Strasbourg's Place de l'Homme de Fer. Photo: Lauri Pitkänen under a Creative Commons license.
Strasbourg, in north-eastern France, is already one of the country's most bike-friendly cities. Fewer than half of its residents use a car to get around, and it has more than 300 miles of bike lines, not to mention a tramway network that is the longest and densest in France. Now the city is really throwing down the gauntlet: it announced this week its plan to reduce speed limits throughout the city to 30 kilometres (18 miles) per hour. Speed limits in much of the city are already at the 30km mark, and that's part of the reason reducing city-wide limits will reduce serious traffic accidents: it will stop drivers from (sometimes heedlessly) accelerating as they pass from a 30km zone into one where the limit is 40 or 50 km/hour. And reducing speed limits in general is one of best ways to make cities more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. But, the city's mayor Roland Ries says, the proposed change is about more than public safety. He imagines a Strasbourg where (from a city press release):
The public roads no longer belong to automobiles alone. They must be reimagined to be redistributed in a fairer manner between all forms of transportation. The protection of the most vulnerable is thus reinforced in zones in which all users have access but in which the pedestrian is king.
Seeing Strasbourg take this step could very well be a catalyst for cities around the world, many of which are already fighting to take more cars off the road. But they aren't changing the road signs just yet: the fate of the proposed change is up to the city's residents. Styling itself not just as a green and pedestrian city but as an emblem of local democracy, Strasbourg will send every registered voter a ballot in May. Depending on how they vote, those who ditch four wheels for two feet can make themselves kings.
More on making cities pedestrian and cyclist-friendly:
Hoboken, NJ Pays Citizens to Go Car-Free
Why Not Aim For Zero Deaths of Cyclists and Pedestrians?"
Sweet! Broadway Pedestrian Plazas in New York City Made Permanent