Friday rant: Dumbing down safety

Speed limits reduced in Sydney CBD

IT’S ONE of the great internal conflicts, and it afflicts us all. When we’re driving, all pedestrians are slow-moving idiots, but when we’re on foot, all motorists are impatient assholes.

The problem with pedestrians is that they’re not expected to be responsible for their actions, and no one ever gets pinged for jaywalking, or, as would be more practical, for blindly crossing a road in a boppy fashion while on their phone and not seeing a car coming.

And yet it is the motorist who ends up being punished, as is the case in the city of Sydney, where the speed limit is being dropped from 50 to 40km/h, because seven pedestrians were killed in the CBD between 2008 and 2014, including three this year.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia, a vociferously verbose organisation if ever there was one, is over the moon. “It'll save lives, it'll save limbs definitely, and not only that, it'll dramatically increase the amenity of the city of Sydney,” council chairman Harold Scruby said.

But what about a campaign to educate more people about the importance of actually being able to cross a road, or the dangers of turning on loud headphones and turning off your brain at the same time? Or would that cost money, rather than raising revenue?

For I have no doubt that Sydney’s busy police will find the time to raise a large amount of fines in the Sydney CBD. Nothing moves faster than 10km/h in peak hour, but any time in the evening will make for juicy pickings.

It may well be that 40km/h is a safer speed, for the sake of those on foot. In what can only be described as proof that the universe is ruled either by a wickedly humoured God or a binding Law of Irony, I live in a suburb that has proudly declared every inch of its roads a 40km/h zone, and I haven’t been run over once.

But this latest downward shift does make me wonder why it’s always the motorist who pays, in convenience or dollars, for the ills of the world.

And now, in news on which I won’t even pass comment, a professor of road safety at the University of NSW, Raphael Grzebieta, has suggested that school zones should be 30km/h, to bring us in line with "world's best practice".

"In the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands, it's 30km/h in school zones," Professor Grzebieta said.

He claims that dropping our current “too high” limit would cut the fatality rate around schools by 10 percent.

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