Speed limit drop may save tourists

Sydney Morning Herald

1 December 1998
By Robert Wainwright, Transport Writer

Winston Churchill was once run over in New York because he looked the wrong way. That prompted the Big Apple to set 40 km/h limits, and now Sydney is thinking of doing the same to save lives of Olympic visitors.
The Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Sartor, revealed yesterday that it was considering a proposal by the Pedestrian Council of Australia to slash the speed limit in parts of the CBD to 40 km/h.

Though many Sydneysiders would scoff as congestion, thanks to building work, slows traffic to a snail's pace, a study by the Roads and Traffic Authority shows that a reduction from 60 to 40 km/h would not delay motorists going from Park Street to the Quay.

Though he ruled out a "blanket application", Cr Sartor left open the possibility of 40 km/h zones in some parts of the city.

The Pedestrian Council's chairman, Mr Harold Scruby, warned that pedestrian accidents would rise with the influx of overseas tourists, many from countries where people drive on the other side of the road.

"By the year 2000 it is expected that up to 6 million tourists will be visiting Sydney and at least half these people will be conditioned to looking the other way when crossing the road," he said, adding that RTA tests had proved there was no need for a 60 km/h limit.

"While it is generally difficult to reach speeds of 60 km/h in the CBD, it is when some motorists accelerate to speeds of 60 km/h and above, often trying to beat the next traffic light, that the real danger exists.

"Only one in 10 pedestrians survives when hit by a car travelling at 60 km/h, yet nine of 10 survive if the car is going at 32 km/h.

"With the installation of new dedicated bus lanes, buses are travelling even faster along lanes where they are just centimetres away from pedestrians."

Mr Scruby said he had also approached the Premier, Mr Carr, who had asked the Minister for Transport, Mr Scully, to consider the idea.

He quoted road safety program literature put out by the RTA and Sydney and Leichhardt councils which said, in part ". . . around cafes, shops, schools and other areas where there are lots of pedestrians, 60 km/h is far too fast".