Toowoomba creates Queensland’s first Safe Active Street

On Friday June 21, 2024, Toowoomba Regional Council opened Queensland’s first Safe Active Street on Pierce Street in Toowoomba. Not just a first for Queensland, this was a first for the whole eastern seaboard of Australia. A Safe Active Street prioritises cycling, with a speed limit of 30km/h. Cars need to yield to cyclists, with painted lanes making all road users aware of the changed conditions.

Dropping the speed limit to 30km/h reduces the severity of any collisions between road users (no matter the modality) but it also helps make more bike riders feel safer on said street. Piercee Street in Toowoomba is a connector on the West Creek Cycleway, and amending the street into a Safe Active Street was a more cost-effective solution than creating a separated bikeway to create the connection. As Pierce Street ends in a quiet cul-de-sac there will be minimal impact on drivers of vehicles, but enhanced safety for those on bikes.

What does a Safe Active Street mean?

  • The speed limit is 30km/h. This applies to all road users.
  • People riding bikes are to ride near the centre of the shared travel lane (the terracotta painted zone).
  • People driving cars are to maintain 30km/h or less behind the person on a bike until safe to overtake, ensuring a distance of one metre from the rider. You are allowed to drive over the outside lines of the terracotta zone to overtake safely or to pass an oncoming vehicle.
  • Always give way to oncoming traffic and drive or ride in a safe and courteous manner.

Brian McKay, Senior Transport Planner at Toowoomba Regional Council, explained the concept of a Safe Active Street, and why they can be an important part of transport networks – and also affect change.

‘A Safe Active Street is something that is common throughout a lot of countries in Europe. Basically it is a street where everyone shares the same space. It has a lower speed environment… and we all know that 30km/h is that critical speed limit for safety. Bike riders have priority on this street and car drivers will have to sit behind a cyclist until they’re safe to move past.’

Having looked at various options to solve this missing link on the West Creek Cycleway, this was deemed the best fit by council.

‘We have a very car dominated road network in Queensland and in Australia,’ added McKay. ‘So all the time we can get these incremental changes to show people that there is a different kind of behaviour that is appropriate and safe for all users, then it is a great outcome for all.’