South-eastern NSW has its second 30kmh speed zone precinct, with a reduced speed limit being introduced to the Helensburgh town centre.
Transport for NSW announced signage would be installed from 29th August for the new speed limit, as part of a “long-term vision to make it a safe and welcoming place to visit, stay and shop”.
“This work supports the vision set out in the Helensburgh Town Centre Plan of a better connected and pedestrian friendly space,” according to a statement from the department.
“This will be the second 30km/h speed zone precinct in south-east NSW and builds on the success of the 30km/h speed zones installed in the Moruya village centre in November 2021.”
Wollongong City Council requested the speed zone reduction in Helensburgh, and is working with the department to implement the change, to support infrastructure improvements to the town centre.
The council recently completed Stage 2 of the Helensburgh Town Centre upgrade and will embark on Stage 3 in early 2023, after Wollongong hosts the UCI Road World Cycling Championships this month.
Backlash Against Liverpool Trial
A Liverpool City Council community survey has shown considerable public opposition to a 30kmh zone that has been trialled in the Sydney suburb’s CBD for the past two years.
According to a statement from the council last month, 90% of respondents to the recent survey said they do not support retaining the 30kmh speed camera in Bigge Street.
Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun said: “The results are overwhelmingly clear and proves that it is time for this trial to come to an end in the Liverpool CBD.
“It’s only fair (the) NSW Government and Transport for NSW take this into consideration when making decisions for our residents.”
Nearly 2,000 residents responded to the survey and, according to the Mayor, that included more than 400 responses within a matter of hours of the survey going live.
“The volume of responses we received broke all previous records on our website and demonstrates the strong feelings out there held by the community,” he said.
“It’s time for the NSW Government to hear from Liverpool, the people that live and work in this area on a day-to-day basis, and listen to how this trial affects them. Local motorists are reporting receiving abuse for adhering to the 30kmh limits and it’s causing more harm than good. We need change and we need it now.”
The council statement said more than 90% of respondents to the survey indicated they would feel safer walking and 93% would feel safe while driving, if the speed limit was restored to 40kmh.
However, the survey and a “lack” of council activity to complement the 30kmh speed zone has been criticised by the co-founder and head of 30Please, a national advocacy group for reduced speed limits on residential roads.
30Please campaign manager Lena Huda said the survey was weighted to achieve a negative response from the community and missed an opportunity for informed evaluation of the trial. The survey questions and an absence of accompanying information, including incident statistics for the location, failed to present the full picture and it encouraged a negative, motorist-focused response.
She suggested a survey of randomly selected community members would have provided a more accurate sample of overall public sentiment, compared to an online survey which relied on people being motivated to go to the survey and was completed by what she claims is a small proportion of the Liverpool population.
Lena said there are a number of factors working against the success of the trial, including the location of a the 30kmh zone and the adjacent school on an arterial road. Schools and accompanying low-speed zones are more suited to local roads with less inherent conflict between traffic volumes, traffic speeds and people walking or cycling.
In addition, Lena said 30Please contacted Liverpool City Council several months ago and offered to assist with education through the Liverpool LGA’s schools about the 30kmh zone, replicating the approach in the UK.
“The UK has shown it’s an excellent way to achieve community understanding and acceptance of the reduced speed limit, by educating the students and, through them, the wider community,” she said.
“From a safety perspective, the trial has been a fantastic success.”
“However, they didn’t take up the offer and they made no effort to explain the reduced speed zone and why it’s there.”
30Please issued a media statement at the end of August, in response to the council media release, and Lena is hoping it will achieve some balance in the discussion.
Fantastic Safety Statistics
The 30Please statement highlighted safety statistics which showed a significant decline in injuries during the trial.
Since the 30kmh speed limits were introduced, only eight people have been injured, including two serious injuries, compared to 23 injuries and five serious injuries in the preceding 12 months.
“From a safety perspective, the trial has been a fantastic success,” she said.
Lena was also critical of the Mayor’s focus on the speed camera, which she says had been in place when the road was 40kmh and was not introduced as part of the 30kmh trial.
“If you’re serious about 30kmh zones and behavioural change, you make them to norm in residential areas and you accompany it with a real education campaign.”
He had highlighted a report by television network Channel 9 that labelled the Bigge Street camera as one of the top earning speed cameras in Sydney, reportedly raising $2.58 million in fines in the first seven months of this year.
Lena said speed cameras and fines were not an effective way to achieve community acceptance and long-term behavioural change, including reduced traffic speeds.
She said the Liverpool experiences also demonstrated the problems of introducing reduced speed zones in small areas, rather than widespread implementation in which 30kmh precincts are the norm instead of the exception.
“If you’re serious about 30kmh zones and behavioural change, you make them to norm in residential areas and you accompany it with a real education campaign,” she said.
Lena welcomed the Helensburgh 30kmh precinct and another 30kmh zone being implemented in Crown Street, in central Wollongong.
“Let’s hope they lead to bigger ideas for broader 30kmh areas,” she said.
“Just get in and do it properly. What are we trialling for? We have all the international evidence of why we should have 30kmh zones.”
Another Sydney suburb, Manly, introduced NSW’s first 30kmh precinct when it established the reduced-speed zone in July 2020, followed one week later by Liverpool.
Lena said the benefits of the reduced speed were highlighted late last month when a schoolboy was hit by a call while he crossed the road.
“The fact he wasn’t seriously injured, compared to the possible outcome if the car had been travelling at 40kmh, shows why we need 30kmh streets,” she said.