgoing committee and immediate past President Barnaby Bennett and Vice President Yvonne Poon for their immense effort and contribution to WalkSydney and its’ establishment as a peak pedestrian advocacy group.
Focus areas for the next year discussed included:
Developing membership activities and build the walking community
Campaigns – eg. 30km/h zones, improving traffic signal treatment for pedestrians
Supporting the existing chapters (Randwick, Canada Bay and Wollongong) for Safe Streets to School and help to find campaigners for new ones
Upcoming local council elections
Strategic partnering with organisations to promote walking projects
WalkSydney is a community group working to make it easier, safer, and more pleasant to walk in Greater Sydney. With a growing population we need to ensure people can easily walk to public transport, local shops and services, and shared transport options.
Join us this Saturday (August 28, 2021) at 2pm at our Virtual AGM – members can vote and stand to be elected for our committee. We would love to see you there.
After the AGM there will be presentation by Lena Huda about Safe Streets to School. This is a campaign supported by WalkSydney – members have petitions in a few LGAs in Greater Sydney going and encourage you to get involved.
Safe Streets to School is asking for footpaths and crossings or 30km/h limits within the walking catchment of schools. Lena will present strategies and milestones of the Wollongong chapter. Here the campaigners have successfully started to change the narrative around lower speeds in their LGA and are now seeing trials and pilots resulting from their work. WalkSydney supports the asks of Safe Streets to School.
WalkSydney opposes most of the changes proposed for Bulli and Thirroul given they make walking less pleasant and less safe.
The proposed changes focus on removing kerbside parking to increase the number of lanes through the high streets. Clearways bring speeding traffic too close to people walking and result in increased noise and speeds in an area where people want to enjoy grabbing a coffee and holding a conversation.
We encourage Transport for NSW to prioritise and improve the following aspects of the proposed improvements:
Apply Movement and Place framework appropriately to support high streets
Increase accessibility and amenity around shopping areas
Prioritisation of people over traffic speed
Reduce congestion by prioritising public transport accessibility
Proper infrastructure to support safe and easy walking and cycling
30km/h speed limits in residential neighbourhoods
Adequate footpaths and walking infrastructure for Point Street and Trinity Row