Plan to slow traffic over first hurdle

Last updated 06:21 06/08/2014

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Plans to slow down central Wellington traffic are one step closer.

A special Wellington City Council subcommittee yesterday voted by three votes to one to extend the 30kmh limit on the Golden Mile to the whole central business district.

But the final outcome could still change. The vote was the first of three required to get the lower limit over the line and, with two councillors who were not eligible to vote both expressing concerns at yesterday's subcommittee meeting, there is still plenty of debate to go.

Under the proposal, the 30kmh speed limit along the Golden Mile would be extended to cover all the streets in the CBD, stretching from the railway station to Vivian St.

Parts of The Terrace would be included, but arterial roads around the zone - including Vivian St, Kent and Cambridge terraces, Jervois Quay, Cable St and part of Wakefield St - would not change.

Subcommittee chairman Andy Foster said yesterday it was the smart move, and was following international best practice. "I see this very much as us taking some leadership."

A pedestrian struck by a vehicle at 30kmh was much more likely to survive than one hit at 50kmh, he said.

Iona Pannett also supported the proposal, and said it would make Wellington "a more pleasant and attractive city".

David Lee also voted in favour, but Nicola Young voted against it, saying cars were not going much faster than 30kmh anyway. "I just feel this is a kind of unnecessary micro-managing."

She also questioned the logic of making every street within the CBD 30kmh, when some could comfortably stay at 50kmh.

Council safe and sustainable transport manager Paul Barker said the move would target the 15 per cent of drivers travelling consistently higher than 30kmh.

Traffic data shows that, in Willis St, the mean speed is 30kmh, but it goes up to 38kmh for the fastest drivers, while The Terrace has the highest speeds with a 38kmh mean and top level of 47kmh.

It was also better to change the speed for the whole area than have signs switching speeds regularly, which would be confusing, he said.

Councillors Mark Peck and Simon Woolf raised concerns about the proposal, although neither could vote.

Woolf said much more emphasis should be put on personal responsibility. "Culturally and behaviourally, Wellington's very, very poor in a CBD sense - not just in compliance of law, but in relation to people's personal responsibility."

CBD business owners supported the move to a lower speed limit as sensible. Sam Ah Kit, owner of Felix Cafe in Wakefield St, said she did not often see cars driving fast but, given the prevalence of pedestrians who "jaywalk everywhere", slowing traffic down would be a good thing - "50kmh is actually quite fast in a city".

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Sophie Voon, of Voon Bridal in Willis St, agreed, saying Wellington streets made it easy for people to step out and be bowled over. While cars did not often go faster than 30kmh, it seemed sensible to make it the limit. "Why not just make it the rule?"

The subcommittee's recommendation to approve the change will now be considered by the transport and urban development committee, which will then make a final recommendation to be debated by the full council later this month.

- The Dominion Post


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