Which countries have 30km/h in residential areas?
Sweden and Germany have effectively implemented 30km/h decades ago. A big part of the EU, especially Northern Europe has implemented 30km/h in most residential areas. Spain, Wales and the Netherlands have announced 30km/h to be the default speed limit in urban areas. In the UK, over 20M People live in local authorities that have implemented 30km/h (20mph) speed limits.
What makes Australia different?
Compared to Sweden, Germany and the UK, Australia has better weather and an outdoor culture. Compared to these countries, a very low percentage of people in Australia use active transport as a travel mode (see above). By introducing 30km/h, it would be possible to make it safe for people to walk or cycle to school, local shops and other places with all the benefits this brings immediately. In many places, especially in quiet residential streets this can be done without the need for separated infrastructure like cycleways.
Isn’t 30km/h in high pedestrian areas and school zones enough?
Upon deciding if it safe to walk or cycle somewhere, people will consider the entire journey. Reducing speed limits in those areas only, will reduce road danger and noise in these areas but will not encourage many people who live outside these zones to walk and cycle to places. It has to be implemented at people’s doorstep to get the full benefit. In Europe, quiet residential streets with 30km/h speed limits usually don’t have separated cycle ways but still form an important part of the cycle network. Especially when it comes to walking or cycling to school, connectivity is only as good as the worst link.
What are the benefits?
According to Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography, University of Oxford one of the cheapest and most effective methods for improving public health is reducing speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h in built up areas. This would save lives, prevent injuries and reduce health inequalities. Lower traffic speeds bring many other benefits: less congestion, less air pollution and CO2 emissions, stronger communities, more walking and cycling and reduced obesity. His study was done before Covid, so it does not even yet include the advantages it brings to enable social distancing.
What about speed humps?
30km/h without speed humps is better for air quality, lower noise levels, vibration and road wear.
Are 30km/h(20mph) speed limits popular?
Public Support in surveys over the past decade across the UK found there has been a consistent positive finding of public support for 20mph limits both pre- and post-implementation. Repeat survey work with a national polling agency from across Great Britain has reported that support for 20mph speed limits increases from around 70% to 80% post implementation. However, the same research has also found that there is ‘pluralistic ignorance’ – a belief that one’s view are those of a minority. While people surveyed supported 20mph speed limits by a significant majority they wrongly believed that they were in a minority.
In Sandon Point, a small residential area in Wollongong, we did a letter drop proposing 30km/h for the area. 88.8% of the households who responded were in support of a 30km/h speed limit for their local area.
The Heart Foundation has found in a survey conducted in 2020 that the majority of Australians supports lower speed limits in neighbourhoods. Only 13% of people surveyed were unsupportive.
It maybe is not surprising that people have higher support levels for low speed limits on their own street given house prices on a street tend to increase when the speed limits are reduced.