Speed limits of 30kph in urban areas – or 20mph in the UK – could become more common after the European Parliament yesterday adopted a resolution urging local authorities across the European Union (EU) to make it the standard speed limit in such zones. It also recommended that cyclists to wear helmets and ‘safety’ – in other words, hi-viz – clothing, particularly at night.
Both recommendations were originally contained in the Koch Report, written by the German MEP Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, which addresses transport safety issues in Europe and aims to reduce by half the 31,000 deaths on the EU’s roads each year.
While the recommendations do not have the force of law, they can be influential in helping governments and politicians at national and European level formulate policy.
The “strong” recommendation of a 30kph speed limit, which would apply “in all residential areas and on single-lane roads in urban areas which have no separate cycle lanes,” and was welcomed by the European Cyclists Federation, which said in a statement quoted on trade website BikeBiz, “Today marks a decisive day in making a 30 kmh speed limit an accepted practice throughout Europe."
“Parents don’t want to be petrified by their kids walking or cycling on the side walk,” added ECF policy officer, Fabian Küster. “This move by the EU is all about personal liberty. It’s about politicians creating cities for living in rather than thoroughfares for vehicles. And it’s about reclaiming streets and neighbourhoods for people and cyclists.”
However, a Conservative MEP has rejected the recommendation for a 30kph speed limit throughout Europe.
Jacqueline Foster, MEP for the North West and transport spokesman described the recommendation as "another example of Europe trying to dictate to Britain on issues that should be decided locally," reports the Press Association.
She added: "Of course speed limits as low as 20mph or so can be right in some very specific areas, especially near schools or nurseries, but every location is different, and these decisions need to be made case by case. Not by a Europe-wide edict."
In an aside that entirely misses the point of the recommendation as well as making light of the issue, she added that road signs in Britain stating "Speed limit - 18.64mph" would be "plain silly."
Mr Koch said: “The choice of measures and their assessment should be a scientific process, based on comparable, high-quality data, definitions and statistics.
"We expect a harmonised analysis of the causes of accidents and injuries and an EU-wide exchange of data which respects a high standard of data privacy."
As BikeBiz points out, the Highway Code already recommends that cyclists use a helmet and wear hi-viz clothing, so while the recommendation from the European Parliament doesn’t add anything beyond that, it’s not inconceivable that a politician advocating helmet compulsion might seize on it to support their argument.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.