People move through cities in whatever mode of transportation gets them from point A to point B efficiently. Car focussed developments restrained people’s freedoms by focussing only one form of transport, today cities need to incorporate as many forms of movement as possible. To help with this transition speed limits in cities ought to be limited to 30km/h. At that speed car drivers are less likely to kill with their vehicles and thereby ensure a safer city for all. What’s more it makes non-car based transit more efficient and thus reduces a city’s carbon footprint. There are so many benefits to limiting how fast a metal box can go!
When it comes to urban travel, 20 mph is a kind of magic number. It is under most scenarios the natural limit of how fast people can move through dense urban areas at an average clip. The New York City subway, which can and will go 55 mph on long straightaways—like the run on the 2 or 3 line from Times Square to 72nd Street—travels at an average speed of about 17 mph when taking into account time spent at stops, slowing down for curves, and the occasional delay due to train traffic ahead of us (other systems go faster, but they tend to be ones with longer distances between stops serving primarily suburban commuters; but by way of comparison, the London Underground’s average speed is, you guessed it, 20 mph). The average urban biking speed is something like six miles per hour when factoring in stops, but closer to 11 to 18 mph when in movement. E-bikes—which have the potential to revolutionize urban transportation and already have in many global cities—typically have a top speed right around 20 mph.
A regularly seen warning on roads is that “speed kills” and cities have been slowing traffic around the world to protect pedestrians. However, have you thought about how speed as a concept kills? Over at the tech-worshipping magazine, Wired, they’re running an article that explores the idea that reaching for better speeds is in itself a problem. The need for speed is killing the planet and instead, they argue, we need to strive for efficiency.
Here’s the thing: These ideas for accelerating the future fail to address a far more pressing problem than our stalled speedometers. In the US, transportation accounts for 27 percent of the carbon we release into the air, more than any other sector of the economy. Four-fifths of that comes from cars and trucks. The internal combustion engine is rocketing us deeper into a climate crisis that demands an immediateâ€”and bigâ€”reduction in those emissions. Hyperloops might run on clean electricity, but it would take decades for them to become extensive enough to replace a significant number of cars. Supersonic flight requires engines that use much more fuel, and more carbon, than slower planes. These rosy renderings of effortless whooshing hither and yon distract us from what the problem demands: a way forward that prioritizes not thoughtless speed but calibrated efficiency.
Drivers often argue for higher speed limits thinking that it will allow them to get around faster. Unfortunately that logic usually isn’t true and when speed limits are increased then more people die. High speed limits are even more dangerous in urban settings since collisions in cities involve drivers hitting cyclists and pedestrians.
It’s often argued that speed limits should be as low as possible in urban centres since it has little impact on traffic and a huge influence on collisions with pedestrians. The city of Edinburgh has made the smart decision to lower their speed limit in order to protect road users from drives.
The speed limit change is an explicit move to encourage walking and biking, especially in the city center. “Edinburgh’s move also syncs with the Scottish government’s 2010 Cycling Action Plan, which aimed for 10 percent of all journeys to be taken by bike by 2020. When the plan was updated in 2013, urban areas were encouraged to introduce more 20 mph streets.”
Cars kill. Or is it like the gun debate – cars don’t kill people drivers kill people? Regardless of fault the results of car use as a primary means of transportation causes health problems and needless death. Cities around the world are taking steps to try and hold back cars (or is it drivers?) from killing people. One sure-fire way that works is to lower the speed limit.
The City of London lowered their local speed limits and found that it made for safer streets. Other cities are finding the same strategy equally effective, yet here in Toronto will we ever see this? Our local councillors and crack-consuming mayor went out of their way to spend $300,000 to ensure cars can move faster at the expense of cyclists. The mayor himself has stated multiple times that the lives of non-drivers are worth less than taxpaying drivers. Torontotist looks into the issue while sharing the success of smarter cities than Toronto.
The move to reduce driving speeds in cities is based on some convincing statistics. Greater London contains roughly 400 zones with 20 mph speed limits, and these are credited with reducing traffic fatalities by 42 per cent. In London, Barcelona, Brussels, and a handful of other European cities, low-speed zones have resulted in significantly increased bike and foot traffic, according to a 2013 study, as people have begun to feel safer on city streets.
The U.K.â€™s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 2011 found that decreasing average driving speeds by just one mile per hour would reduce the accident rate by about 5 per cent. There has even been academic research on the success of lowered-speed zones in the U.K.
There, low-density neighborhoods â€œrely on wider streets with higher speeds to connect homes, shops, and schoolsâ€”roads that tend to be more dangerous for people walking,â€ the report says. More than half of all pedestrian deaths recorded from 2003-2012 occurred on wide arterial roads designed to move cars quickly.
Paris, is known for its boulevards that accommodate fast moving traffic (in theory) and good pedestrian walking. Over the past few years Paris has had some of the worst traffic problems in the world. They have experienced seemingly never-ending smog and congestion. Their most recent way to curb these problems is to reduce the speed limit.
As traffic speeds are significantly brought down across the city, a number of very important things occur as a direct result: substantially fewer accidents, significant reduction in serious injuries and deaths, energy savings, reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, local air pollution reduction, quality-of-life improvements all those who live and work, and play and study there, improved conditions and local accessibility for local business, significantly reduced carbon stress on climate, and the long list goes on.