Suburban streets could become like 24-hour school zones under a City of Sydney plan to make roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians by dropping the speed limit to 40km/h.
The council will ask the Roads and Traffic Authority to cut the speed limit on all local roads in three suburbs - Newtown, Camperdown and Darlington - a move crash experts say could reduce the frequency and severity of cycling accidents if applied across the city.
''As more people walk and cycle to work, the potential for conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles increases,'' a council spokeswoman said.
''Evidence shows travelling at lower speeds improves a driver's ability to stop and avoid crashes.''
But the NRMA said reducing speed limits on suburban streets could worsen congestion.
"Dropping the speed limit to 40km/h on these roads could make an already congested road network even less efficient, while doing little to encourage more cycling,'' a spokesman said.
"While the NRMA encourages greater separation of motorists and cyclists as a way of improving road safety for all road users, we should be careful to avoid piecemeal changes to the road network that could worsen Sydney's congestion problems."
Marilyn Johnson, a researcher at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, said cyclists' sense of safety improved when drivers slowed down. ''There's definitely evidence that injury severity is reduced with the reduction of speed limits.''
Speed limits of 20 miles an hour (32km/h) have been introduced in various parts of London over the past 16 years, and a study by the Department of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that in the 20 years to 2006 the number of casualties and collisions fell about 40 per cent.
This week the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety called for submissions of strategies to improve road safety across the state for ''vulnerable road users'' such as cyclists. The committee will examine ''trends in injuries and fatalities'' and ''the needs of motorcyclists and bicyclists during the planning and management of the road system''.
An RTA spokesman said the authority would consider the council's proposal.
The RTA had already approved 40 km/h speed limits on selected residential streets in Glebe, Surry Hills, Chippendale and Woolloomooloo, the spokesman said.
The City of Sydney proposal is part of a draft cycling and traffic-calming plan for the neighbourhood and would only apply to local roads, not main roads such as King Street or Parramatta Road, which are managed by state agencies.
The proposals also include separate cycleways and measures to reduce crowding on the pedestrian route between Redfern station and Sydney University. (Article from SMH online)
Personally I think its a great idea, reducing the speed limit will not only make it more attractive for people to ride bikes, it will discourage people from driving. The cost of implementation would also be minimal. If Sydney is to truly become a high density city, such measures are definitely necessary. I think something else that also needs to be considered is the mandatory bicycle helmet laws. I think many people wont ride because they have to wear a helmet, especially for short trips. If the roads are made safer by slowing down the cars, then relaxing the helmet laws could be possibly, without the government looking contradictory.