Brakes go on in CBD

A central-city slowdown is looming for Wellington motorists as a 30kmh speed limit is considered for a further 64 streets.

Public feedback will be sought next month on a proposal to extend the 30kmh speed limit from the Golden Mile to the rest of the central business district, where the limit is now 50kmh.

The change would cost about $250,000, and include parts of The Terrace and Taranaki, Tory, Willis, Featherston, Ghuznee and Dixon streets. The harbour quays and Vivian St would not be included.

Extending the 30kmh limit recognised that pedestrian safety problems were not caused only by buses, and were not restricted to the Golden Mile, Wellington City Council transport and urban development committee chairman Andy Foster said.

Most drivers were probably driving at about 30kmh already, but officially reducing the speed would help bring the top speeds down. "That, obviously, is something that is highly desirable."

Cutting the speed was also about improving the chance of surviving crashes. People would always make mistakes, but the consequences for pedestrians at 30kmh were a lot less serious than at 50kmh, he said.

The plan has gained tentative support from other road users. NZ Bus general manager strategy Scott Thorne said the company supported moves to improve safety, and the change was unlikely to have much impact on travel times.

However, any consideration of the change would have to take into account public transport needs, and should only be done alongside other safety improvements, such as creating shared spaces.

"You can always improve safety."

Wellington Combined Taxis chief executive Lynne Hayman was also supportive, provided key arterial routes were kept at faster speeds. However, the effect might be minimal, she said.

"It's quite difficult to travel at more than 30kmh in those inner-city streets now, so I'm not sure that it would slow down much traffic."

Automobile Association Wellington district chairman Michael Gross said its members would discuss the idea next week, but it was important to keep speeds consistent throughout the country, so people knew what speed to travel in different environments.

The 30kmh idea throughout the CBD was first given the nod to go out for feedback by councillors in 2011, but budget cuts meant the consultation could not proceed, Mr Foster said.

The funding was reinstated the following year after councillors rejected a proposal to reduce the Golden Mile speed to 20kmh. That decision followed a pedestrian safety review prompted by a series of accidents, including the death of jogger Venessa Green in Willis St in 2011.

Council documents show that, from 2007 to 2011, there were 2200 injury crashes in Wellington city, of which 19 per cent involved pedestrians. That ratio was well above other main centres - the next highest was Tauranga on 11.2 per cent.

"Over the most recent full five-year period, the central area had reported 213 injured pedestrians or 51 per cent of all reported pedestrian injuries citywide," the report said.

The council was unable to provide more recent data, because a manager was on holiday, but Mr Foster said it was likely the 2012 data would show about the same or slightly fewer crashes.

Chief transport planner Steve Spence said the number of crashes was trending down. However, there was still room for improvement, and reducing speeds to 30kmh was considered "best practice".

If the proposal went through with approval - and funding - from the council, work to introduce the speed limit could begin in the 2014-15 financial year.

The Dominion Post