Slowing down roads to improve safety

City of Glen Eira is proposing to reduce the speed limit on more roads.

They’ve already dropped it from 60 to 50 on several main roads, including Brewer, Tucker, Mackie, Koornang, Inkerman, Kangaroo, Alma and Gardenvale Roads.

Now they’re proposing to add Orrong, Kooyong, Bambra, Kambrook, Booran, Neerim and Poath Roads.

The key point is their transport strategy includes an aim of half of all trips by non-car modes by 2031, and they note: One of the ways this will be achieved is to increase the use of non-car alternatives where appropriate (walking, cycling, public transport and working from home) by making these options as safe, convenient and attractive as possible.

Basically it looks like all the council-managed roads will have a speed limit of 50 or below. They don’t have control of Vicroads-managed roads, which comprise the remaining arterial roads in the area.

Of course to drivers, 50 feels slower than 60, especially at first. But it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to travel time. The change to Kooyong Road covers 4.2 kilometres. At 60 (assuming no stops at traffic lights) this takes 4.2 minutes. At 50 it takes 5.04 minutes, or an extra 50 seconds.

Maybe it’s just me, but many of the arguments against moderate speed reductions end up sounding like this classic Simpsons line:

Potential pitfalls

One issue I see here is that most roads in the area will be the same speeds. Unless they’re adjacent to schools or shopping centres, side streets (officially “access” roads) will be the same speeds as main roads (“link” and “collector” roads). It might make more sense to cut speeds on the access roads to say 40, to emphasise that they’re different types of roads, and need different styles of driving.

In fact, if most roads in an area are a 50 limit, it may encourage people (and/or their GPS devices) to rat run rather than prefer roads that previous had higher speeds.

On the other hand, it may also shift much of the traffic to the roads that remain at higher speeds: Nepean Highway, Dandenong Road/Princes Highway, and other main roads: North, South, Jasper/Grange and Hawthorn Roads. This is arguably good, though it might contribute to delays to buses and trams in some cases.

Street design also comes into play. At present, many of these roads arguably are designed for 60. That can change of course. Bike lanes have been installed on some roads. Brewer Road just recently got speed humps and a new zebra crossing, and over time, other traffic calming measures can go in.

Other councils have done similar things.

City of Maribyrnong has already gone down the path of widespread speed reductions, apparently on 93% of council-controlled roads. Many roads have dropped to 40. They say safety outcomes have been very positive:

Traffic studies in Yarraville and Seddon in 2019 confirm the success of the speed reduction in keeping road users (pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) safe, with a 60% decrease in reported casualty crashes in these areas since the lower speed limits were introduced.

City of Maribyrnong: Creating safer local roads across the municipality
Droop Street, Footscray - speed limit 40 area (Dashcam photo)

I think it’s great that Glen Eira is also now helping to improve safety, and to help curb car dominance on our roads.

Over time, slower speeds and a less car-dominated environment will help encourage more walking and cycling – including to access public transport – particularly if other upgrades such as dedicated and/or separated bike lanes, wider footpaths, more crossing points and better programming for traffic lights are implemented.

Love the speed change or hate it, you can provide feedback to the council by 18th October.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “Slowing down roads to improve safety”

Anecdotally in the 6 months since Maribyrnong City Council reduced the default speed limit from 50km/h to 40 in my part of West Footscray the improvement has been tangible.
Most drivers have responded by slowing down, and are more willing to let pedestrians cross in front of them instead of blasting their horns in anger.

Could you please confirm or refute that speed limit changes require agreement of DoT (ex-VicRoads)? Also, what happened in 2004? I notice that date as the commencement of public roads on nearly all Register of Public Roads I have seen (only in single digits).

But raising it to 90 would save 3 minutes over 50kph. I’d point out that Canberra has a lot of 90 roads, and a road toll that SA (where I am) with slow but bad roads, and likely Victoria can only hope to match if they compare months to years. (even if you adjust for population)

“One issue I see here is that most roads in the area will be the same speeds. Unless they’re adjacent to schools or shopping centres, side streets (officially “access” roads) will be the same speeds as main roads (“link” and “collector” roads). It might make more sense to cut speeds on the access roads to say 40, to emphasise that they’re different types of roads, and need different styles of driving.”

Seems like an intangible problem. That would leave school areas as the same as “normal” roads so you’ll have to reduce school zones to 30. And then go back to the start again because all the 70 zones are reducing to 60 (eg North). I get the idea of wanting to move people out of cars but there need to alternatives. There are very few North/South options other than Hawthorn Road.

“In fact, if most roads in an area are a 50 limit, it may encourage people (and/or their GPS devices) to rat run rather than prefer roads that previous had higher speeds.”

Oh, the 40 zone on Glenhuntly Road has well and truly done that. Add trams and zero opportunity to pass them, you end up at 30. To get from Caulfield to Elsternwick is easily better in the backstreets than on main roads. Half the time easily.

Street Design is crucial to this. I have noticed now in the CBD its easier to drive at 40km/hr now that a few of the bike paths have been installed and roads.
Previously it has been annoying where sections of road have been reduced from say 70 to 60 yet still being an incredibly wide road.

@mike smith, be a little careful with comparisons to Canberra as they have a few unusual situations. Likely the most significant is the extensively segregated network by both hierarchy and mode use, only possible from the planning oversight of a single layer/body. Pedestrians (and cycling) are kept well away from higher speed roads with a permeable network of car free connections (encouraging active transport use) particularly targeting children/youth. The roads and paths are well (over) maintained and well (over) designed. None of these can be retrofitted to an exisiting city. Lesser but contributory factors that set the ACT apart from other regions: very active police and speeding enforcement, annual vehicle inspections (not privatised), higher population education/income/wealth, highly subsidised public transport.

Pierre, I can’t agree stopping mid road at whatever speed limit to allow pedestrians to cross when not at a proper crossing is a good idea.

Much of the speed limit problem is consistency and logic. All purely housing streets should have a 40 km/h limit. But some 40 km/h limits are absurd. Take Lakeside Drive, Albert Park, recently reduced from 50 to 40. The only risk is to swans crossing the road and every driver is cautious when they see a swan about to cross the road. There are plenty of cyclists, some who cycle at 40, and so your car speed is matched to theirs and so you are beside them for good distances. That is not great. It is better that the cars move on from cyclists. Safety by Parks Victoria? Well, it recently reduced the width of bike lanes in Lakeside Drive to add paid parking spaces, which nobody uses.

Then you have streets like Commercial Road in Prahran, where the limit near Prahran Market is sensibly 40 but then jumps to 60 heading west to St Kilda Road. No one drives at 60 between the train line and St Kilda Road. The speed is usually between 40 and 50. Try driving at 60 past The Alfred Hospital! You are driving legally but you feel criminally irresponsible.

I won’t start on the illogical school speed limit time of 8 to 9.30 and 2.30 to 4.

Speed limits in our state are an absolutely illogical mess. Practically in non Covid times in Melbourne during the day you won’t get anywhere near higher speed limits anyway because of traffic congestion.

I grew up in Canberra. The 90 roads you’ll find there are effectively freeways (although not called freeways) – dual carriageways with grade-separated intersections. The way the city’s planned also means that main roads generally run between suburbs rather than through them, so don’t have driveways or minor streets intersecting with them. Any road that actually goes through a suburb will be 60 at most.

Will be interesting to see how this goes – when going on walks in the area I readily recall the locals vehemently opposing the upgrade of bicycle lanes at the expense of their precious on street parking for which they simply cannot live without (or you know, pay for). Given the block sizes along roads in the area it astounds me people aren’t required to store their private property ON their private property and not on public space. It’ll be a slow change…

@Andrew: Some people do go 60 in that section of Commercial Rd, especially at night. Brunswick St has no signs between Alexandra Pde and the

But I agree with Victorian speed limits being a mess. I can think of so many examples of this mess.

One is even newly created (Wurundjeri Way/Footscray Rd, between Citylink and West Gate).
Towards Footscray (from the West Gate):
Formerly 60-70-60

Now: 60-40-70-60-40-60 (during school zone times) or 60-40-70-60 (other times).

Towards Port Melbourne: (from Citylink):
Formerly: 70-60

Now: 60-40-60-70-40-60 (during school zones) or 60-70-40-60 (other times).

That’s a ~3 KM section of road but during school times, 6 different limits, and 4 different limits during other times.

It seem like the lowering of speed limits will be dependent on other changes to make them “feel” like the right speed and therefore be effective – essentially narrowing the road and more effectively controlling vehicle movements through things like wider footpaths or bike lanes, trees, medians, speed humps or pedestrian crossings, and potentially different surfaces or paving styles. But these measures by themselves would probably either not be possible or be a lot less effective without the lower speed limit alongside them making the whole safer roads less cars thing a sort of package deal , we might as well do it all and do it right rather than drag our feet hoping we won’t piss off motorists or appease locals by half assing these improvements. They’ll get cranky but they’ll get Over it

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