‘Why not introduce 30-kph zones in all Flemish cities?’
Flemish Members of Parliament Annick Lambrecht (sp.a) and Stijn Bex (Groen) want to discuss the possible introduction of 30-kph zones in Flemish city centers. In an opinion article in the newspaper De Morgen, they plead for the measure, arguing that the number of fatal traffic accidents – often caused by speed – must go down.
Today, more than 600 kilometers of Flemish roads in built-up areas still don’t have a separate bicycle path. According to figures from Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), hardly 3% of spots on these roads have a reduced speed limit of 30 km/hour.
This shows that Flanders does not comply with the Stockholm Declaration signed in March 2020. The declaration, agreed on by more than 80 countries, has the intention to half the number of deaths in traffic by 2030. One of the most important recommendations was to reduce car speed to 30 km/hour on places where cars, cyclists, and pedestrians can hit each other.
During the European Commission’s ceremony of the declaration, Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Road traffic crashes kill too many people, […] especially young people. We can no longer accept the unacceptable. I consider it is our duty to find solutions to improve road safety, and we must act now, at local, European, and global levels. […]
“The EU has already committed to introducing road safety measures to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries by 50% by 2030. This target is a stepping-stone for the EU to reach its ambitious goal of no deaths and serious injuries on European roads by 2050. I appeal to the rest of the world to join us in our ambition.”
No univocal policy
Since 2018, the number of traffic deaths has increased. Last year, 304 people died on Flemish roads, and 28 520 got injured. Every five days, a cyclist dies in traffic. And speed is often a deciding element. Chances of survival are five times higher when speed is limited to 30 km/hour compared to 50 km/hour.
Today, the situation is arbitrary in most Flemish cities. The Brussels Region introduced the 30-kph limit on its territory on January 1st. Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and Louvain also have their 30-kph zones. But these all remain separate initiatives; there is no actual univocal policy. Besides, nobody has an overview; nobody knows how many 30-kph zones Flanders has.
There is social support for the measure, though. Six out of ten Flemish citizens adhere to the idea of reducing speed in city centers.
Other European countries are taking similar measures. When the Brussel Region introduced its general 30-kph zone, it followed Grenoble’s example (southeast of France) and Helsinki (Finland’s capital). The Netherlands recently introduced a motion to reduce the maximum speed limit to 30 km/hour. And in Spain, the government and local authorities have decided to phase in a 30-kph speed limit this summer.
Both MPs are convinced the introduction of 30-kph zones could save many lives. There is an increasing pressure to do something structural, both say in the newspaper De Morgen. The Flemish Foundation for Traffic Science (Vlaamse Stichting Verkeerskunde, VSV), traffic safety institute Vias, the Pedestrian Movement, and the Cyclist’s Union side the idea.
“The Stockholm Declaration is clear,” says mobility expert of the Antwerp University, Dirk Lauwers. “When there is no separate bicycle path available, then you better reduce speed to 30 km/hour. It’s impossible to wait for the reconstruction of bicycle paths; cyclists would be held hostage for years.”