WalkSydney – 30km/h letter to councils

Below is the letter WalkSydney sent councils in January 2021

Re: Prioritise Space For Health – 30km/h speed limit in our local government area

Dear Mayor and Councillors, 

WalkSydney is the peak body for walking in Greater Sydney. Sydney can be a safer, more sustainable, more healthy and an even more beautiful city if it strongly supports walking as a primary mode of transport. With a growing population, we need to ensure people can easily walk to public transport, local shops and services, and shared transport options.

This has been a difficult year due to COVID-19, but one silver lining is the increasing political support for trialling and implementing 30 km/h zones in parts of Sydney. Trials in the City of Sydney, Liverpool City Council, and Northern Beaches Council have already been established this year. 

According to the latest Austroads guidance, reducing urban speed limit is the most effective way to improve pedestrian safety. In a vehicle-pedestrian collision, the probability of survival for a pedestrian increases dramatically at impact speeds below 30 km/h. (Austroads Guide to Traffic Management Part 4: Network Management strategies, page 52). Put simply, if a person is hit at 50 km/h they have approximately five times the risk of being killed compared to if the person was hit at 30 km/h. 

Introducing 30km/h can be a fast and low-cost intervention (see Transport for NSW – NSW Street Treatments for COVID Recovery), and will extend the reach of strategic walking and cycling routes and spreads the benefit of existing investment.

WalkSydney’s request

We ask that Council considers implementing 30 km/h speed limits for urban and residential streets with particular priority for those frequently used by children and young adults. We support the adoption of a default 30km/h limit as this is less confusing for motorists and pedestrians than targeting individual streets. This does not mean “every road”, but that 30km/h should be the norm and higher limits should be exceptions only where there is evidence that such a higher limit will be safe for pedestrians and cyclists. In March this year Ministers from 130 countries announced the Stockholm Declaration, which includes a commitment to 30km/h speed limits in urban areas. 

There is little benefit from motor vehicles driving above 30km/h on local roads. Research shows that impact on travel time is minimal.

Please find below links to two research reports that explain why 30km/h is the better speed limit for our neighbourhoods:

Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety – Vol 28 No 3, 2017  (https://barrosdool.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ACRS-journal-Vol28.3-e-edition-extract.pdf)

Safe Speed: Promoting safe walking and cycling by reducing traffic speed – 2008 (https://www.victoriawalks.org.au/Assets/Files/Safe%20Speed%20Report%20Dec%20202008.pdf)

Support from the NSW government

The NSW Government is encouraging councils to undertake trials and work towards the widespread adoption of 30 km/h, in particular, to support COVID recovery. We encourage you to work with Transport for NSW to make this change for our communities. It is better for children, better for elderly, better for pedestrians, better for people cycling, better for people with disabilities and better for safe social distancing on our streets. It is also better for drivers if more people decide to walk and cycle because this reduces congestion.

When setting a trial zone, we recommend aiming to make it as broad as possible. Small piecemeal trials are of little value. It has to be implemented in a holistic strategy to achieve the full benefit and get more people to walk and cycle to local places.

Transport for NSW has released an important guide – NSW Street Treatments for COVID Recovery, with information on 30km/h speed zone trials as a COVID19 response.

Please keep us informed of your progress.

Responses received from councils can be viewed here.