Brussels’ 30 kph-zone realistic?
According to experts, the 30 kph limit that will be implemented in 2021 on the whole Brussels Region should be accompanied by an infrastructure change, reinforced signaling, and increased speed controls. Otherwise, this measure will only work on paper, and the declared profits of more safety and less pollution won’t be realistic.
By January 1st, 2021, the Brussels Region will apply the 30 kph speed limit on all streets except some “structuring axes” where the conventional 50 or 70 kph speed limit will stay in place. A lot of ink has flown over that subject ever since its announcement. But, could it be implemented, or is it just symbolic?
Brussels hasn’t invented anything new with its new speed plan. Indeed, more than half of the Region (55%) is already limited to 30 kph. In Europe, cities such as Lorient, Grenoble, The Hague, Hamburg, Berlin, and Munich have already implemented the measure with excellent results.
But one just can’t put up 30 kph signs and call it a day. “The most drastic measures can be taken, but they won’t be respected if they’re not supported by speed checks,” declares Nicols Louvet, director of the study bureau on mobility 6-T. “In Belgium, there is a tendency to adopt restrictive measures without providing effective means of control,” adds Wanda Debauche, Head of the Mobility, Safety and Infrastructure division of the Road Research Centre.
Clarity and safety
“Generalizing the 30 kph-zone will clarify the situation for motorists. Currently, on the same stretch of road, drivers must do 30 kph on some sections and 50 kph on others,” adds Mrs. Debauche, whereas today, most motorists drive at 65 kph in a 50 kph-zone, many won’t drive at more than 45 kph in the future 30 kph-zone.
According to the traffic safety institute, VIAS, the new speed limit will drastically reduce the number of accidents between cars and pedestrians. Still, this kind of accident is quite rare. The most current issue is the electric scooter’s behavior. But, the 30 kph-zone won’t change that.
What about pollution?
François Bellot (MR), Federal Mobility Minister, famously came out against the measure on twitter declaring it won’t do any good for pollution. “In the city, it’s difficult to measure pollution. It varies depending on the area, the average speed, and the cars’ propulsion systems,” explains Mr. Louvet.
A study from the Gent University proved that CO2 and NOx emissions decrease when the speed drops from 50 to 30 kph. However, that fact has only been demonstrated with constant speed. Outside the laboratory, cars are in continuous stop and start situations, especially in the city.
Change of infrastructure
All experts agree on the fact that the road infrastructure needs to be modified. “At the Regional scale, road developments designed to enforce the speed limit present a high cost and must be in the long term. Furthermore, space is already constrained in the city. Especially since infrastructures have already been created for buses, cyclists, trams, and pedestrians. Chicanes, roundabouts, and speed humps can’t be installed everywhere,” adds Wanda Debauche.