U-turn on Hamilton's planned 40kmh zones
The Hamilton City Council may abandon large parts of its plans to roll out 40kmh speed limits after fielding heavy criticism from major agencies and residents.
Council managers have reacted to the backlash by recommending dozens of proposed speed limit cuts be axed.
Hearings yesterday into plans for a further round of speed limit cuts were instead hijacked by opponents of the underpinning policy.
Fairview Downs resident Chris Greer stole the show, presenting NZTA crash data that showed a single speed-related injury crash in the entire suburb in six years, the result of an alcohol or drug impaired driver, she told the committee.
"It's a made-up problem. We don't need nanny state coming in and waving a stick and fining us."
Staff have now recommended the council abandon plans for low limits on all 30 streets in the suburb. Large parts of the Frankton shopping precinct, and other streets in Pukete, Claudelands and Forest Lake have also been cut from the recommended proposal. However, most of the proposed changes recommended remain in place for dozens of streets in Fairfield, Enderley and Woodstock.
Council staff have also recommended key bus routes be pulled from the plans. The Automobile Association has heavily criticised the changes, and even the New Zealand Transport Agency yesterday questioned whether the council had gone beyond a demonstration exercise - the city is acknowledged as being at the forefront of councils nationally in its pursuit of "safer" speed limits.
But efforts to hear the public's views on rolling out a further wave of changes to the city's Traffic Bylaw were yesterday instead swamped by opposition to the speed limits already changed.
The driver organisation's 11,000-strong city membership have pilloried the speed limits being rolled out across the city under its Safer Speeds policy as unjustified, surreptitious, and confusing, and want the changes rolled back.
They had served up an unprecedented level of comment when surveyed on the issue, AA representatives appearing before city councillors today said.
"The AA supports making our roads safer and lower speed limits may well be appropriate in some areas," said AA district vice president Trevor Follows.
But many saw no need for lower limits apart from around schools, he said.
A huge number of drivers didn't know about or disagreed with the changes.
There was also strong concern that the moves put the city out of step with speed limits elsewhere, confusing motorists.
The AA wanted more work done to change the look and feel of roads so there were obvious differences between speed limits of 40kmh or 30kmh compared to 50kmh or higher speed roads, and said signage alone was not sufficient to flag speed limit changes.
But some backed the lower limits.
Long-time Dinsdale Rd resident Ross Meecham thanked the council for its recent cut to the speed limit: "We now live in a street where there is more respect for us as residents."
Another resident happy with the new 40kmh limit on Dinsdale Rd was Linda Wineti, who lives nearby and walks there regularly with her grandchildren.
"I think it's better, I do, because it's the safety of the kids," she said. A recommendation was put off until September 17 to allow staff to gather more information.
BUSES COULD SLOW UNDER NEW LIMITS
Those behind Hamilton's bus service are urging city council counterparts to put the brakes on a radical rejig of the city's speed limits, labelling the initiative as "premature".
The Waikato Regional Council says while it supports the intentions around road safety, the city council had not adequately assessed the impact the lowered speed limits would have on Hamilton's bus network.
Regional councillor Paula Southgate said the proposed speed limits could change the city's traffic patterns by pushing traffic onto arterial roads.
A regional council submission said the city council's bylaw had the potential to undermine substantial ratepayer and taxpayer investment in Hamilton's public transport.
"This is because the bylaw is proposed on a number of bus routes which may compromise bus travel times and reliability. The consequences could be that the buses are removed from these routes, reducing the bus coverage in the city."
The regional council runs Waikato's public bus service. Councillor Lois Livingston, however, questioned how much weight the city council would place on the regional council's stance.
She said the city council had a history of "announcing something, seeking consultation, and then just doing what it wants".
"I get totally frustrated with them as a city ratepayer," Ms Livingston said.
Ms Southgate said it was premature to introduce the speed limit changes ahead of other strategic transport reviews.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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