How are speed limits set?
Speed limits used to be set through a bylaw. Now, we set speed limits through a speed management plan.
The new Speed Management Plan will look out 10 years to identify the areas where speed limits will be changed and will be reviewed and consulted on every three years. It will also inform any projects that we may implement to support the speed limit changes we are proposing.
Once the Speed Management Plan has been adopted by the Council, we must submit it to Waka Kotahi for certification. Once it has been certified, we can then bring the speed limits into effect within the period in the Speed Management Plan we said we would change the speed limit.
We’re also required to collaborate across the Manawatū-Whanganui region on our speed management plans. We’re already working with other Councils, Waka Kotahi, and the Horizons Regional Council to develop a regional speed management plan so that we’re taking a consistent approach to setting speed limits. We’ll also be engaging broadly on our proposals, including engaging specifically with Rangitāne.
Who is responsible for setting speed limits?
Speed limits are set by “road controlling authorities.” For local roads in Palmerston North, the Council is the road controlling authority. For state highways, Waka Kotahi is the road controlling authority.
Why are you doing this now?
We’re doing this now so that we can meet the deadlines set by the government in the Setting of Speed Limits Rule 2022. We need to have a speed management plan certified and in place by June 2024. We also need to have at least 40% of schools in our district covered by a slower speed limit by June 2024.
We’re looking at speed limits around schools first so we can meet that June 2024 deadline and these are also areas where we have been receiving a lot of community feedback for change and so we are listening to this feedback. We’ll be looking at speed limits in other parts of the city later in the year as part of our full Speed Management Plan.
Will changing speed limits actually help?
Previously, speed limit changes have often been done in isolation without a broader network view. In many cases, this led to the speed change to create more problems than it solved and was a national issue. As a result, the speed management planning process has been introduced nationally to better manage how we change speed limits so they have the intended positive impact on our communities.
The key change to make this happen is we now look at speed management changes as a whole. Areas where we can make a difference now is where slower speeds already make sense, for example schools. In some cases, before we change the speed limit, we need to make changes to the road design to help speed limits be more consistent nationally, but these changes can’t happen overnight so in some cases we might hold off lowering speed limits until we are ready to make those changes.
Why don’t you just fix the roads?
We have a limited budget for repairing or changing roads, so we prioritise those changes according to a range of factors, one of which is to improve safety. We can’t change all the roads at the same time, so we use that prioritisation to get the best value for our budget.
Permanent speed limit reductions are not also prioritised based on how well the road is maintained, they are prioritised based on safety and community desire, with roads which have poor safety and/or high community support for speed reduction being of the highest priority, for example school zones.
Won’t slower speed limits mean it takes longer to get places?
Lowering speeds has a very minor impact on travel times. Waka Kotahi observe that, for local trips, reducing speeds from 50km/h to 40km/h results in an increase of about 11-42 seconds. These minor increases in travel time are more than offset by the improved safety outcomes in the event of a crash. A pedestrian who is hit by a car travelling at 50km/h has an 80% chance of dying; at 40km/h, that chance is only 30%. At 30km/h, the chance of dying is just 10%.
Speed isn't the problem, drivers are. Why aren't you focusing on them?
Even the most skilled drivers make mistakes. Most drivers understand that New Zealand's roads can be challenging. Good speed management gives drivers the cues they need to judge the safe and appropriate speed for the road they are on, and gives people the best chance to survive a crash should they make a mistake. Our work goes hand-in-hand with national and regional road safety campaigns.
What is good speed management?
Good speed management is when technology, data, first-hand observation, and local knowledge are used to inform interventions to make a road safer for users. It’s not just about putting up signs, but making sure we have a consistent, fit for purpose speed limit network on our local roads. The data will only get us so far though so this is why your feedback will help us understand if we have our proposals right or not.
Good speed management is also a staged process over a long period of time. Staged approaches to help change behaviour over the next 10 years is an important part of the speed management process and the first plan will be focusing on areas where speed change makes sense now.