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Centre for Road Safety

Graphic - Read text at Safer stopping distances

Speed zones are set to enable drivers travelling at a speed limit to safely respond to potential risks in the road environment. Lower speed limits apply in built up areas where there are more people and vehicles, to reduce the chance of crashes and serious injuries.

Travelling at speeds that are set to accommodate the mix of vehicles and people movements on the road network allows drivers and riders to stop to avoid crashes, and if they do crash, to reduce the impact to prevent death and serious injuries, especially in areas of high pedestrian activity.

When crashes do occur they are less severe, especially for children and the elderly.

10 km/h shared zones

A Shared Zone is a road or network of roads with high levels of pedestrian activity, where the road space is shared safely by vehicles and pedestrians. The maximum speed limit is always 10 km/h, as drivers travelling at a lower speed are better able to control their vehicles and safely avoid impact with other road users.

To show that pedestrians and vehicles are equal, there may be no road lines, kerbs or gutters in a Shared Zone. Drivers must give way to pedestrians at all times.

Shared Zones have a different surface texture and traffic calming features, such as raised thresholds. The street environment also makes drivers and pedestrians aware of the different driving conditions, along with specific signs that are used to clearly define the beginning of a Shared Zone.

30 km/h zones

To support a safer environment for local residents to walk, cycle and commute, Transport for NSW is working to transform Sydney’s streets through active transport measures. As part of this, the NSW Government recently implemented safer reduced speed zones of 30km/h in Manly to support the community and improve safety.

There are also a number of school zones within the 30 km/h zones, with the school zones operating at 30 km/h as part of the change. To emphasise the school zone speed limits, 30 km/h orange school zone signs and road markings have been installed to alert motorists of the reduced speed zones.

40 km/h zones

The 40 km/h urban limit is part of a nationwide strategy to improve safety in high pedestrian traffic areas, such as busy CBD zones and small suburban shopping strips. The 40 km/h limits are also marked on signs to show local traffic zones and road work zones. Signs and pavement markings show the start of 40 km/h pedestrian areas and include:

  • Standard 40 km/h speed signs
  • Pedestrian activity signs
  • 40 km/h pavement numerals (roads with painted speed limit numbers)

Most 40 km/h pedestrian zones are requested by local councils, community, police and transport authorities and submitted to local traffic committees. Our guidelines assist in the implementation of timed 40 km/h speed limits at schools, on buses (when lights are flashing on the back of buses) and 40 km/h roadwork zone speed limits.

50 km/h zones

A 50 km/h speed limit applies to all built-up areas across NSW. Built-up areas have buildings on the land next to the road, or have street lights along the road with a spacing of 100 metres or less for a total length of at least 500 metres, or if the road is shorter than 500 metres, for the whole length of the road.

  • The 50 km/h default limit applies on all urban roads without a speed sign
  • Reduced speed limits at school zones, road works and other special areas still apply

The 50 km/h urban limit is part of a nationwide strategy to improve safety for all road users.

How speed zones are set and reviewed

Speed zones are set to:

  • Minimise harm
  • Support liveability, amenity and successful places
  • Support efficient travel on roads that have a primary movement function
  • Be clear, consistent and support compliance
  • Help manage the environmental impact of road traffic.

The community is engaged in the speed zoning process to ensure community views are considered in speed zone management.

Speed zones are set to minimise harm

Speed limits are set to manage both the risk of collisions and the force that road users are exposed to in order to minimise the chances of fatal or serious injuries in a crash.

Speed zone setting takes into account:

  • The types of vehicles and road users using the road and the degree to which different road users are exposed to potential serious and life threatening risks
  • The nature and standard of the road infrastructure and its surrounding environment.

Speed zones are set to support liveability, amenity and successful places

The Movement and Place Framework considers how different parts of the road network perform different functions based on:

  • Movement of people and goods
  • Places for people and their activities.

Aligning the movement function of a road or street with the surrounding environment can significantly reduce the risk, incidence and severity of road crashes. The liveability, amenity and economic success of communities and places are enhanced by appropriate speed zoning.

When setting speed limits, consideration is also given to:

  • The physical form and activity of a place, as well as how local communities value and identify with a place
  • Mobility through, within, and to and from a place
  • Applying variable speed limits where movement and place functions change at certain times of the day or days of the week to ensure safety and improve amenity, activity and productivity.

Speed zones help to manage the environmental impact of road traffic

Appropriate speed zoning helps to manage the environmental impacts of road traffic in the following ways:

  • Speed zones can encourage people to choose more sustainable modes of transport for shorter trips, resulting in reduced congestion and emissions intensity
  • Reduced crashes can also reduce traffic delays and emissions
  • Less stop-start driving and more efficient engine operation provides for reductions in emissions and noise – thereby improving air quality and better health and well-being.

The NSW Speed Zoning Guidelines (PDF, 2.04Mb) provide details on the consistent application of engineering principles to speed zones across the state.