Use your head

Publish date 20-03-2024

by Carlo Degiacomi

One of the arguments of those who do not accept the 30 km/h limit is the alleged violation of individual freedom. But my freedom has a limit! Exactly where the freedom of others begins. It is called social freedom because it refers to a relationship with other individuals. The idea that rules aimed at improving everyone's living conditions are considered rules against individual freedom should be rejected.

Other arguments from opponents: "We already have too many laws that are not respected, let's avoid adding more." Or: «The cars we have cannot go at 30 km/h due to objective power limits». Also: «If I go less than 50 km/h it is easier to get bored and therefore distracted». From this absurdity come the various Fleximan, the speed camera exterminators, who are not heroes as some try to make us believe.

Respect for the rules is always a cultural fact, a habit that can be acquired over time which also requires checks and fines, but always in the name of common sense. Instead, there are those who, for pure electoral purposes, fan the fear that always accompanies change. Unfortunately, some people "regardless" and massively adopt the practice of lying.

Lie 1. Start of checks on the 30 km/h limit in Bologna: 16 January. Opponents immediately say: the fines have "inflated". It is not true. In one week only 20 fines.

Lie 2. According to some taxi drivers: «We lose (editor's note: fewer trips?) so we have to raise the fares». That's not true: traffic is smoother. In medium/large cities (in normal time slots) it takes 2 minutes less to travel about 4.5 km at 50 km/h compared to 30 km/h. So? During rush hour, speeds of 50 km/h are not possible. The averages: in Bologna, 34 km/h; in London 14 km/h.

Lie 3. The victims in the city are few. It is not true. In the city of Bologna, from 2010 to 2019, 194 people died and 26 thousand were injured.

Lie 4. The limit in Bologna is new. It is not true. The limit had existed since 1989 and was welcome.

Lie 5. The limit is throughout the city. It is not true. In cities, the 30 km/h limit is limited to roads with a greater density of homes, schools, health facilities, shops, crossings, parks, play areas and sports facilities. However, the 50 km/h limit was maintained in courses and traffic routes with some safety conditions.

Lie 6. Speed cameras are used for fines. It is not true. For 30 km/h in urban streets, the presence of traffic policemen is necessary to issue a fine.

Halving the number of victims and serious injuries by 2030 is the general objective that Europe has set itself with a series of actions. Since 1992, Graz in Austria has had 80% of its roads within 30 km /h. At the beginning it was 44%, after 2 years of running in it went to 77%, and then remained constant above 80%. In recent years the experimentation has been underway in Paris, London and Brussels. There is already some positive data on the effects obtained: London: -25% deaths; -63% injured due to collision with pedestrians. Brussels: -28% accidents; -50% deaths. Barcelona recorded -40% of accidents with projects aimed at integrating improvements in traffic and the use of public transport. In France, 30 km/h in Grenoble, Lille, Nantes, Nice, Montpellier and 200 other medium and small cities have brought urban road mortality to -70%. In Italy. There are over 60 municipalities (Vicenza, Arezzo, Treviso, Olbia...) which are Cities 30 and deserve a 30 with honors. The words of President Mattarella: «Road safety is a priority, an objective to be achieved with concrete and immediate actions to deal with a phenomenon that jeopardizes the safety of too many people». Instead, today the objective of the Ministry of Transport seems to be to ditch or contain the 30 km/h limit, imposing it only in places that are entrances and exits of factories, kindergartens, schools, parks, thus contradicting its own recent decrees!

In Italy the road safety situation in 2022 is serious: 3,159 deaths (of which 379 pedestrians and 175 cyclists); 223,475 injured. On urban roads the cause of accidents is due to speed itself, failure to respect traffic lights or distractions (mobile phones!). Speed causes 94% of serious collisions, on any road. According to estimates, the probability of death of a struck pedestrian or cyclist is 30% at 30 km/h and 60% at 50 km/h: at 30 km/h it is as if the investor fell from a close-up; at 50 km/h from the third floor.

There is no shortage of work, I suggest some ideas: increase the 30 km/h zones and care in the design of street furniture to promote social cohesion and quality of life; the reduction of smog; preferential lanes; the strengthening of public transport and, at the same time, the reduction of cars; the application of "gentle nudges" such as reduced insurance to those who do not commit continuous misconduct; the renewal of the prehistoric car fleet (12.5 million!) ... Is that enough?

Carlo Degiacomi
NP February 2024

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