Speed limits, not targets



How wonderful it would be if all old cars could be rescued from landfill and made into survival gardens like this one. The inside could be like a mini-glass house! I have a fantasy that one day I’ll be so fit that I’ll be able to make a garden with mine instead of needing it to drive in. In the meantime it continues to amaze me how much misinformation there is about cars and driving. The one action I’ve done in the last few weeks that has caused the most startling response from other people, is to simply reduce my driving speed. I felt this was the least I could do given that Australia’s transport emissions are now up 30%!

These are on my back window:


Ironically, as I’ve discovered through driving slower, hardly anyone keeps to the speed limit. In fact, most people could reduce their speed 20% and still be driving at the legal limit. Considering how fast I used to drive, in reality I’m probably reducing my carbon emissions by about 30-40% at times now. It still doesn’t relieve all my angst about driving but at least I feel a little better until my bike fitness improves … am not remotely near fit enough yet to cycle from Blackheath to Kingswood with a data projection unit and a laptop strapped to my back!

Most people’s immediate response to hearing about what I’m doing is to criticize my slow driving as “dangerous”. If you’re an L-Plate (Learner Driver) you’re not permitted to drive over 80km per hour … this would actually be 30km below the speed limit on the expressway. If driving slower is dangerous to everyone else then what the hell are we doing to our poor learner drivers … are we putting them at risk of being rammed by angry road ragers?

Having now done a couple of trips to and from Kingswood (quite a long trip and even longer when you’re going slow!) most of the way has 2 or 3 lanes. Nobody has zoomed up close to me and nearly crashed. People might swear at me (which I fortunately can’t hear) but they simply slide smoothly into the overtaking lanes and pass me. No hassle. In the sections where there is only one lane I pull over to the side and let people pass (except for a few moments one day when I took a small amount of glee in forcing people behind me to drive slower for a short time … then the more mature part of me won over and said “enough of that Lis, pull over”)

I found a British website where the British driving and safety records were being extolled and I

loved the distinction they made – that speed signs were limits, not targets:

It’s important to remember that a speed limit is just that – the top speed that you can drive at on any particular road. It’s not a target speed, and just because you are allowed to drive at a particular speed, doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be safe to do so.

On my May 19 blog I quoted from a report where the Ford motor company is actually encouraging the purchasing and installation of speed limiters to help drivers reduce speed, reduce carbon emissions and reduce fuel costs. Nevertheless it is a common misperception that it is bad for your car to drive slower than the speed limit. There’s also the EU’s Report on that blog which encourages slower driving to reduce carbon emissions quite dramatically.

Interestingly, all the way to Nepean and back, only one driver honked. A woman in a yellow Mercedes (hello whoever you are!) who then drove past me and raised her fist in a sign of solidarity … or at least that’s how I interpreted it!

My political action for today was giving The Inconvenient Truth Slide Presentation to a Design Conference at Nepean TAFE. As I mentioned last week, I like adding slides that inspire students to act or design something new themselves. London, for example, is actually looking to learn from China where leading Chinese innovation has led to the development of Dongtan which will become the world’s first sustainable city.

Check out Coolhunter by clicking here and you’ll see pictures of Dongtan, Yamaha’s new electric bike and other great design ideas.

My personal action for the day was to find ways to limit my time at the computer! I’m not sure I should be telling you this because you’ll all cancel your subscriptions! Nevertheless, compared to the average person I spend an inordinate amount of time as a computer zombie. Partly because of this blog, but partly too because of all the emails I get.

Well, step one is to commit to 6-8 computer free waking hours every day – in other words, keep getting a life! I love my garden, my children, (yes, and you too Ian), my home, my friends, my community …. I need at least 6-8 good solid hours a day for them. This is harder than it sounds because the computer can be so addictive. Fortunately I use a laptop which has less energy consumption than a desktop computer, but by turning it off at the powerpoint for 6-8 hours a day I should make even more energy savings.

Recently I wrote a Thank You email to George Monbiot whose work I greatly admire. He sent back this automated response which was better than the black void people get from me when I’m too inundated to reply. While I obviously don’t get as many emails as he does, I understood him completely and am plucking up the courage to write something similar myself.

“Sorry about the automated reply. I read everything sent to me, apart from spam, but I can reply to only a very small proportion.
This is because I receive a couple of hundred personal messages a day, and if I answered them all properly, I would have no time for anything else.
So I will try to cover the most common questions here:
If you are looking for sources for the information in my articles, I have appended them on my website to all the pieces published since 11th March 2003.
If you would like me to give a talk or an interview, I am afraid the answer is no unless you hear from me � I receive 10 or 12 requests a day, and can meet only a very few of them.
If you want advice, I have tried to answer most of the requests I receive on the Careers Advice page, and through the www.globalrising.org site.
If you want a debate, sorry � I will read the points you make, but will not be able to reply.
If you are sending kind words, then thank you and my special apologies for not writing back.
Sorry again for all this, but I have found I cannot both do my work and be courteous. Something has to go, and I am afraid it is the courtesy.

Best wishes, George Monbiot”

2 thoughts on “Speed limits, not targets

  1. Lynette Correy

    Hi Lis

    Something I would be interested to know is where the most fuel efficiency is obtained with cars. I remember seeing documentaries (some years ago now)where generally around 80km was the most fuel efficient speed, and driving at 40km or 60km was quite inefficient, obviously depending on the road, vehicle etc. If you know up to date info on this especially with newer vehicles it could be good to mention it in your blog because I find this is quite common knowledge when I’ve been in conversation about it with people in the past, and if it’s now a myth it would be good to inform people.

    Thanks, Lynette

  2. Lis

    Hi Lynette, I don’t know this info and don’t have the time to pursue it but if anyone else out there does … please let us know; all I know for sure is that Ford and studies done by the EU recommend slowing down to reduce carbon emissions.

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