How Greens Will Improve Road Safety: Drive Less


The Greens today presented their own solution to better road safety - lower urban speed limits and get people to drive less.

Commenting on the transport minister’s 10-year road safety strategy, which includes tougher drink driving measures and changing the give way right hand rule, the Greens think the government should be protecting “the most vulnerable road users –cyclists and pedestrians - especially when, in most cases, they are not to blame.”

Greens‘ new MP and transport spokesman, Gareth Hughes says roads will be safer “if we’re driving at lower speeds and driving less. The Government needs to look at the bigger picture of transport safety and invest accordingly.
“By investing only 15% of the transport budget into walking, cycling, buses, and trains, they are never going to provide people with a viable alternative to driving. And driving is the most dangerous way to get around.”
He said a child hit at 30 km/h has a 90% chance of survival. If they are hit by a vehicle travelling at 60 km/h, their chances of survival fall dramatically to 15%. “A simple law change requiring motorists to give cyclists at least 1.5 metres of passing space would also encourage drivers to drive more carefully around vulnerable cyclists.

He said his party will push ahead with plans to change the law by introducing a Member’s Bill along these lines to promote safety for cyclists.

EARLIER: Government’s plans




  1. Su Yin Khoo says:

    I like this.

    Even in many sleepy suburbs, people tend to take 50km/h as the minimum, not the limit.

  2. Greg Bodnar says:

    While I’m generally in favour of incentivising public transportation and active modes, there is a major piece of this puzzle that the Green Party is missing: educating drivers. New Zealand drivers are shocking. Even if PT patronage hits 30%, New Zealand will still see a higher-than-average rate of accidents per 100km.

    I would love to see the statistics for how many new (or older) drivers have taken a driving course. 120 hours of driving supervised by another bad driver isn’t going to help anyone. 20 hours of defensive driving lessons would make for a safer driver, regardless of the legal driving age. If the government would be willing to incentivise driver education, you’d probably find that PT patronage would pick up; people would start to understand the risks associated with being part of that mess.

  3. Or, in the city, they see if they can hit 50km/h between sets of traffic lights 50m apart!

    BTW - Why are large noisy exhausts even legal?

  4. anthony says:

    I find this option good, but we’ll need physical way to slow them down. In Wanuiomata they have many islands in the middle and sides of the streets and speed humps which forces the driver to keep the speed limit down,

  5. Brent C says:

    A no brainer

  6. Su Yin Khoo says:

    @Greg: I saw on TV a few years ago how they had a group of people retake the Road Code (unofficially). Most of them failed and this is just within ten years of acquiring a driver’s license.

    @Anthony: I’m not in favour of speed humps and islands. They tend to build them with no consideration of cyclists when they jut making the road narrower. Cars are already passing at too close a distance and they make it worse.

    We have about three or four new speed humps constructed along our street late last year and this has done little to zilch to slow cars down.

  7. Gareth says:

    Hi Greg

    I absolutely agree with you. Education is a biggie. Today I put out a press release calling for a strengthened restricted license process.

    I’m not suggesting we go this far – but for example, in Germany, getting your full license costs $NZ 3800 because of the education and testing components.

  8. Max says:

    “I’m not in favour of speed humps and islands. They tend to build them with no consideration of cyclists when they jut making the road narrower”

    In that case, they have been designed incorrectly. All design guides nowadays require the “narrowed” section to be at least 4.2m, better 4.5m between kerbs. Which can of course somewhat defeat the narrowing purpose. But you can still achieve this if the narrowing is psychological (landscaping etc…) and if it is combined with the driver having to move sideways, rather than just bringing in ther kerbs and letting him drive straight through).

    As for speed humps - Su Yin, are those you talk about speed humps (short rounded sections) or speed tables (longer, level sections with ramps either end)? I am strongly in favor of the second.

    Also, speed humps come in different heights, which of course creates more or less effect. Higher ones cannot be used on bus routes.

    Finally, speed humps may be more effective against slowing the top speeders down than lowering the normal drivers speed. Since those rare people going 80 in a residential zone are also the most likely to kill somebody, traffic calming may help even if you feel that people aren’t slowing in a way you can see.

  9. Jeremy Harris says:

    I like what Hughes has had to say about transport so far…

  10. Su Yin Khoo says:

    @Max: They are the speed tables. Will try to get some photos later.

    I agree that the narrowing is an attempt to slow down the driver but like most roading infrastructure, they are only designed with motorists in mind.

  11. Matt L says:

    I have seen some places where they have put a cycle bypass in so people riding don’t have to go over/around the traffic calming measures. That seems like a good idea to me.

  12. jarbury says:

    The road toll in 2008 was hugely lower than either 2007 or 2009. Why? Because higher petrol prices meant less people driving.

    It’s pretty obvious.

  13. max says:

    “The road toll in 2008 was hugely lower than either 2007 or 2009. Why? Because higher petrol prices meant less people driving.

    It’s pretty obvious.”

    Can you back that up Jarbury? Any “km’s travelled” kind of statistics?

    “I have seen some places where they have put a cycle bypass in so people riding don’t have to go over/around the traffic calming measures. That seems like a good idea to me.”

    I don’t like them - it’s tricky getting them right (debris accumulating, not reducing the effect of cars, not having any objects or kerbs cyclist might strike).

    Designing the ramps with a sinusoidal profile is generally considered to help cyclists. Not sure how much (if at all) that reduces the traffic calmng effect.

    “@Max: They are the speed tables. Will try to get some photos later.”

    Street name would be good enough? There’s always Google streetview.

  14. Su Yin says:

    @Max: I checked streetview—it’s still the ‘before’ images. I’m weeping a bit because it used to have baby-bottom smooth asphalt as opposed to loose chip now. I have no idea why they ripped a perfectly good road apart. And yet they leave the potholes alone. Grr.

  15. Gary says:

    Having ridden a Tricycle or Bicycle to Kindergarten and School for 11 years in Christchurch may I make an observation? Christchurch is popular with cyclists because it is flat. It is not the traffic that discourages cyclists in Auckland!

  16. Su Yin Khoo says:

    @Max: As promised, photo here.

    @Gary: Hills are usually cited as an excuse for not cycling after voicing concerns about dangerous traffic

  17. Greg Bodnar says:

    @So Yin Koo
    I was musing with coworkers about ways to incentivise retraining. At home (Canada), insurance rates are adjusted by taking defensive driving courses. With insurance remaining optional, this tool probably wouldn’t work. However, the ACC levy could be used in this manner. There would be a fair bit of cost associated with processing and adjusting, but if our primary goal is safety, it may be worthwhile.

    Nice to see your comments. I’m looking forward to ongoing conversation with you about transport issues. Yes, the costs are quite high and it’s up to us as a society to develop a notion of what balance is appropriate. If the government is happy to push $10b into roads, could there be funding for training, even if partial?

  18. Joshua says:

    Unity Finesmith - Noisy Exaust are actually quite good, and one thing I like as a great safety measure! You know the car is there don’t you.

    Su Yin Khoo - Traffic carming does work, Speed Bumps are the best, stats shows that they will lower the 80%ile, which is actually making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians, also in NZ I don’t think making cycle diversions will work as where we do provide provisions for cyclists in NZ they don’t use them.

    Su Yin Khoo - Also I’m assuming you are one of those people who drive around at 40km/hr in a 50 zone, which is actually just as dangerous as driving at 60km/hr, fustrating others on the road is only going to get them to drive faster or pass you dangerously, it should carry the same fine as speeding, which by law can it’s just not inforced.

  19. Joshua says:

    Su Yin Khoo - sorry forgot to mention that hills is a fair excuse, it take that much extra effort to cycle, or walk for that matter, up a hill compared to level grade, and hence cycling is more common in flat/level grade cities. Hills put people off cycling. (Not an excuse to not provide for the cyclist, just saying it’s a turn off so Gary has a point. Don’t dismiss it just because you are bais towards your agenda.)

  20. Su Yin Khoo says:

    @Joshua: Yes, traffic calming does work. It doesn’t always have to be the installation of speed bumps. Here’s a good interview with David Engwicht about traffic calming.

    I don’t own a car and I have never driven in New Zealand. There was a never a need for me to do so. And is it really a bad thing to be driving less than 50km/h around a residential area? Which was what I was referring to in the first place.

    I don’t have an agenda. I’m just saying that the perceived dangers on the roads are usually the first reasons people I talk to give for not taking up cycling—before the vertical challenges.

  21. max says:

    I agree with Su Yin, and disagree with the “40kmh is dangerous!!!” comment. Drive to the conditions (i.e. residential areas are different than an industrial suburb), and also, and if we treat MAXIMUM speed limits as ADVISORY speeds, we will never get our residential areas back as places where people are supposed to LIVE, rather than just pass through.

    As for hills - yes, they depress cycling levels here. And yet, Wellington has easily twice the cycling than Auckland, and in surveys like the one cited here:

    It becomes clear that it is car drivers, and their attitudes, that put people of cycling in Auckland. Drivers here have just lost the way to deal with cyclists.

    Once it becomes more common again, drivers will have a good mate who cycles, or a family member, or some guys in his sports team - so cyclists will be normal people for him/her, even if he/she doesn’t cycle. That’s why it is importantto get the cycling numbers up (bit of a chicken and egg question!).

    Oh, and Joshua, under your argument the opinions of all car drivers should be suspect too, because they would have a bias for driving. Let’s not get into any actual or implied “us vs them”. Cyclists are motorists and vice versa.

  22. max says:

    Sigh. Su Yin, judging from the first comment on your Flickr photo page, they really don’t do what they should. Road spikes and then car crushing may have to be used for fellows like him.

  23. Joshua says:

    If you got time and space to get around without a car, I have to say I’m in the wrong industry. But don’t get me wrong I do cycle to, I drive and when I can I take Public transport. The fact of the matter is I found that quite bias, I respect cyclist while I drive (until they disobey the rules, but I still don’t ram them of the road…) I respect driver while I cycle, (surprise surprise I’ve had no problems with cars…) and I laugh at all the traffic while taking the train or bus! But the fact is the comments don’t match up and it’s hard to take seriously.

    Speed bumps have stats to show they work which you conceded, yet you said they did zilch…You say traffic calming works yet you don’t like the narrower streets or the speed bumps…sounds like you want to take the peoples choice away by banning all cars everywhere. I like traffic calming as it does the job, can look good and naturally reduces the speed, driving to the conditions, when you got a street that the width says go 80km/hr yet a speed limit of 50km/hr applies of course you are going to go 60km/hr, narrow the streets put in traffic Islands and speed bumps, make it feel like 50km/hr is fast in the environment.

  24. Gary says:

    Maybe I should mention that my days on a trike were in the 40′s when the “Gutter Man” had a horse and cart and the main obstacle on the foot path was the siphon the road repair gang used to refill the water tank on their traction engine from a local stream. These days I ride on a Gold Card.

  25. max says:

    Not sure who you are responding to, Joshua, but nobody here was suggesting taking anyone’s rights away. Except maybe the “right” to speed on non-motorway roads.

    As for me, I like speed tables - but not bumps.

    Narrowing is okay, but only to a point (4.2m, to be precise - plant hedges and stuff to make it LOOK narrower).

    Chicanes and intentionally limiting maximum sight distances are good too.

  26. max says:

    Oh, and Su Yin, if I understood her right, said the speed tables in HER neighborhood were not looking like they did what they should. Which is different from saying they never work.

    I had a client who called me up one day after they had installed speed bumps on his site’s driveway - he was all incensed, because they barely did anything!

    So we went out there, me trying to stay calm in the face of an abusive project manager who was playing the stern guy (to impress his paymaster). Told me to check what was wrong! Cut me off when I tried to discuss potential issues.

    Guess what we found? Contractor had installed the speed bumps to only half the height we specified. Of course they didn’t work as they had hoped! After they were redone, they got their effect.

    [Never got an apology from that over-bearing project maanger though]

  27. Joshua says:

    Haha, so why wasn’t the site engineer doing quaility control? Obviously wasn’t doing his job.

  28. max says:

    Well, we had some previous disagreements with them - they had a habit of jumping to conclusions, and blaming the contractors instead of working through an issue where the problem might be on a number of shoulders in reality.

    Also, it was actually quite tricky to measure a bitumen speed bump’s height on a sloping site, especially when the edges (in all directions) tapered down. You couldn’t just put a tape measure up against “the side” because there wasn’t one.


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