Reducing vehicle speeds for safety
Manakau and Ohau are two quaint towns north of Wellington that straddle busy State Highway 1. Both had very high crash rates, with a disproportionate number of fatal and serious crashes. We developed a design solution to improve safety statistics.
Our first objective was to promote a reduced speed from 100 to 80 kilometres per hour (km/h), but a legal speed limit change in isolation we knew to be ineffective; it had to be coupled with physical measures.
So, we took a novel approach and made the townships feel more like villages. By creating a sense of place and local activity, motorists are encouraged to slow down.
Our challenge was to constrict the road width, known to be an effective measure to reduce speeds. We needed to strike the right balance between providing enough space for large vehicles, normal traffic and cyclists, and reducing the open and straight rural road environment.
We used ‘vertical relief’ measures to break up the open road: planting, median islands of varying width, signage, and lighting columns. Regularly repeated thresholds, kerbing, and lateral deflections in the traffic lanes offered visual deviation from the long, straight road. We also narrowed lanes and shoulders and completed intersection upgrades and pedestrian refuges.
With moderate spending we delivered a safer, slower and more ‘place-like’ feel for both communities and the travelling public and the crash statistics have dropped significantly, with even greater reductions than the predicted crash savings.
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