More than 1,000 attend new protests on 80kph limit

Motorbike riders and car drivers have protested this weekend against government plans to drop the speed limit to 80kph on main roads throughout the country.

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Protests were mainly spread over the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region on Saturday April 14, organised by la Fédération du Rhône, including in the streets of Lyon.

Riders and drivers brought their vehicles to the streets and blocked roads.

There were also protests in Grenoble, where 450 motorbike riders filled the streets with their vehicles; and other vehicle protests in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-en-Velay, and Dijon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté).

The speed limit is set to drop from 90kph to 80kph on over 400,000 km of roads - main roads without a central reservation barrier - from July 1.

It is one of 18 road safety measures announced by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in January, and the government says the 80kph limit will save 350-400 lives per year.

The change has seen consistent opposition, with the first protest against it taking place in Paris in February, attracting thousands of motorbike riders.

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes also saw protests in February and March.

This weekend, one of the protesters in Lyon, Franck Bonnet, said: “If you’re driving at 80kph and a truck is following you, also going 80kph, and you have to brake suddenly, he’s going to hit you. There are surely other things to speak more about, such as drinking alcohol [and driving]. When you drive fast, it takes less time and you pollute less.”

The new protests come just days after President Emmanuel Macron mentioned the controversy in a TF1 interview with newsreader Jean-Pierre Pernaut on April 12.

Macron said that cutting road deaths was a priority, and said that if the speed reduction did not work, “we will stop [the measure] and give control back to departments”.

Yet, he added that the drop in speed limit would add just two minutes on average per journey, which was worth it if it saved lives.

But at this weekend’s protest, coordinator of la Fédération du Rhône, Julien, said: “[Macron] said that this measure must be trialled for two years. But it already has been, and it didn’t achieve anything.”

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