Amsterdam follows Wales with introduction of new 30kph speed limit
It is already a city better associated with travel on two wheels than four and now Amsterdam is following Wales in rolling out a 30 kilometres per hour (19mph) speed limit for motorists.
The speed limit will be reduced from 50 kilometres per hour (31mph) across 80 per cent of the city’s streets from today, something the city’s council says should cut accidents by up to a third and halve traffic noise.
Even in one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, the change has only been marginally less controversial than in Wales.
“Thirty kph feels very, very slow,” traffic expert Gerard Tertoolen told Het Parool. “If you drive at 30 kph, you feel you are moving at a snail’s pace and you hear your car urging you to go faster.”
Drivers will “just have to get used to it”, a spokesperson for Safe Traffic Netherlands, which campaigned for the change, told Nation.Cymru.
“In a lot of bigger cities it’s already hard to drive faster than 30,” said Rob Stomphorst. “Our research points out that two third of the participants will accept the new limit and one third likes to drive faster. Smart enforcement will be needed.”
Amsterdam city council, which is run by a socialist, green and liberal coalition, has avoided some of the opposition faced by the Welsh Government by exempting public transport.
Buses will be able to continue travelling at 50kmh in dedicated lanes – something both the Centre for Cities and transport expert Professor Stuart Cole have called on the Welsh Government to allow in order to incentivise public transport.
‘Big bang approach’
Amsterdam’s leaders have though also been criticised for taking a ‘big bang’ approach to the change as opposed to a gradual reduction as has happened in other Dutch cities or over the Belgian border.
“I live in Brussels where we’ve seen one of the biggest capital city experiments of 30kph happen and here it was initially done bit by bit before they did what Amsterdam is doing and took a big bang approach,” said Dudley Curtis of the European Transport Safety Council.
“I think the simplicity of knowing what type of road you’re on, as is the case in Wales and Spain, is actually easier for most people than driving round and not always being sure what the limits are. I think it’s better to make the change in one go.”
Ireland could soon follow Wales and Spain in implementing country-wide measures, following the publication of a government review in September which recommended the default speed limit on urban roads across the country be reduced to 30kmh.
Plans to drop the speed limit on most of Scotland’s urban roads to 20mph are also set to be introduced by 2025. Lower limits are already in place in parts of the capital, Glasgow, the Highlands and Scottish Borders.
However, the change is mostly being made at local level, with Amsterdam joining Paris, Brussels, Berlin, London, Helsinki, Oslo and Edinburgh on a growing list of European cities to adopt a 20mph speed limit.
“We don’t see a rush of other countries doing that so far, it does tend to be at city level,” added Curtis.
“Is it going to go all over Europe tomorrow? No it’s not. These kinds of things are less popular in eastern Europe. [But] there’s a trend in thinking about how we can make cities work better for people.
“It’s not about banning cars, it’s just about saying cars are welcome but they need to go at a speed which is appropriate and doesn’t put the lives of pedestrians and cyclists at risk.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.