Urban areas are complex and lower speeds means vehicles have more time to react to the frequent hazards that arrive in their travel path.  

The data is clear – lower speeds lead to significant safety improvements: 

  • Reduced likelihood of crashes: decreased speeds results in less crashes.  
  • Shorter stopping distances: there is a non-linear relationship between travel speed and stopping distance.  
  • Lower impact energy: there is a power relationship between crash speed and crash severity. A crash at 50 km/h can be 80 times more severe than one at 30 km/h. 
  • Enhanced pedestrian, motorcyclist, and cyclist safety: the big winners out of lower speeds on our city streets are the vulnerable road users.  

And to get these lower speeds across the sprawling urban environment requires blanket lower speed limits (and supporting enforcement).  

P.S. here are a few side benefits of lower speeds in urban environments: reduced noise, lower fuel use, lower vehicle operating costs, better liveability, and more people walk and cycle.  

P.P.S. and don’t be fooled into thinking this will increase vehicle travel time. In urban areas vehicle travel times are far more influenced by congestion, form and regulation at intersections, driver attitude and preferences, and weather conditions.  

What are your thoughts on best practices for promoting lower speeds in urban areas? Share your insights in the comments. 


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