Zone 30 in Brussels: lower speeds and less serious accidents
The average speed has fallen, fewer accidents occur, and the travel time for road users has not increased. That is the first conclusion after introducing Zone 30 on 1 January in the Brussels Region, Europe’s largest 30 km/hour zone.
“Not only in the 30 zones but on all roads in Brussels, the average speed has decreased,” says Brussels Minister for Mobility and Traffic Safety, Elke Van den Brandt (Groen).
The average speed, measured by 34 Lidar cameras and confirmed by the measurements taken by speed cameras, is decreasing everywhere in Brussels. While the average speed measured in the 30 km/h zone was 29 km/h in 2020, it has dropped to 26,5 km/h.
Shorter journey times
The limit has been reduced from 50 to 30; the average speed measured in the first four months of 2021 is 29,6 km/h (down from 34,7, a 15% reduction). And even where 50 is still allowed, the measured speed has also dropped to 37,7 km/h (a fall of 7%). On roads where the limit fell from 70 to 50 km/h, there was a fall of 19% to 44,3 km/h.
“This reduction in average speed has no impact on journey times,” says Van den Brandt. “Brussels mobility still observes identical or even slightly shorter journey times, depending on the period.”
22% fewer accidents
This trend is also reflected in a clear decrease in the number of accidents in the first quarter of 2021: 635 accidents compared to 815 in 2020. Even if you take a period less marked by confinement, the last quarter of 2020, for example, the improvement is also significant: 635 accidents compared to 708.
For the first quarter of 2018 and 2019, years with higher traffic volumes, you arrive at 860 accidents each time.
Serious accidents also down
The increase in road safety is also reflected in serious accidents, writes Le Soir. As a result, the number of people who died or were seriously injured reached an all-time low: 30 victims, including two deaths, compared with an average of 44,2 in the last five years.
And in general, motorists are also benefiting from the introduction of Zone 30. The number of accidents involving them drops from 132 to 108 between 2020 and 2021 and from 401 to 108, if we compare the average of the first four quarters between 2016 and 2020.
However, the figures are less favorable for cyclists, but there are indeed more and more bicycles on the road in Brussels – this is perhaps a consequence of the introduction of Zone 30.
Still too fast for conclusions
Nevertheless, the figures should also be taken with a grain of salt. Elke Van den Brandt is also aware of this. Traffic has decreased due to the corona crisis and even perhaps changed in nature as teleworking keeps car commuters away from the capital.
“It is estimated that it takes two years to draw solid conclusions,” says Van den Brandt. “But what we are seeing confirms what has happened in other cities such as Grenoble or Helsinki. It shows that the city can be made calmer and more pleasant.”
Will Flanders follow?
Following Brussels’ example, political parties Groen and Vooruit want the standard speed in built-up areas to be lowered to 30 kph throughout Flanders. However, Flemish Minister of Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld), does not favor a general introduction of the 30 km/h zone in built-up areas, even if many smaller municipalities reduce the speed in built-up areas to 30 km/h.
The Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research SWOV estimates that lowering the speed limit in built-up areas could reduce the number of road deaths and injuries by 22 to 31%.