A great many people apparently, to judge by the reaction to our yesterday’s World Street posting on the decision of the city of Paris to limit virtually all traffic in the city to a top speed of 30 km/hr. That article literally blew the lid off of the normal reader reaction to postings here, which commonly run in the hundreds at most in the several days immediately following publication. In this case we were deluged by more than three thousand readers who checked in from more than 50 countries to see what all this is about. Here you have a map of the showing where the last 80 of these readers came from:
What importance can we give to this one event which until now has by and large escaped the attention of the international media ( they will come, you will see)? Here are a couple of quick reflections:
- The concept of such a rigorous speed limit in cities and built up areas has been around for a long time (the English call it “20 is plenty” ).
- In situations where it has been practiced there is a considerable amount of data showing the advantages that incur to the city and its residents .
- A small but solid coterie of supporting civil society and activist groups has continued to keep this approach alive.
- But for one reason or another it has for the most part been kept in the wings when it comes to major policy decisions — leaving center stage to more “moderate” approaches.
So, to summarize: (a) it works, (b) it gets measurable and appreciable positive results, however (c) until now with very few exceptions it has only been adopted on a piecemeal ad hoc basis. If more than 20 years ago the city of Graz in Austria lead the way and proved the principles of a city-wide 30 km/hr policy, whose good sense has since been confirmed year after year, somehow this was not sufficient to convince large numbers in cities to look at this as anything other than a curious Austrian exception.
But now Paris has stepped up to the place and while we can be sure that they will face considerable, even ferocious resistance from many quarters, knowing the team behind it I am sure that it will move head and provide an example of inspiration for us all. Just as they did in 2007 when they flooded an unprecedented number of 20,000 public bicycles on the streets for all to use, while at the same time closing off a major traffic artery running along the river into a sandy beach with palm trees (Paris Plage).
What’s the point?
More than four thousand readers from all continents. What might that mean? Simple curiosity or something more. I would say the latter.
At this point the only question I have is: what is going to be the next city to do this ? And then the next city after that? And the next? My guess is that we are on the brink of entering into a new age of cars, and speed, and choices in cities. So let us thank Madame Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, and all those behind this project for showing the way. Merci!
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