MPs propose cutting speed limit to 30 in built-up areas

Summary

The proposal – already being introduced in Brussels – would be a reversal of the current system in Flanders, where 50kph is the norm and 30 the exception

Traffic safety

Flemish MPs Annick Lambrecht (SP.A) and Stijn Bex (Groen) want to see the speed limit reduced to 30kph in all built-up areas in Flanders. Currently, 50kph is the norm, with 30 the exception, but Bex and Lambrecht want to reverse that, with the option to increase the limit if the infrastructure is right – for example if there are separate cycle paths.

“This could be a step towards more traffic-safe village and town centres,” Lambrecht told De Zondag. “Too often, vulnerable road users are the first victims in accidents. By extending the zone 30 to all built-up areas, the risk of serious accidents decreases significantly.”

In 2019 Flanders saw a slight reduction in the number of collisions per year, from 23,711 to 23,068, but the number of fatalities rose from 310 to 315, accounting for just under half of the national total. Across the whole country, the number of fatalities increased year-on-year from 604 to 646.

The number of collisions in the region has been steadily decreasing since 2012, when the figure was 28,076. The number of deaths in road collisions fell from 385 in 2012 to 283 in 2017, but is now showing an upward trend.

In 2019, the majority of people who died following a traffic collision were drivers (309), followed by cyclists (95), pedestrians (92) and motorcyclists (84).

30 city

The change of speed policy is already being made in Brussels. From 1 January, the region will become a “30 City”, with 30kph the default in all built-up areas, unless otherwise indicated, such as in tunnels and on major roads. The measure means 85% of the region’s road network will have this lower limit, up from the current figure of 60%.

The rule applies to all traffic, except trams and emergency vehicles. Revenue generated from fines will be paid into the Regional Road Safety Fund and will be used to raise awareness, improve infrastructure and buy speed enforcement equipment. 20kph zones will still apply outside schools.

This could be a step towards more traffic-safe village and town centres

- Annick Lambrecht

Reduced speed limits contribute to lower casualties because of the greater survival rate in a low-speed collision, as well as fewer collisions due to reduced braking distances at lower speeds.

“Calmer traffic also contributes to the quality of life,” said Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen). “Lower speeds mean less stress and a greater sense of security. The 30 City will help to make Brussels more attractive again after the corona crisis, for residents, visitors and tourists alike.”

Brussels has published an interactive map of the road network, indicating exceptions to the 30kph rule. Similar measures are already in place in Helsinki, Vienna, Lille and Zurich.

Photo: Getty Images/Walencienne