Other councils are also pushing to reduce speed limits: the City of Greater Geelong has submitted a list of 20 roads it wants considered for lower speeds; the City of Greater Bendigo is applying for one major speed reduction and will consider going further on other roads; and the Macedon Ranges and Mansfield councils have said they are open to cutting speeds in a bid to curb the escalating road toll.
Councillors say urgent action is required even if it means weathering a community backlash against lower speed limits on the Peninsula, which attracts 6 million visitors a year.
Some 243 people have died on Victorian roads this year, compared to 195 at the same time last year. Victoria is well past the five-year average of 228 fatalities before the summer break. So far this year 14 people have died on Mornington Peninsula roads, compared to two last year.
Mornington Peninsula mayor Sam Hearn said slowing down by just 10km/h substantially reduced the risk of death or serious injury in a crash.
“We tragically are Victoria’s worst municipality for road trauma so far in 2019,” he said. “This trial is timely as we head into our busy summer period.”
City of Greater Geelong deputy mayor Kylie Grzybek said radical action was required to tackle its road toll, 11 deaths on local roads this year, even though reducing speed limits was often unpopular in the community.
“We all cop it as politicians and government bureaucracies but I think we’re doing it for the right reasons,” she said. “I don’t want my family or my friends or colleagues or community members to die on our roads. If that adds two minutes [to travel times] then so be it.”
She said the council was seeking speed reductions of 10km/h on about 20 roads that are 70 or 80km/h.
City of Greater Geelong chief executive Martin Cutter said the council continued to roll out “traffic calming measures”, which included applying for lower speed limits.
“Most streets with serious crashes also have identified speed issues and high volumes of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users,” he said. “Speed limit reductions have been identified as a pivotal step in reducing the frequency and severity of road accidents in this area.”
In the City of Greater Bendigo there have been six fatalities this year, the same as the total figure for 2018.
City Greater Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the council recently applied to reduce the speed from 100km/h to 80km/h on Sedgwick Road in Mandurang where a cyclist was killed in December 2017.
Last year the council introduced a 40km/h speed limit in its CBD after a spate of accidents and one pedestrian fatality in recent years.
“The city will continue to advocate for speed reductions or funding to change road or traffic conditions at sites where there is a history of crashes and is open to further discussing ways to reduce the road toll on council-managed roads,” she said.
Macedon Ranges Shire’s director of assets and operations, Shane Walden, said his council was “certainly considering the issue of speed limits” as part of a broader strategy of managing and maintaining roads.
Benjamin is a state political reporter