Paris is implementing what other European cities like Brussels Belgium, Grenoble and Lille France, and Bilbao Spain are already doing: lowering speed limits in the city to 30 km/h. A majority of Paris was already posted for 30 km/h, excluding major artery routes like the Champs Elysées (50km/h) and the main ring road around Paris, the Boulevard Périférique (70 km/h). That strategy has also been done in other cities like Edinburgh to huge success.
This follows the United Nations’ Stockholm Declaration in 2020 that bluntly notes that reducing municipal and urban driver speed limits in cities to 30 km/h would halve the number of road violence victims by 2030. The World Health Organization estimates 1.3 million people a year die from vehicular driver accidents.
Edinburgh in 2018 lowered driver road speeds around the city to 30 km/h to make the city safer, walkable and more sociable. I have previously written about Edinburgh experiencing a 25 percent reduction of cyclist and pedestrian injury rates in the first year of this new reduced road speed.
In an extensive study published in the Urban Analytics and City Science Journal, researchers looked at the impacts of reduced speeds in the City of Edinburgh. Researchers at St. Andrew’s University found that the lowered driver speed limits of 20 mph reduced crashes by one-third in the two years since the lower road speeds were implemented.
As reported by The BBC St. Andrews University’s Dr. Valentin Popov of the School of Mathematics and Statistics says that the research indicates that the 30 km/h lower speed policy was effective.
Data simply shows that 30 km/h speed limits “reduce road traffic collisions and make roads safer for users.” In Britain cities like Bath, Bristol, Calderdale, Cheshire West and Chester have directly reduced casualties by implementing 30 km/h driver speed limits.
Back in Paris, a survey done before the implementation of the 30 km/h driver speed limit showed that nearly 60 percent of citizens were in favour, with some businesses opposed due to fears of clients not being able to drive quickly to services. Work by Transport for London shows that better walking and cycling facilities increases time spent in shopping areas by 210 percent and that people coming by walking or cycling spent 40 percent more.
In the United States, NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) have recommended “setting lower urban speed limits based on safety, as well as local urban density and activity, rather than the traditional method of gauging how fast drivers are comfortable driving”.
CBC’s Emily Chung notes that nitrogen oxides are generated at higher speeds and that’s the reason that the Netherlands recently cut its daytime highway speed limits from 130 km/h to 100 km/h. Of course lower speeds have physical and mental health benefits in neighbourhoods, by discouraging short cutting in neighbourhoods and making streets safer, more convenient and inviting for other users of any age.
And Paris is already seeing a secondary benefit: tourists are flocking to the one hundred streets that have been completely closed to vehicular traffic, and these streets have become a major draw for tourist dollars.
In British Columbia, Prince George has gone to 30 km/h speeds within the city as part of their local climate mitigation plan.
We need to encourage all municipalities and townships to do the right thing for safety, security, and comfort and convenience for all residents no matter what their way of using their neighbourhood and getting around it is.
Lowering driver speed limits in city neighbourhoods to 30 km/h is simply the right thing to do.
Here’s a YouTube video outlining the changes in Paris, with the expected exclamations against the 30 km/h driver speed limits from a representative of the local automobile association.