Future of controversial 40km/h Ballarat CBD limit to be voted on

Ballarat City Council looks set to continue with a controversial 40km/h zone around the CBD following a trial phase that began in December 2015.

A report to go before councillors recommended the 40km/h area speed limit instead of 50km/h within the core of the CBD and the extended crossing time for pedestrians crossing Sturt Street be made permanent. 

The changes were designed to improve the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in high pedestrian activity areas. 

The report said there had been favourable support for the speed limit from senior officers of emergency services including Police Highway Patrol and CFA Rescue.

But the relatively short time of the trial and small number of police-reported traffic incidents made it difficult to determine the impact the new speed limit was having on safety. 

However, the report pointed out that in the five years before the introduction of the new speed limit, there was an annual average of 3.7 serious casualties compared to just one serious casualty in the year following its introduction.

Councillor Des Hudson said he hoped to see the changes remain in place to ensure a pedestrian-friendly CBD.

“I would struggle to see a valid argument for reversing the decision and go back to lifting the speed limit to 50km/h in the CBD,” he said. “I think 40 km/h is a much safer option and it fits in with world’s best practice that has been seen around the world.”

The speed restrictions are located in the area between Dawson and Humffray Streets and bounded by Mair and Dana Streets. 

The contentious trial, which costs about $100,000, received its fair share of criticism from the Ballarat public. A council-sanctioned community consultation in early 2015 revealed that out of 600 respondents, 68 per cent opposed the speed reduction.

Cr Hudson acknowledged community objection, but believed it had softened.

“I think people have adapted to the 40km/h precinct in the CBD and they can see it hasn’t disrupted their schedule,” he said. 

Various elderly and vision-impaired groups have also praised the change in pedestrian crossing time, believing the previous sequence did not allow people enough time to cross Sturt Street.

Councillors will vote on the future of the speed limit and pedestrian crossing time at a council meeting on Wednesday night.