French nature group: ‘Drop motorway limit to 100kph’

Reducing speed limits by as much as 30kph on French motorways as a way to “protect the environment” and “improve public transport” would be a “winning strategy”, a French environmental group has said.

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The statement comes after the Netherlands decided to cut its motorway speed limit from 130 kph to 100 kph recently as a method to reduce vehicle pollution.

Now, Geneviève Laferre, transport manager at environmental federation France Nature Environnement (FNE), has spoken out in support of the decision, and said it would be a “winning strategy” for France, too.

She has suggested that bringing the measure to France would lead to a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, widen the appeal of public transport, improve traffic flow, and make the roads safer.

Speaking to news source 20 Minutes, Ms Lafarre explained that reducing the speed limit to 100kph would mean that there would be fewer changes in speed on the roads - with fewer emissions as a result.

She said: “Reducing to 100kph is a way of imposing eco-friendly driving. We are also talking about particulate diesel fumes, noise levels, and pollution.”

In France, some roads already have 100kph limits as a means to reduce pollution, while some major routes into cities such as Grenoble and Valence have limits of 110kph for safety reasons.

The current legal speed limit for motorways in France is 130kph, or 110kph in heavy rain.

Fewer traffic jams?

A lower motorway speed limit would actually lead to fewer traffic jams and better driving, Ms Lafarre added.

She said: “It makes things flow. When you have a maximum speed limit of 130ph, you are sometimes at 130kph, but usually you have to slow down because you’re being overtaken, people are passing, then you re-accelerate…

“But, in the same way as when you are in town, where there is an average speed of 40-50kph...this regulated speed means that you never really accelerate because you know that at the next crossing there will probably be a red light. So you drive in a more continuous manner.”

Public transport

Imposing changes on the roads would also have a positive effect on the public’s use of public transport, reducing emission from single-user cars, Ms Lafarre added.

She said: “A lower speed on the motorway leads people to think that perhaps taking public transport might not be so bad...there, we have a winning strategy. If there are a lot of people on the motorway, you have to build anti-noise walls…

“[In the Netherlands] they are revaluing their public transport and helping the economy and industry. They prefer to leave the lorries to go faster [on the motorway] rather than cars with just one person.”

Safer roads?

The benefits could also help make the roads safer, Ms Lafarre said.

She explained: “Everything speed-related is useful...the first factor is accidents, which is even more pertinent than CO2 emissions. That is why France suggested dropping the limit from 90kph to 80kph on national roads.

“We know that every time we drop the speed limit by 10kph, we reduce the number of accidents by 5%...It is a question of quality of life.”

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