Sharing the road: we all need a smile

Traffic light. Green walking man street light. Photo by on recently discussed Austroads recommendations for 30km/h speed limits on local streets. Many local streets are barely wide enough for two cars to pass and without community paths. Despite this, the speed limit is 50km/h on local streets in Canberra. If a child gets injured, the motorist’s apologies are not likely to help either the child or the family – or the driver. This is the problem of vulnerable road users. Collisions are often fatal.

The inconsiderate motorist

Cyclists are startled by passing motorists screaming “get off the road”. Near misses do not count under Australian law, but we have seen an improvement with the 1.5 m rule. Proving an infringement is difficult if the police are not there to see it, and we do not seem to have that many police out there to look. This is one reason why increasingly more cyclists buy helmet cameras.

“The motor vehicle was a big 4WD utility and it drew alongside me in the middle of the roundabout. The passenger window was open and I heard the driver yell out, “Get off the road you f***ing idiot”. Do these people not understand that in yelling abuse at a cyclist on a roundabout there’s a serious chance you will startle the rider to the point that they lose control and have an accident?”

Get off the road you idiot!!, Mark Parton MLA, The Riot ACT, 25 April 2017

Road safety and speed

What we know:

  • A car travelling at 50km/h will kill a pedestrian in a collision.
  • In half the fatal collisions with pedestrians, the motorist never braked.
  • Many streets in Canberra do not have community paths and the pedestrians is forced to walk on the road.
  • Children up to 10 years do not have the cognitive ability to judge traffic and speed, or cross roads safely.

It seems the ACT Government does not dare to discuss speed limits, which is a real shame, especially when you have seen it work really well in European countries.

The next best alternative is to encourage motorists to at least drive responsibly within the speed limits we have got.

Social graces 

The ACT Government is introducing an intelligent sign that rewards responsible motorists with a smiley face, and a warning for the others. 

The introduction of intelligent street signs has slowed cars travelling 12 km/h faster than the speed limit on local streets and past schools. The signs are a reminder of the rules of the road and not speed cameras. The idea: instead of speed enforcement we learn through a social cue. The ACT has copied other states in trying this, and it has been a great success. 

We know how worried people are about letting their kids walk home from school or play on the street. I hope such measures give people more confidence to let their kids be kids, to get out, to go to the park or to walk to the bus stop, and a few may even ride a bike. 

A smile is a good thing, not only for motorists. 🙂

Sign o’ the times: at last there’s something to smile about in 2020 (if you’ve been good), Michael Weaver, 10 June 2020, The RiotACT

Photo by Katie E on
Photo by Katie E on

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