Council says no to lower limit
Palmerston North motorists look set to be allowed to continue driving through the central city at speeds of up to 50kmh without risking a speeding ticket.
The city council's community wellbeing committee yesterday threw out a plan to impose a 30kmh speed limit in the central business district, covering most streets inside the ring road.
Mayor Jono Naylor, who proposed the amendment to the draft Speed Limits Bylaw, said the restriction would be intimidating and largely unnecessary.
Most motorists already drove below 35kmh, and he said they should continue to be encouraged to slow down through smart street design rather than through fear.
"We have got to be really careful about perception," he said.
"Last week we removed one of the big fear factors - reducing the $40 parking fine - and now we are talking about putting another one back in.
"There is no clear rationale for it."
He said the restriction could be seen as another revenue gathering exercise, even though the council would not get the money from fines.
Deputy mayor Jim Jefferies agreed the speed signs would create an unwelcoming clutter, and give out the impression people were entering a punitive and unfriendly area.
Street design was better than regulation, he said.
The committee voted 7-3 to dump the restriction, which still needs to be adopted by the full council at the end of the month.
The change of heart was welcomed by corporate logistics planner Walter Glass, one of 17 submitters opposed to the idea who spoke to a hearing last month.
"I'm very pleased to hear sanity prevails," Mr Glass said after the meeting.
"If we were looking for a change of name for the city, it would have been Sleepy Hollow.
"We need to embrace the fact we are a city, not a country town."
The Manawatu district of the Automobile Association also strongly opposed the lower limit after a survey involving more than 1000 members.
One of the strongest advocates for slowing traffic down in the central city and around schools, Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell, was unable to be at the meeting because he was attending a road safety conference.
He said he was very disappointed that councillors had taken a backward step. "It was an opportunity to create a more welcoming central city environment, where shoppers don't have to be looking out for cars everywhere."
Cr Bruce Wilson wanted the 30kmh speed restriction to stay in the new bylaw.
He acknowledged the information about actual speeds and low numbers of injury accidents did not support the limit. However, he said a lower speed restriction would support efforts made through street design to make the central city safer.
"The key is to give pedestrians and cyclists a much safer feeling, and statistics are not measuring that - they don't tell us about perception."
SPEED NOT ONLY A PICK-UP PROBLEM
Two Palmerston North schools want road changes more than speed restrictions to solve nightmare congestion at the end of the school day.
Freyberg High School principal Peter Brooks and Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre said the city council's proposed 40kmh variable speed zone would not fix the problems on Freyberg St and Featherston St.
"You'd be lucky to get up to 40kmh," Mr Brooks said.
The schools are high on a council priority list to have the $21,000 treatment proposed in the draft Speed Limits Bylaw that is likely to be approved at the end of the month.
The two principals said especially in the afternoons, when about 1500 pupils were leaving, traffic was slowed on Featherston St, and virtually stalled in Freyberg St as people tried to get in and out again.
Ross Intermediate brought its home time forward in an attempt to ease congestion, but Mr Codyre said with the school roll doubling to 540 over five years, the traffic was still a nightmare.
The roundabout at the corner of the two streets in close proximity to pedestrian crossings contributed to the problem.
"It's a miracle no-one has been seriously hurt there, with the kids crossing, and cars getting impatient."
Mr Codyre supported variable speed zones as a way of acknowledging safety around schools as a priority.
But the two schools needed better traffic management, a safe drop-off area, and better turnaround area.
Freyberg has suggested shifting the pedestrian crossing further up Featherston St away from turning traffic.
Road planning team leader David Lane said variable speed zones were only part of any solution. While the bylaw was getting attention at present, schools would be consulted about wider safety issues before the zones were introduced.
The goal date for the school zones to be set up is December 2015, to allow money to be set aside in next year's budget.
The 20 zones affecting 18 schools come at an estimated total cost of $371,000.
The council earlier stopped a plan for 30kmh permanent speed zones outside all city schools.
The schools on the priority list are Cornerstone Christian, Exclusive Brethren in Roberts Line, Freyberg, Boys' High, Girls' High, Ross Intermediate, Central Normal, College St Normal, Awatapu College, Palmerston North Intermediate, Hokowhitu, Monrad Intermediate, St James, St Mary's, Takaro, Terrace End, West End and Ashhurst.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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