Calls to reduce neighbourhood speed limits in the Illawarra to as little as 30km/h are growing louder, following a string of recent road tragedies.
Wollongong councillors voted unanimously at their Monday meeting in favour of a motion to investigate lowering speeds to 40km/h throughout Stanwell Park.
Meantime, a working group set up to improve road safety standards around the city's schools is hoping the state's COVID recovery agenda will provide a foothold for introducing around-the-clock speed limits of 30km/h in streets within two kilometres of schools, more pedestrian crossings and divided footpaths.
The issue provoked at times heartfelt debate on Burelli St on Monday night, as Councillor Leigh Colacino put forward a motion to investigate reduced limits for the "narrow and winding" roads of Stanwell Park.
The motion was inspired by Stanwell Park man Brett Harris, 52, who was killed on November 18 when an out-of-control ute crashed into his house after the driver reportedly suffered a medical episode.
Early in his address, the councillor publicly thanked two council gardeners who came to Mr Harris's aid.
"I know that without their medical care, my friend of many years would not have had the chance to even make it to the hospital," he said.
He noted no traffic control measures could have changed the tragic outcome of November 18, but said Mr Harris had long expressed concern about unsafe local roads.
"This is one suburb that is begging for help," Cr Colacino said, noting the issue had a nine-year history.
Several councillors expressed concern that a reduced limit would set an unwanted precedent. Cr Dom Figliomeni said reduced limits would do nothing for drivers who were "hooning around".
"I do not think that lowering the speed limit is going to stop these people. All we're doing is hitting the law-abiding citizens."
Cr Cath Blakey was among those to fully back the motion.
"I don't think it's a matter of whether people are law-abiding or not; it's really just a matter of physics," she said.
"Roads can be designed to reduce the risk of collision, to make sure that there's enough flexibility so that the drivers can have an opportunity to react."
Cr Blakey extended condolences "not just ... for the families who've lost a loved one, but ... also for the families who've had a driver that's been traumatised", in recent road fatalities, most recently at Unanderra, where 10-year-old Bailey Foster was hit by a car and critically injured as he made his way to school last week. He died in hospital three days later.
On November 10, a 52-year-old man was hit by a ute while riding his bike on Springhill Road. He later died in hospital.
On November 7, Kiama 19- year-old Libby Ruge was killed and two of her friends seriously injured when they were hit by an out-of-control car outside Wollongong's Collegians club.
Transport for NSW is in the process of investigating areas in the Illawarra that could be suitable for a 30km/h speed limit, with an early focus on Helensburgh.
Jon Lindley, whose Safe Streets to School Wollongong working group has been pushing for 30km/h limits on all non-arterial roads within a two-kilometre radius of the city's primary schools, said surveyed parents had expressed mixed feelings about the idea.
He said the state's COVID recovery agenda had given councils greater powers to make walking and cycling safe and had created a focus on "placemaking interventions that support community and business" - which he hoped would bolster support for 30km/h limits.
"This would be in your neighbourhood roads where it's often an end-of-journey travelling distance," he said, citing successful overseas examples in Germany, Japan, and an upcoming rollout in New Zealand.
"It might sound controversial to begin with, but research shows it has very little impact on people's travel times, but it has a huge impact on vulnerable road users and also leads to more people being able to experience streets as shared spaces."
A spokeswoman for Wollongong City Council said: "Council is working with TfNSW to assess and implement appropriate safety improvements in areas of high pedestrian activity in the city that may be suitable for a reduced speed zone, noting the criteria for these zones has not yet been set.
"Although it is expected that 30km/h speed zone precincts will be established in conjunction with a Local Area Traffic Management Scheme that would also consider other traffic calming facilities."
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