Roads government business

February 4, 2019

Northland is getting $20.39m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), $19.41 million of which is to upgrade transport links because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

“Reliable transport infrastructure is crucial to Northland’s economic success as it affects every part of the region’s economy. Strengthening transport links is critical to fully unlocking the potential of the North and enable new opportunities for local people and business. . . “

Transport infrastructure, or what the rest of us call roads,  is the business of government which is more than can be said for a lot of the initiatives to benefit from the PGF but this raises questions about the government’s roading priorities:

The investment from the Provincial Growth fund for transport links in Kaipara will no doubt be welcomed by local residents but the Government’s overall approach to roading in Northland makes no sense, National’s spokesperson for Transport Paul Goldsmith says.

“The reality is that although the Government has provided this funding, it is not going to build the key road that the region needs – the highly engineered four lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei.

“On the one hand the Government is going to continue to drip feed funding for a half measure, a single laned highway to Whangarei, frustrating all Northlanders, and at the same time sporadically throw a bit of money from the Provincial Growth Fund to favoured regions.

“This is part and parcel of the politicisation of the fund from Shane Jones with a bias to particular regions. . . 

The four lane highway would be more expensive than the roading improvements around Kaipara but it would also would give the biggest benefit to most people and contribute most to both road safety and economic growth.

The package also gives money to develop Maori land.

“The extra capital for the development of Māori land will be welcomed by Māori – it’s a pity however, that the Government has axed the Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms which would have added hundreds of millions of dollars of value for Māori landowners and their whanau by unlocking the economic potential of the around 1.4 million hectares of land.

“We should be wary of the PGF becoming the banker of last resort for general business or Māori land owners.”

We should be very wary of the PGF doing anything at all without establishing the need, costs and benefits.


Slower safer but

April 4, 2018

The International Transport Forum recommends dropping speed limits:

Speed has a direct influence on crash occurrence and severity. With higher driving speeds, the number of crashes and the crash severity increase disproportionally. With lower speeds the number of crashes and the crash severity decrease. This relationship has been captured in various models, most notably Nilsson’s “Power Model”. This shows that a 1% increase in average speed results in approximately a 2% increase in injury crash frequency, a 3% increase in severe crash frequency, and a 4% increase in fatal crash frequency.

Thus, reducing speed by a few km/h can greatly reduce the risks of and severity of crashes. Lower driving speeds also benefit quality of life, especially in urban areas as the reduction of speed mitigates air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel consumption and noise.

All the cases indicated a strong relationship between speed and the number of crashes, i.e , an increase in mean speed was accompanied by an increase in the number of crashes and/or injured road users. Conversely, a decrease in mean speed was associated with a decrease in the number of crashes and injured road users. In no cases was an increase in mean speed accompanied by a decrease in the number of crashes or casualties. The pattern of the relationship is consistent across cases, although the size of the effect differs substantially between them. These differences are explained partially by varying definitions for injury crashes between countries and the small overall numbers of fatal crashes for some of the countries studied. . . 

Based on that the ITF recommends dropping speed limits:

To reduce road trauma, governments need to take actions that will reduce the speed on roads as well as speed differences between vehicles sharing the same road. For individuals, the risks of a severe crash might seem small, but from a societal point of view there are substantial safety gains from reducing mean speeds on roads.

Set speed limits according to Safe System principles

The design of the road system and the speed limits set for it must consider the forces the human body can tolerate and survive. Working towards a Safe System, reasonable speed limits are 30 km/h in built up areas where there is a mix of vulnerable road users and motor vehicle traffic. In other areas with intersections and high risk of side collisions 50 km/h is appropriate. On rural roads without a median barrier to reduce the risk of head-on collisions, a speed limit of 70 km/h is appropriate. In urban areas, speeds above 50 km/h are not acceptable, with the exception of limited access arterial roads with no interaction with non-motorised traffic. Where motorised vehicles and vulnerable road users share the same space, such as in residential areas, 30 km/h is the recommended maximum.

There are very few New Zealand roads with median barriers  and Dog & Lemon Guide editor, Clive Matthew-Wilson said the reduction to 70 kph would be unworkable.

A proposal to lower the open road speed limit to 70kp/h on stretches without median barriers is “ridiculous and unworkable’, says the car review websitedogandlemon.com. . . 

“This is a knee-jerk reaction to a rising road toll and doesn’t really address the major issues. Think about it: only a tiny percentage of New Zealand roads have median barriers, even on state highways. Imposing a 70kp/h slow speed limit on long, straight roads would be met with open rebellion.”

It’s tempting now to exceed 100 kph on long, straight roads with few if any other vehicles. To lower the speed limit by 30 kph would be an invitation for drivers to rebel.

Matthew-Wilson cautiously supports the lowering of the speed limit on the most dangerous roads, but says 70kp/h, is probably too slow.

“New Zealand’s rural roads are often narrow, winding and poorly designed. On the most dangerous roads, where there are no safety measures in place, it makes sense to reduce the speed limit to 80kp/h.”

However, Matthew-Wilson says lowering the speed will have only a limited effect.

“About 80% of the road toll occurs below, not above, the speed limit. Of the 20% of accidents that occur above the speed limit, most are caused by either yobbos, impaired drivers or outlaw motorcyclists. All these groups tend to ignore speed limits anyway.”

Matthew-Wilson points out that rural drivers on secondary roads also tend to set their own speed limits.

“Lowering the speed limit may slow down tourists in a camper van, but will have little effect on the driving of most locals, who will simply ignore the new speed limits.”

“The government needs to get over the idea that average drivers and average speeds are the problem. The vast majority of accidents are caused by a tiny group of road users. Arbitrarily lowering the speed limit is unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on this high risk group.”

“If the speed limit is lowered on the worst roads, as an interim measure before median barriers are installed, I support it. If this proposal is simply an excuse to impose unrealistic speed limits across the country, I oppose it.

As things stand, I believe this proposal will cause as many problems as it solves, without having much effect on the road toll.”

There is no doubt that the higher the speed the bigger the mess will be if something goes wrong. Slower is safer but it isn’t always practical.

I live on a rural road. Most of it doesn’t even have a white line in the middle of it.

The road is several kilometres long and there are stretches with good visibility where it is safe to travel at 100 kph.

There are other stretches where a series of dips and bends make it safer to slow down and there are several kilometres of gravel where reducing speed is sensible.

The road doesn’t have much traffic on it. More often than not I don’t meet any other vehicles on it.

However, when I do it might be a tractor or stock truck which require those travelling in the opposite direction to keep well to the left and be prepared to slow down.

Locals know to take care and anyone who isn’t a local should do what we all should when we’re unfamiliar with a road – drive to the conditions which in this case means slowing down in several places.

Erecting more median barriers, targetting the yobbos, impaired drivers or outlaw motorcyclists Matthew-Wilson identifies as being the problem group and trusting other drivers to slow down when conditions require it would be far more effective than dropping the speed limit to an unworkable level.

 


366 days of gratitude

July 31, 2016

The forecast said there’d be snow and ice on the road between home and Brighton.

The forecast was right but someone had cleared the road when I went down this morning and was clearing it again when I came home this afternoon and for that I’m grateful.


366 days of gratitude

June 6, 2016

We had to be in Pahiatua last Tuesday and in Wanaka first thing on Wednesday.

We’d planned to fly from and to Queenstown but discovered the timing wouldn’t work.

That left us going from and back to Christchurch with a five to six-hour drive to Wanaka through roads prone to ice and snow.

The travel gods were with us, though.

We had a clear run back to Wellington, managed to get an earlier flight than planned, collected the car and were on the road just after 5pm.

We stopped for kebabs at Tinwald and drove on through the rain, watching the temperature dropping from six degrees and wondering what was ahead of us.

The rain stopped at Fairlie but the temperature kept dropping and reached zero just before Tekapo where we encountered sleet.

Thankfully that was localised, the temperature was back up to 2 degrees and the sky cleared a few kilometres on.

Snow was piled at the side of the road through the Lindis but the road itself was clear.

Coming back home yesterday, a sign warned of ice but again the road was fine.

It’s been a bad weekend for crashes but the roads we travelled weren’t busy and were clear and I’m grateful for that.


Quote of the day

May 14, 2015

. . . There are various factors peculiar to New Zealand that make driving here challenging, including our weather conditions.

Many of our roads lack median barriers, they are often hilly, narrow and winding, single-lane and unsealed.

Those factors alone can make them problematic for foreign drivers, some of whom also struggle to adjust to driving on the left side of the road.

But New Zealand drivers can be guilty of complacency.

Many don’t alter their driving to take into account weather or traffic conditions.

Too many are blasé about tailgating and overtaking, and quick to become impatient and aggressive.

Too many slower drivers are inconsiderate and fail to pull over in appropriate places to let traffic pass.

And far too many drivers still ignore fundamental safety messages around seat belts, fatigue, inattention and the major crash contributors of alcohol and speed.

The blame is often levelled at police and the Government.

In the aftermath of the weekend’s fatalities, there is pressure on the Government to reduce speed limits.

Yet equally, when speed limits are enforced over holiday periods, accusations of police revenue-gathering abound.

It is worth noting much has been – and continues to be – done to make roads safer.

Police and the Government, through its Safer Journeys road safety strategy, have implemented various measures aimed at reducing risks on the road, particularly around young drivers: a zero alcohol limit for under-20s, raising the driving age to 16, and introducing a tougher restricted licence test.

These initiatives have resulted in fewer fatalities in the 15-24 age group.

Other measures have included a ban on cellphone use while driving, changes to give-way rules, the introduction of alcohol interlocks as a sentencing option for the courts and higher penalties for dangerous driving.

There is a push for more median barriers and rumble strips.

And councils have the power to change speed limits in areas under their jurisdiction in problematic areas. . .

Whatever safety measures are implemented, the simple fact is they can only be successful if they are adhered to.

Drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians all have a part to play.

Drivers should take responsibility for their actions and attitudes on the road, their passengers, and particularly any children travelling in their vehicles.

Friends and family need to voice concerns if they fear someone is unfit to drive.

Patience, care and consideration are paramount, because a moment’s stupidity or inattention can cause a lifetime of grief. – ODT


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