Major Aussie council votes to reduce speed limit to 40km/h

Sydney's inner west has become the latest area to reduce speed limits in an effort to improve pedestrian safety.

Motorists in some of Sydney's busiest suburbs will soon be restricted to driving 40 kilometres per hour in certain areas, in a new push to reduce the amount of road accidents while creating a safer space for pedestrians.

Inner West councillors voted unanimously on Monday night to pass a motion restricting the speed limit to 40km/h on local streets, with the new rollout set to prioritise roads near childcare centres, schools, hospitals, and aged care facilities. How the changes will be implemented is currently under evaluation.

Advocates from within the council – that governs the crowded suburbs of Annandale, Ashfield, Balmain, Dulwich Hill, Lilyfield, Leichhardt, Newtown, Marrickville, Petersham and Rozelle — say locals are in favour of the change, citing a poll in which 82 per cent of respondents voted in favour of the limits.

Church street in Newtown, in Sydney's Inner West, showing a mural titled Flood Emergency Drop..
A speed limit of 40km/h an hour will be introduced on local roads within the Inner West LGA in Sydney. Source: Getty

New Inner West speed limits 'a long time coming'

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Cr Tim Stephens said he's pleased with the outcome.

"It's been a long time coming," Stephens told Yahoo. "It hasn't actually been all that controversial at a council level. The issue now is just around implementation, so we will need the support and cooperation of Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) and some funding to do the signage and the road markings."

With speed limits of 40km/h already in place in parts of the LGA, Stephens said he expects the changes won't affect people much on the day-to-day. "There's already a large part — or at least part of the Inner West — that's already 40km/h, which is the Balmain peninsula," he said.

"The experience there has been a pretty positive one, and most of the streets [within the LGA] you'd struggle to go over 40 anyway."

State to now push speed limit changes through

The council will now defer to the state government to enact the new speed limits zones.

"The advantages are significant in that we will now have consistent speed limits across all of the local roads. State roads, and regional roads are a different matter, they are within the province of the state government, so we can't change the speed limit on those," Cr Stephens said.

"But certainly when it comes to local roads, it's going to be 40 wherever you are. And I think that will make life a lot easier for motorists. The evidence is it will reduce the number of injuries within the municipality. So it'll be saving lives, stopping injury, and saving cash as well."

King Street in Newtown where the speed limits won't apply.
The new speed limits will not apply to state roads, such as Enmore Road in Newtown, pictured here. Source: Getty

Stephens said it's yet to be determined how long the rollout will actually take place, with the ball now in TfNSW's court. "I don't know [how long] at this stage," he said. "We need to get confirmation from TfNSW. That's the next step, but they've been very supportive of us and of other councils [that are] doing exactly the same kind of thing."

Other Aussie councils adopt similar changes

The Inner West speed limits come after a number of other councils opted to introduce similar policies, most recently in Mosman, and on Sydney's North Shore.

In January, speed limits at the Esplanade at Balmoral, and on Military Road from Spit Junction to the so-called "Centenary Circle" — where Prince Albert Street, Middle Head Road and Bradleys Head Road converge — were capped at 40km/h.

Twelve roads in the Canterbury-Bankstown council area and one in Wollondilly had their limits dropped by up to 30km/h in October, 2023.

The stretch of road between Waldron Road and Proctor Parade on Chester Hill Road dropped from 60km/h to 40km/h, while Menangle Road in Menangle dropped from 80km/h to 50km/h in response to "community concerns”.

In Orange, in the NSW Central Tablelands, councillors also recently voted to reduce limits in busy areas. In Melbourne, Yarra council voted to lower the speed limit to 30km/h for most streets in Fitzroy and Collingwood in November.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, nearly 4,000 speeding fines were withdrawn last month for motorists caught after the speed limit along the busy Arden St in North Melbourne was reduced in April from 60km/h to 40km/h.

Lower the limit, higher the likelihood of crash survival

In a crash between a car and a pedestrian, there is a 90 per cent chance that a pedestrian will survive at 30km/h, 60 per cent chance at 40km/h and a 10 per cent chance at 50 km/h, according to TfNSW.

When the issue was initially raised in late 2023, there were some in the community that were against the idea. The NRMA said at the time it did not support arbitrary cutting of speed limits across council areas.

“We want speed limits to be evidence-based regardless of whether it is increased or decreased,” a spokesperson said in October, adding that often changes were poorly communicated and signposted.

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