Paris cuts speed limit to 30km/h to encourage walking and cycling

Paris: There’s no more zipping past the Eiffel Tower or through the Latin Quarter without slowing down to soak in the sights: the speed limit across nearly all of Paris was on Monday cut to 30km/h.

The city wants to encourage walking, cycling and use of public transport, deputy mayor David Belliard told local media.

Speed cameras in Paris will now be clocking anyone driving more than 30km/h.Credit:AP

The new speed limit should help reduce pollution, noise and the number of serious accidents, he said.

“This is not an anti-car measure,” Belliard said. “We want to limit [vehicles] to essential travel.”

It’s the latest initiative by a city trying to burnish its climate credentials and transform people’s relationship with cars.

City officials say it’s also aimed at cutting pollution, reducing accidents and making Paris more pedestrian-friendly.

The reduced speed limit in Paris is intended to cut pollution, while also encouraging bike and pedestrian traffic.Credit:AP

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who won a second six-year term in 2020, has built kilometres of new bike lanes, banned old diesel cars and made the Seine riverbanks car free. She is also reducing parking space in the city in a bid to limit car use.

City hall has said police will be lenient in applying the new speed limit in the first weeks.

Even so, car owners and commuters are fuming. Delivery drivers say it will create longer waiting times for customers. Taxi drivers say it will drive up rates and hurt business.

“So if I drive at 30km/h, the client starts complaining. If I drive at 50km/h, I get arrested by the police. So I don’t know what to do,” said Karim Macksene, seated in his cab outside the iconic Cafe de Flore on the Left Bank.

“People take a cab because they’re in a hurry. At 30km/h, they might as well walk.”

However, polls suggest most Parisians support the idea, notably in the hope that it makes the streets safer and quieter.

Already, cyclists often move faster than cars in the densely populated French capital. Only action stars like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible can realistically pick up speed on winding, medieval Parisian streets that are barely more than one car wide.

The 30km/h limit already applied to about 60 per cent of the Paris area, but it will now cover the entire city. However, a few major thoroughfares such as the Champs-Elysees will be exempt, with the speed limit remaining at 50km/h.

Other French cities with a 30km/h speed limit include Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Toulouse.

Elsewhere in Europe, Brussels imposed a 30km/h limit on much of the city earlier this year and about 80 per cent of Berlin’s streets have the same rule.

Madrid has had speed curbs on most of the city centre since 2018, with a nationwide rule in Spain this year putting a 30km/h limit on all one-way urban roads, a measure aimed at reducing air and noise pollution and increasing traffic safety.

Residential neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, including its famous canal neighbourhoods, cap speeds at 30km/h, and the city is proposing to expand that to larger roads.

The Van Den Broek family, visiting Paris from the Netherlands, embraced the city’s new speed limit.

“We have a lot of problems with nature and everything (such as climate change), and I think that we don’t have to drive in cities,” said Francis Van den Broek, who was riding a bike through the French capital on Monday. “And so I think it’s very good that we drive not so fast in cities.”

AP, Reuters

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