This is pretty cool. Strasbourg, France, is planning to reduce speed limits throughout the city to 30km/hour, or about 18mph, as an initiative to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Speed limits in much of the city are already 30km, but drivers often accelerate when reaching new speed zones, causing accidents. The mayor describes the proposal thusly:
The public roads no longer belong to automobiles alone. They must be reimagined to be redistributed in a fairer manner between all forms of transportation. The protection of the most vulnerable is thus reinforced in zones in which all users have access but in which the pedestrian is king.
The move will be voted upon by city residents, who have the final decision on the initiative. Strasbourg is already considered bicycle-friendly: Fewer than half of all residents use a car to get around, and there are over 300 miles of striped bikeway.
This attempt to slow down motorized traffic in favor of balanced safety is also reflected in the work of organizations like 20′s Plenty For Us in the UK. The founder of that group says:
A city that permits 30 mph on residential roads will never be child friendly and will always deter physical activity. Speed becomes greed when it stops us and our children from walking or cycling on our roads through fear of traffic.
This attitude is being adopted in various ways by many American advocates for active transportation via initiatives like street diets (reducing lanes to add cycle facilities), medians, and other facilities to protect pedestrians and cyclists. A common pushback for these initiatives tends to be concerns about increasing travel times and inconvenience for motorists – this has been a theme in some of the Jefferson Avenue kerfuffle. Some of the information provided in the 20′s Plenty FAQ is great fodder for advocates trying to create more opportunities for neighborhood cycling, Safe Routes programs, and more. As it is, most US communities default to 30mph unless in a school zone — right near the school facility — or a park, neglecting to factor in how children and others get from their homes to those highly limited areas!
Protecting the needs of vulnerable streets users and encouraging freedom of modal choice are two goals that should be a part of urban planning initiatives. Complete Streets is one approach to the issue, but may not address the entire psychology of calming traffic and getting people to slow down for the good of the community.