NSW's new speed guidelines point the way to 30km/h streets

Image credit: State of New South Wales (Transport for NSW)

Low-speed streets encourage bike riding and other forms of active transport, and more could be on the way in New South Wales following landmark changes to speed zoning standards.

Evidence shows that vulnerable road users such as bike riders and pedestrians are more likely to be fatally injured at impact by vehicles travelling above 30km/h.  

Across Australia, and around the world, governments are edging toward 30km/h speed limits, which is the gold standard for local streets recommended by the OECD.

The NSW government is the latest to make moves in this important area of road safety. In an update to the NSW speed zoning standards last month, Transport for NSW included guidelines for determining and implementing 30km/h speed limits on public roads.

The speed limit is recommended in streets with large numbers of pedestrians and low traffic movement. The standards also recommend that 30km/h limits be applied in places such as foreshores and tourist destinations.

According to the standards, streets designated as 30km/h zones shall:

  • Only have a single lane of travel in each direction
  • Limit crossing distances for pedestrians to two lanes of traffic
  • Be "self-explaining" road environments with engineering treatments to slow motor vehicles to 30km/h. Examples include traffic calming, additional pedestrian crossings and signal phasing that priotises pedestrians.

Founder of 30Please Lena Huda, who has campaigned for 30km/h local streets since arriving from Germany in 2019, says many cities around the world have 30km/h limits on local streets and "Australia s a bit of an outlier".

"You don't need big and expensive infrastructure for vulnerable road users if you have lower speed limits. If you have slower speeds, you can have cheaper solutions," Huda says. 

NSW's revised speed zoning standards bode well for the future of road safety in the state, but differ from those in Victoria.

Vicroads Speed Zoning Policy also notes that vulnerable road users are more likely to suffer death or serious injuries at impact speeds above 30km/h. But it states that 30km/h speed limits only be applied in "exceptional circumstances".

The policy states: "30km/h speed limits are not commonly used on Victorian roads. DoT (Department of Transport) may permit 30km/h speed limit trials on local streets on a case-by-case basis and will consider evidence from the evaluation of these trials, community sentiment and other factors to inform future guidance on appropriate usage."

One example can be found in the City of Yarra, where 30km/h trials are underway on local streets in Fitzroy and Collingwood. Queenscliff is also considering 30km/h limits across the municipality.

Like our articles?

Become a Member and help fund our advocacy work.

Join Now