Venice to install speed cameras for boats

Venice will install speed cameras for boats along its world-famous canals. The city hopes this measure will limit the speed of motorized boats and ships, make the city safer, and prevent erosion due to high boat waves.  Wave motion – ‘moto ondoso’ in Italian – causes erosion of the canal walls below the waterline, damaging old buildings along the water. According to experts, “the situation is dramatic”.

Wave motion is a serious problem that threatens Venice’s foundation and is a significant factor in the destruction of its canal walls. Both wave and water pollution have a major effect on Venice’s lagoon canals and the surrounding lagoon ecosystem.

Awareness might be able to increase conscientious commuters. Additionally, stricter enforcement of existing rules could help to discourage people from damaging/dangerous behavior. Hence, the idea of installing speed cameras.

Faster and more efficient

Since motor boats were introduced into Venice’s canals, they have replaced rowboats as a faster and more efficient means of transporting people and goods. However, this technological development has brought pollution, safety concerns, and significant environmental problems.

In addition to the typical water buses, the so-called ‘vaporetti, ‘ water taxis, motor boats, and gondolas, popular with tourists, all occupy space on the water. The crowds sometimes lead to accidents.

‘Dramatic situation’

Luigi D’Alpaos, a professor of hydrodynamics in the Department of Engineering at Padova (Italy), already released a report in 1992, denouncing the risks of ‘moto ondoso’ – the waves from boats in Venice – damaging canal walls and buildings under the waterline. Thirty years later, the situation has become ‘dramatic’.

For D’Alpaos, the number one need is for behaviors in the lagoon that are appropriate to protect the surrounding environment and the foundations of the homes. “The action of the waves is dramatic,” explains D’Alpaos, “because it erodes and extracts sediments with the impacts, which requires a great deal of maintenance.” Today, it is possible to dig when wet, but it used to have a more significant impact to dry the canals for repairs.

Lifeblood of Venice

Water has always been Venice’s lifeblood, connecting the city to the world and its inhabitants to each other. The famous canals represent a network of transportation and traffic solutions.

For centuries, the people and visitors of Venice relied on human-powered boats such as rowboats and gondolas to navigate the canals. Since the advent of motorboats, rowboats have become virtually extinct within the Venetian canals.

Figures from 2002 showed that the speed limit within Venice and the historical city center was 11 km/hour. The maximum speed limit within the Grand Canal and smaller internal canals was 5-7 km/hour, depending on the canal size. However, the average speed of boats within the canals was recorded to be 12 km/hour, which is 5-7 km/hr over the speed limit.

There are speed limits, but they are routinely ignored. And the patrols? There are some, but only three a week – not nearly enough, clearly, in a canal where hundreds of boats speed through each day.

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