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Abley Apr 20242 min read

Creating safe urban environments for people

On 11th November (during Road Safety week), Abley held an industry breakfast event in conjunction with the Australasian College of Road Safety. The event included presentations from Bryan Sherritt (Auckland Transport), Hamish Mackie (Mackie Research & Consulting) and Jeanette Ward (Abley) on topics relating to creating safe urban environments for people.

With over 100 attendees from as far as Saudi Arabia and Western Australia, we received a number of questions on the topic of reducing speed impacts on Levels of Service(LoS) and network optimisation. The following blog answers some of these questions.

The questions related to the premise that we can achieve safer streets by reducing vehicular speeds. Looking back to the days of the Red Flag Act of the late 19th century that required drivers of early automobiles to take certain safety precautions, including waving a red flag in front of the vehicle as a warning, vehicles rarely caused serious injury, or at least injury resulting in a record being generated. However, this Act was soon surpassed to enable improvements to travel time and to accommodate growth in vehicular numbers. These same factors are those we struggle to resolve adequately today – the throughput of vehicles versus the safety of road users.

Feedback following the event raised a number of questions around the tension between providing space for one specific mode over another (e.g. LoS for driving versus walking, or space for on-street parking versus shared paths).

These tensions were acknowledged many years ago within the transport planning industry and resulted in the development of Movement and Place Frameworks – established hierarchies of which modes or LoS take priority in different areas, and often at different times: a process called Network Operation Planning. This approach recognises that land use and road corridor use are inherently linked and must pay due regard to each other’s function and value when determining what is important.

With relevant data sets becoming more and more available, we are now able to automate and integrate more datasets that facilitate a more robust decision making process and that integrates LOS optimisation at a network wide level, and across different modes as well as other factors. So while the tension remains, it is optimised to achieve the overall outcomes sought for the network and for each mode in a particular location.

The recent release of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development recognises the importance of place value in more densely populated areas. Removing the minimum parking requirements recognises the need to shift away from private vehicle ownership and embrace alternative modes. Whilst this may in the short term put pressure on road space management, factoring roadside parking controls and good street design into the planning process to balance accessibility to private cars alongside the safe and efficient movement of all road users will result in better place and movement outcomes overall.

Integrating our investment decisions to consider the urban form and enhancing our multi-modal offerings is critical in resolving how the road corridor is used to balance the safe and efficient movement of people and product with place. After all, our transport network only serves to facilitate our enjoyment of our places, so let’s not forget the reason for travelling in our enthusiasm for a perfect movement network.

View the webinar recording of all presentations for the “Creating Safe Urban Environments” event: