Paris to Set Default Citywide Speed Limit Below 20 MPH

Paris has enacted slow zones over much of the city in recent years. Image: retrieved from World Streets

Paris has enacted slow zones over much of the city in recent years. New Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to go further. Map via World Streets

Slow-speed zones are an increasingly widespread tactic to improve street safety and urban livability. Inspired by a German town that limited motor vehicle speeds to 30 kilometers per hour — or roughly 19 miles per hour — British activists have made 20 mph zones a core street safety policy across the nation.

A slow zone in Paris. Image: via World Streets

A slow zone in Paris. Photo via World Streets

The movement has begun to catch on in the United States, where New York City has been implementing 20 mph zones on neighborhood streets.

Now Eric Britton at World Streets reports that Paris, which has a number of slow zones already, is taking the idea citywide:

The just-elected new Mayor of Paris, Madame Anne Hidalgo, has prepared a revolutionary sustainable mobility project whereby virtually all of the streets of the city will be subject to a maximum speed limit of 30 km/hr.

The only exceptions in the plan are a relatively small number of major axes into the city and along the two banks of the Seine, where the speed limit will be 50 km/hr, and the city’s hard pressed ring road (périphérique) where the top permissible speed has recently been reduced from 80 to 70 km/hr. At the other end of the slowth spectrum are a certain number of “meeting zones” (zones de rencontre) spotted around the city in which pedestrians and cyclists have priority but mix with cars which are limited to a top speed of 20 km/hr. A veritable révolution à la française.

This major policy initiative has not however taken place overnight, since for some years now there has been a steady increase in the number of zones reserved for pedestrians only, and more recently a step-by-step movement to “eco-areas” (see http://www.eco-quartiers.fr) where top speeds are already limited to 30 km/hr. By 2013 some 560 kilometers of the city streets were already in such areas, about one third of the total.

Britton says the policy change will have far-ranging effects:

As traffic speeds are significantly brought down across the city, a number of very important things occur as a direct result: substantially fewer accidents, significant reduction in serious injuries and deaths, energy savings, reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, local air pollution reduction, quality-of-life improvements all those who live and work, and play and study there, improved conditions and local accessibility for local business, significantly reduced carbon  stress on climate, and the long list goes on.

Elsewhere on the Network today: BikeWalkLee reports that Florida will make the penalty for injury-causing hit-and-runs an automatic felony triggering a three-year license suspension. Streets.mn says despite metro Minneapolis’s high-ranking in pedestrian safety in yesterday’s Dangerous by Design report, too many people in the region are killed while walking. And Greater Greater Washington shares a chart showing why different types of bus stops should include different levels of amenities for riders.