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Amsterdam follows Wales with introduction of new 30kph speed limit

10 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Photo by Azhar J on Unsplash

Luke James

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.

Snail’s pace

“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.

Local level

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.”

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7 months ago

ARTD on the ferry to join whatever bandwagon over there to thump his tub?

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

He can fly to Amsterdam direct from Cardiff Airport too. 3 flights a day. It’ll be easy for him from Cardiff. He’s sure to appreciate that.

Robert Williams
Robert Williams
7 months ago

’. . . has avoided some of the opposition faced by the Welsh government by exempting public transport.’ This seems to me to be the key phrase in the report; exempting public transport, letting buses in their dedicated lanes surge past cars would be absolutely tansformative.

7 months ago

That surely only works if bus lanes are provided in a coherent network, which maybe they are in Amsterdam, unlike over here, where you’ll get a bus lane start and stop in short stretches seemingly at random.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
7 months ago

How many signatures have THEY got on their anti-speed-reduction petition? How many of the signatures are from Tory voters in England.
Has ARTurD claimed it’s is a blanket speed limit yet?

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

They have probably introduced these measures in a sensible way so there will be no need for a petition.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
7 months ago

Exempting buses from the new speed limit would help but I cannot see people changing from cars to buses in large numbers any time soon. The 20mph limit is the least of the problems. There is little alternative for the many. Public transport is a basket case. Cardiff bus, for instance, is unreliable, expensive and infrequent. Its almost impossible to work if you travel by bus. Right now many cyclists in Cardiff travel faster than cars doing 20 mph. . They weave in and out of the traffic doing wheelies often on high speed electric bikes and on pavements and… Read more »

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