Auckland drivers, you're a surprising bunch.

'How much abuse did you get? How many honks?', colleagues wanted to know when I returned from two hours driving the streets of New Zealand's biggest and busiest city at no more than 30km/h, the limit Auckland Transport wants to impose on the city centre.

Answer: None and one.

Crawling along in my Toyota Yaris - top speed 220km/h - Hobson St was where I got my first and only toot.

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It came from a red van, its driver perhaps already displeased by our shared slow journey up Victoria St West.

It felt awfully slow - unnatural even - driving on Hobson, a five-lane, one-way road leading to the Northwestern and Southern motorway entrances.

I kept glancing at the speedo because I couldn't grasp the natural feel of 30km/h, unlike the familiar motion of 50km/h. More than once, I caught myself leaning into the steering wheel, as if willing the car to go faster.

Ahead, traffic lights switched from green to amber to red as I crawled towards
them. It was painful.

On Hobson, and later Nelson and Fanshawe streets, I was often front of queue at lights, before discovering down the road that I was completely alone — a bunch of vehicles were well in front and more well behind.

NZ Herald journalist Cherie Howie, in the grey car at right, drives around Auckland CBD at the proposed 30km/h speed limit. Photo / Michael Craig
NZ Herald journalist Cherie Howie, in the grey car at right, drives around Auckland CBD at the proposed 30km/h speed limit. Photo / Michael Craig

Vehicles were going around me. But, much to my surprise, many drivers were patient. They hung back, in some cases not passing at all. When they did, I glanced across. But if they were angry, they kept a good poker face.

On streets where there wasn't the option to pass, I found myself fighting the urge to pull over.

Sheepishly, I looked in the rear view mirror for red faces. I saw none.

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I still didn't feel entirely comfortable, knowing that, even if they don't show it, no one really wants to go 20km/h below the speed limit on a big, multi-lane road.

As for the small, two-lane-only roads, a new speed limit wouldn't make much difference.

Traffic lights, congestion, pedestrians, cyclists, skateboaders, delivery people,
drongos — you name it, the teeming array of life on the busiest central streets of Auckland scuttles any chance of safely going above 30km/h.

Parts of Wynyard Quarter and the Viaduct already have 30km/h speed limits, as does Queen St between Mayoral Dr and Customs St.

I drove down Queen St to see how the lower speed restriction worked.

It was uneventful - Queen St has seven red light stops within 3km and I managed to listen to the entire 11 minutes of Lynard Skynard's Free Bird while driving down it.

Cherie Howie drives around Auckland at 30 km/h to gauge the reaction of other road-users. Photo / Michael Craig
Cherie Howie drives around Auckland at 30 km/h to gauge the reaction of other road-users. Photo / Michael Craig

Turning onto Customs and then tiny Commerce St, one pedestrian was leaning forward on the edge of the kerb as the Yaris' wheels roll achingly slowly towards him.

His expression says, "Why did I wait for this numpty?".

He should be more grateful — the proposed new speed limit is, in large part, for him.

Auckland Transport's group manager of network safety Randhir Karma last month said that while average speeds along main roads in the CBD were generally below 30km/h already, some places were higher.

That wasn't appropriate when there was a high number of people walking and cycling, he said, noting a person struck by a vehicle travelling at 30km/h had a 10 per cent chance of dying, compared to an 80 per cent chance at a speed of 50km/h.

I discovered on my slow journey around central Auckland that it's a lot easier to stop at 30km/h and to know you need to stop.

A young man had a green walking light to cross before I reached the zebra crossing at the corner of Pitt and Vincent Sts.

I heard myself say out loud, "Wow, it's so much easier to realise I need to stop and to actually stop when I'm only going 30km/h".

I scanned the man's face for a reaction as he crossed in front of me. There wasn't one.

That's as it should be.