Photo: Francois Schnell under a Creative Commons license.
In February, I wrote that Strasbourg, in eastern France, was planning on dropping speed limits throughout much of the city to 30km/hour (18.6 mph). The idea was to make pedestrians the "kings of the city," by making streets safer and less car-centric. Strasbourg is already one of the most bike-friendly cities in France, but it turns out its inhabitants aren't quite ready to take the next big step: the 30kph resolution was rejected by 54.9% of voters.Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries, one of the measure's biggest supporters, was disappointed by the outcome, reported Le Figaro: "'People are still attached to the possibility of going fast. Opinion isn't completely ripe to head' towards a reduced speed limit."
The defeat of the 30kph proposal also results partly from an ongoing debate over speed radars throughout France. In response to a rise in automobile accidents, the government decided to increase the use of unmanned radars that register speeding violations and issue tickets. The measure has been controversial, and "fear that the project would become a speed trap" may have motivated Strasbourg voters against the measure, said Deputy Mayor Robert Herrmann.
One of the arguments against the proposal was that restricting cars to 30kph would keep them changing between first and second gears, making them less fuel-efficient and increasing carbon emissions. But my guess is that the real intention of Ries' plan was to take cars out of the city center altogether, by making driving in the area impractical.
That's why it's too bad the measure was voted down: it would have set a great example to other cities that cars don't have to dominate the roads. But Strasbourg is already ahead of the game: fewer than half of its residents commute to work by car, and its tramway system is the longest and densest in the country. So maybe when the radar issue has died down, Ries can try again, and crown his city's pedestrians kings.
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More efforts by cities to kick out cars:
How New York City Became Walk, Bike and Transit Friendly (Video)
Diagonal Crosswalks in L.A. to Make City More Pedestrian-Friendly
Bike-Happy, Ped-Friendly Cities Less Obese