Call for 40kmh speed zone at schools

Bathgate School principal Whetu Cormick is worried about the speed of traffic outside his school....
Bathgate School principal Whetu Cormick is worried about the speed of traffic outside his school. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin schools have called for a blanket 40kmh speed zone to be implemented around all schools in the city, not just a selected few.

About 80 Dunedin schools were recently assessed for traffic problems, but only Carisbrook School, King's High School, Queen's High School, Kaikorai Valley College and Wakari School met New Zealand Transport Agency criteria for speed reductions during peak traffic times.

Criteria included how many children walked, cycled, entered or exited vehicles along a school road; the speed limit on the road; if it was a main route; if there had been any accidents; and if physical constraints obscured lines of sight.

The assessment aimed to determine if a 40kmh variable speed limit would reduce the risk to vulnerable road users.

Bayfield High School principal Judith Forbes was one of many principals around the city who advocated a blanket 40kmh speed zone around all schools.

''Whenever young pedestrians are put at risk with regards to vehicles, the pedestrian is always going to come off much the worse.

''So if vehicles can slow down a little around schools, then it makes it safer for everybody.''

She said the Dunedin City Council had been helpful in reducing vehicle speed on Shore St, by placing judder bars in several places, but concerns about vehicle speed remained, particularly on Musselburgh Rise.

Bathgate Park School principal Whetu Cormick said he was bewildered that King's High School and Queen's High School had been considered for a 40kmh zone around their schools, but his school had not.

''I'm not down on Bay View Rd, but I get a very strong feeling that Macandrew Rd is a busier road than Bay View Rd.

''It's puzzling.''

He said, on the whole, drivers respected the pedestrian crossing outside Bathgate, but there had been instances when vehicles had gone through the crossing while the lollipops were out.

''I think that's because they've been distracted, they haven't seen it, or they've been going too fast to stop in time.

''Out here, in the afternoon, it's a nightmare.

''There's King's and Queen's kids everywhere, there's our kids, there's cars travelling through and then, of course, there's parents picking kids up.''

He, too, called for a blanket 40kmh zone around all schools between 8.45am and 9.15am, and 2.45pm to 3.15pm.

''In Australia, I know for a fact, they have it at all schools; not just dedicated or specific ones.''

North East Valley Normal School principal John McKenzie agreed.

He said North Rd was very busy and he believed 50kmh was too fast when travelling past the school.

Young children could be unpredictable around school gates - especially 5-year-olds who could run out in front of cars or let go of their parents' hands while going across a crossing, he said.

''Any reduction in speed around schools would be a sensible move.''

Kaikorai Primary School principal Simon Clarke said the boards of trustees at Kaikorai Primary and Columba College were in negotiations with the Dunedin City Council about erecting pedestrian-controlled traffic lights on Highgate.

''At the moment, Highgate is extremely dangerous, and if these lights weren't going in, we would be advocating for a 40kmh speed zone in the area.

''We're all for the 40kmh speed zones. Anything to keep our kids safe.''

Dunedin City Council senior traffic engineer Ron Minnema said defining the boundaries of a school zone would be challenging, and the cost of erecting the necessary signage would be prohibitive.

He said council was working on other measures to slow traffic, such as judder bars, raised street tables and traffic light-controlled pedestrian crossings.

''We will provide different solutions to different problems for different schools.

''For a lot of the schools, having a blanket 40kmh speed zone around them won't do anything for them, to be honest.

''Quite a few of them are in cul-de-sacs, for others speeding is not an issue, and they actually have other issues that are bigger issues than the perceived risk.

''Just because we've done this, it doesn't mean that is it. We are going to continue looking at schools and different methods to reduce the risk.''

The 40kmh initiative will now undergo public consultation and public submissions will run from July 1 to August 1.

Changes, if confirmed, will be in place from February 1 next year.

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