Resident-only streets discouraging through-traffic the future - report

Only having residents drive down your street and making it more attractive to walk and bike from home could be the future.

A new report from the Helen Clark Foundation and engineering firm WSP suggests a move to low-traffic neighbourhoods will not only be good for our health, but it will also bring down our road toll and carbon emissions.

Report author Holly Walker said New Zealand has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world - a fact that isn't helping us bring down our road toll or meet our zero net emissions goal by 2050.

But she believes introducing low-traffic neighbourhoods is the answer.

"We know it will help with emissions reduction, we know it will help improve road safety, and we know it has a really beneficial effect on people's sense of belonging and connection in their neighbourhood," she said.

It would work by certain streets being closed for through-traffic and instead reserved just for residents, businesses, and emergency vehicles. All other cars, trucks, and buses would be forced to use the roads on the outside.

It wouldn't be policed, but encouraged through design.

"Paths can be widened, cycleways can be inserted, new little mini areas of public space or green space can be planted," Walker said.

It will also draw on some 'positives' from lockdown.

"People really enjoyed having quieter streets, they enjoyed getting out with their kids and bike and talk to their neighbours and hear birds singing," she said.

Auckland's Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board is exploring the idea.

It secured more than half a million dollars of funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to do it.

"It's about the local people using the local streets," board member Peter McGlashan said.

He said it will help build a sense of community.

"You make short trips easier to the shops, to the schools in a much safer way rather than having people depend on cars getting from A to B," she said.

"We don't have to put up with those hundreds of deaths on the roads every year, we can do it differently. We just have to choose the right policies."

Choosing the right policies will mean the right design is used to make people think twice about grabbing their car keys.