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Transportation

Why Europe Is Slowing Down

Health, safety and environmental concerns — plus the pandemic — appear to be hastening the movement to drop speed limits in the E.U. and U.K.

Traffic travels along the M60 motorway in the U.K., where a pilot project will soon be dropping speed limits. 

Traffic travels along the M60 motorway in the U.K., where a pilot project will soon be dropping speed limits. 

Photographer: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg
Corrected

This season, numerous European countries and regions are bringing in measures to slash speeds on the roads. In November, Spain agreed to reduce the speed limit on all two-lane urban roads to 30 kilometers per hour — or less than 20 miles per hour — from the current 50 km/h — a policy that will affect 80% of Madrid’s streets. The Dutch are close on their heels, giving preliminary approval (prior to a bill) to a 30 km/h speed limit in all built-up areas. Paris, which already has a 30 km/h speed limit across 60% of its surface area, is also currently conducting a public consultation on making that limit universal throughout the city.

It’s not just urban roads that are slowing down. This September the U.K. began a pilot project on three major highways that drops the maximum speed on some sections from 70 mph to 60, a try-out for a possible nationwide limit reduction. The Netherlands has already gone yet further, introducing a 100 km/h daytime speed limit on highways in March 2020.