In a bid to slow down both traffic and climate change, Paris has moved to lower its in-city speed limits considerably. Now, the highest speed any car in Paris is allowed to go is just 30 KPH, a slow enough pace to make many citizens question why you’d even use a vehicle in the city limits. And, as it turns out, that’s kind of the point.
The city’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has made no secret of her desire to cut down on emissions in France and to focus on renewable energy and eco-friendly transportation. The main focus of that transportation initiative, so far, has been opening numerous new bicycle lanes all over the city.
Taxi drivers and delivery truck drivers are reportedly furious about the change, saying that it will significantly impact customers. Taxi drivers report that fares will go up even as travel times will get longer and less efficient. Delivery drivers warn that customers will need to wait even longer for shipments to arrive and that the increased amount of time trucks spend sitting in traffic will translate to higher prices.
However, it seems professional drivers are in the minority in opposing the new rules. Polls indicate that most Parisians are in favor of a lower speed limit. Common reasons cited for supporting the lower speed limit aren’t even related to climate: most Parisians report that they’re please because of the slower traffic being safer for pedestrians and cyclists and that the slower cars will be less noisy on the streets.
There are significantly more bike lanes and cyclists in Paris now than before Hidalgo took office as mayor. The focus on slowing down vehicle traffic strikes some Parisians as ironic, however, as the city’s streets are largely centuries old and are rarely wide enough for more than a few cars to squeeze past one another.
These old streets and narrow passages make it more likely to see cyclists zipping past motorists, even as some drivers grumble about the new rule. Notably, the speed limit reduction won’t apply on some of the larger roads in the city, like the famed Champs Elysee, as these roads are wide enough and far enough from pedestrians to allow for some more swift-moving traffic.
Europe, as a whole, has put an outsized focus on climate change compared to the rest of the world. This new rule is just one more step in a sustainable direction for the continent.