14 Feb 23

European cities slash speed limits to boost safety and mobility solutions

Major reductions in speed limits in European cities have led to significant improvements in road safety and prepared the way for walking and micro-mobility solutions such as bike and e-scooter share schemes.

In the last two years Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen and cities across Spain have introduced cuts in speed limits of up to 50%, in a bid to cut pollution, reduce energy use, disincentivise cars and protect other road users.

  • In Spain, the speed limit on one-way streets in towns and cities was lowered to 20 kilometres per hour from May 2021; 30km/h on roads with one lane in each direction and 50km/h on roads with two lanes in each direction. The move followed the publication of official figures in 2019 that showed, for the first time, the proportion of vulnerable road users killed on Spanish roads exceeded those killed in vehicles. 
  • Paris cut its speed limit to 30km/h from 50km/h in August 2021, as part of plans to cut accident figures by 25%, and reduce serious and fatal collisions by 40%. The initiative was also expected to halve traffic noise, and increase space to expand pavements and cycle lanes.
  • Copenhagen has imposed 40km/h speed limits across much of the Danish capital, and 30km/h in the city centre from June 2022.
  • Brussels introduced a general speed limit of 30km/h in January 2021.
  • And this week, London has reported a 25% reduction in the number of collisions and a 25% fall in serious injuries and deaths since it cut the speed limit to 20mph from 30mph in March 2020. Most encouragingly, collisions involving pedestrians have decreased by 63%.

Slower speeds save lives

Data shows there is an 80% risk of dying when a pedestrian is knocked down by a vehicle travelling at 50km/h, but this falls to 10% if a vehicle is driving at 30km/h.

Penny Rees, Transport for London's Head of Healthy Streets Investment, said: " 20mph speed limits not only save lives, but also encourage Londoners to travel in more active and sustainable ways.”

And the European Transport Safety Council said modelling showed lower speed limits smooth traffic flows, thereby avoiding stop-start urban driving, which improves fuel consumption and reduces carbon emission by 25%. 

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Jonathan Manning