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40 km/h school zones attract nationwide interest

22 June 2004

The success of the Christchurch City Council’s award winning 40 km/h school zone system is continuing to attract interest nationally.
The City Council recently won a national award for the system, the “Road-Based Innovation” award funded by the Road Safety Trust and administered by the Land Transport Safety Authority. It was also jointly awarded to Christchurch based electronic signage firm High Technology Systems (HTS), who produced the automated signs for the zones. The signs were originally designed and developed for the City Council by Christchurch industrial design engineer Paul Sintes.
Lee Kelly, the City Council’s roading consultation leader, says the zones have been attracting interest from other city and district councils, roading and education authorities since their launch in 2000.
“Coping with rising traffic volumes outside schools is a national issue. Christchurch has a history of being proactive and innovative in addressing road safety issues and introducing engineering changes to make the roads safer.
“The 40 km/h school zones system, established by the City Council in conjunction with Transit New Zealand, is an example of that innovation. Our award for road-based innovation is an endorsement of what our research and trials over the last five years have shown,” she says.
The City Council set up a 40 km/h pilot project in 1999 at five primary schools in Christchurch. Practical trials were held over the following two years. Evaluations have shown that the zones slow traffic, raise motorists’ awareness of children crossing the road and increase a school communities confidence’ about children’s safety on the road outside their school.
The school zone system enables schools to activate electronic, illuminated 40km/h signs, combined with fluorescent yellow/green static warning signs, at the beginning and end of the school day. The signs are located up to 150 to 250m on either side of the school crossing point depending on where the school is located.  The signs are operated by an automatic timer located within a secure control box on the school premises.
Christchurch now boasts 12, 40km/h school zones covering 15 schools. The most recent instalment was in March, with three new zones established covering six schools. The City Council will continue to install the zones on a yearly basis, as funding permits.
HTS chief executive Bill O’Brien says other schools, councils and roading authorities in New Zealand are picking up the 40km/h school zone system.
“Ideally, there would be a zone outside every school in New Zealand. Christchurch has been fortunate in that the City Council has funded the installation of the zones, which cost around $20,000 each.
“Schools in New Zealand who are interested in the zones, but may not be able to secure funding from their local council, could potentially fundraise for a zone.”
Mr O’Brien says that HTS is about to launch a new promotion for the 40 km/h school zone system targeting schools and councils in New Zealand.
“There are two main versions of the system, one powered by mains and the other by solar panels. The solar version is suited to remote locations and has recently been installed in Blenheim and Greymouth. Although having a higher capital cost, this is offset by lower installation costs,” he says.
Ms Kelly says that in Christchurch, there are some set criteria that need to be met before a zone can proceed and interested schools need to be informed.  Firstly, a technical assessment needs to be done to establish the suitability of a site for a school zone. Support for the zone needs to be received from the school community  (in the form of a formal application from the school Board of Trustees, for example).
In Christchurch, a report needs to be made to the appropriate City Council committees, and funding for the zone included in the City Council’s annual plan. Before a zone can become operational, the Land Transport Safety Authority and the New Zealand Police need to be consulted and an amendment to the Council bylaw made to include the new school zone.
For more information contact Christchurch City Council roading projects consultation leader Lee Kelly on 941 8355 or 025 360 856, email: or HTS chief executive Bill O’Brien on 338 5280, email: or check the web-site


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