editorial speed limit


Forty km/h is super slow. You can go faster than that on a bike!!

October 19 2020 by Paul Taylor

Forty km/h is super slow. You can go faster than that on a bike!!

Hopefully Usain Bolt has no plans to come to Queenstown, because if he runs at his top speed, he’s going to get a ticket.

Bolt was clocked at 44.64kmh during his world record 9.58-second 100 metres in Berlin in 2009. So, with the new 40kmh speed limits coming into force on many roads across the district over the next two months, an actual human can run quicker than you’ll be allowed to drive.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that Queenstown Lakes District Council met with a shitstorm of comments on social media last week when it ‘announced’ the changes, nearly 300 at last count. Many were from people who seem blissfully unaware that this has been rattling on for years. Having a last-minute bitch on Facebook isn’t going to do much when the council’s been through a full speed limit bylaw review process, with a public consultation process spanning five months.

To be fair, Wanaka councillor Quentin Smith put on his waders and bravely stepped into the comments section to explain the review was driven by changes to the NZTA guidelines and will be rolled out nationally, and is designed to reduce the lethality of crashes, particularly car on person. He sympathised that even he’ll struggle with the 40kmh on Beacon Point Road in Wanaka.

Forty kmph is super slow. You can go faster than that on a bike, definitely an ebike, so we’ll be in the weird situation of being able to travel faster on the Queenstown trails than many of the roads.

But it’s hard to argue with reducing the lethality of crashes. The difference in stopping distance between 40khm and 50khm, in a medium sized car on a dry road, is about 9 metres. If my child, or anyone else’s, is in that 9 metres, then I’m all for the changes.
It likely won’t be enforced much, of course, in the Otago Lakes Central policing district, which stretches from Queenstown to Ranfurly, there were only 594 speeding tickets issued last year, and 387 the year before.

But it will gradually change behaviour nonetheless. Stats show that the average speed in a 50-zone is actually 62kmh, while it’s closer to 50 in 40-zone. And that will count if there’s an impact. A pedestrian has a 70% chance of survival if hit by a car doing 40kmh, but that reduces to a 50% chance at just 45kmh. Your odds of surviving a crash with an ebike or Usain Bolt are even higher.

Paul Taylor

- Paul Taylor
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