Who Cares about Paris’ Slow Zones?

A great many people apparently, to judge by the reaction to our yesterday’s World Street posting on the decision of the city of Paris to limit virtually all traffic in the city to a top speed of 30 km/hr. That article literally blew the lid off of the normal reader reaction to postings here, which commonly run in the hundreds at most in the several days immediately following publication. In this case we were deluged by more than 4000 readers who checked in from more than 50 countries.

What importance can we give to this one event which until now  has by and large escaped the attention of the international media ( they will come, you will see)?  Here are a couple of quick reflections:

  • The concept of such a rigorous speed limit  in cities and built up areas has been around for a long time  (the English  call it “20 is plenty” ).
  • In situations where it has been practiced there is a considerable amount of data  showing the advantages that  incur to the city and its residents .
  • A small but solid coterie of supporting civil society and activist groups  has continued to keep this approach  alive.
  • But  for one reason or another it has for the most part been kept in the wings  when it comes to major policy decisions – leaving center stage to more “moderate” approaches.

So, to summarize: (a) it works, (b) it gets measurable and appreciable positive results, however (c) until now with very few exceptions it has only been adopted on a piecemeal ad hoc basis.

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