RACV study supports reinstating 70kmh speed limit along Bell Street

8 April, 2016

RACV study supports reinstating 70km/h speed limit along Bell Street

A study by RACV and road safety consultant Robert Morgan has found that the lowering of the speed limit along Bell Street was not justified.

The study included a road safety audit of Bell Street and an analysis of the VicRoads crash data for the section of road where limits were lowered.

RACV General Manager Public Policy Brian Negus said that RACV questioned claims that 152 of the 199 crashes over five years were speed-related – claims VicRoads used to justify lowering the speed limit from 70km/h to 60km/h.

Road safety engineering, traffic engineering and transport planning consultant, Robert Morgan* said he too could not see a justifiable reason to reduce the Bell Street speed limit.

“The analysis found that of the claimed 199 crashes, only 139 crashes actually involved vehicles travelling along Bell Street. The other 60 crashes had taken place in side streets, in car parks and even elsewhere in Melbourne, where the speed limit on Bell Street was not relevant,” Mr Morgan said.

The study also found that the actual number of crashes in which speed may have been a factor was no more than 55 – about one third of the number claimed by VicRoads and that  the crash rates along most of Bell Street were lower than for similar roads across Melbourne.

“In a nutshell, Bell Street did not have a significant crash problem – and the types of crashes that were happening can’t be fixed by dropping the speed limit,” Mr Negus said.

He said where crash rates were higher, it was because of specific problem intersections and traffic signal problems made up a large proportion of road safety issues found along Bell Street that had contributed to crashes.

“RACV suggests that solutions including extra signal lanterns to improve the visibility of red lights, new signs and closing median openings would reduce crashes. Elsewhere, the crash problems can be cheaply fixed by targeted changes to signs, lines and kerbing.

“We think that lowering speed limits is being used as a token gesture instead of dealing with the real causes of crashes and properly maintaining the road network,” Mr Negus said.

“You only have to look at Bell Street where it crosses Darebin Creek - it’s the site of a head-on crash, yet the centre line and lane lines are completely worn out.

"There is no excuse for failing to do routine maintenance and minor works that will genuinely improve road safety."

“At nearby Chifley Drive there’s been a series of red light-running crashes and rear-end crashes – all in one direction on Bell Street where there is no mast-arm traffic light. A lower speed limit won’t fix that.

“Another serious crash location is in a bus lane that was recently built by VicRoads. The crashes involve low speeds and traffic queues. It can be fixed cheaply with a better signs and some paint. The lower limit won’t fix it.”

Mr Negus said the unjustified lowering of speed limits puts into question VicRoads capability to set appropriate speed limits and potentially shifts the cost burden onto Victorian motorists who are booked for exceeding an unrealistic and inappropriate speed limit

RACV calls on VicRoads to implement RACV’s three-point action plan for safety on Bell Street and similar divided roads:

  1. Take action now to fix the specific crash problems. The solutions are simple and not expensive.
  2. Reinstate the 70 km/h speed limit as the appropriate limit for a road of this cross section and geometry.
  3. Restore the engineering guidelines that used to include 70 km/h – and 90 km/h – speed limits. These limits no longer exist in VicRoads manuals and the threat of another Bell Street fiasco remains.

Engineer and consultant Robert Morgan:

  • 40 years’ experience in road safety engineering, traffic engineering & transport planning.
  • Principal author of the national guidelines on road safety auditing and investigation and treatment of crash locations (blackspots) (Austroads' Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice, Part 4 Treatment of Crash Locations (2002). 
  • Principal designer of the Australian standard system of parking control signs introduced in 1989 & principal author of AS 1742 Part 11 (1989) & (1999))
  • Accredited Senior Road Safety Auditor
Written by Liselotte Geary or Lynette Keogh, RACV Public Affairs on (03) 9790 2717
March 30, 2016