Swiss cities move to make 30km/h speed limits the norm
After the Swiss government made it easier to implement 30 kilometres an hour speed limits in cities, a number of metropolitan areas have called for the limit to be made standard for all residential areas. Supporters argue it will reduce the number of road accidents in Switzerland and help curtail noise pollution.
Swiss cities want to reduce noise pollution by cutting speed limit
According to a position paper from the Swiss Association of Cities - the umbrella organisation for city governments in Switzerland - a 30km/h speed limit or Tempo 30 should be made the standard in residential areas. Speaking to NZZ am Sonntag, they argued that reducing the speed limit for drivers from 50 to 30 would reduce noise pollution in cities by three decibels (around a half) and allow pedestrians and businesses to use the roads as “public spaces.”
This was backed up by a recent study by the Federal Office for the Environment, which found that road noise costs the Swiss economy 2,3 billion francs a year through falling house prices and the impact traffic pollution has on healthcare. Therefore, the association argued that the lower speed limit is "an effective, inexpensive and easy to implement measure" to tackle road noise, and road accidents.
30km/h speed limits much easier to impose in Switzerland from 2023
Currently, the 30km/h speed limit has been applied sporadically to roads by councils (Gemeindes), cities and cantons, while the 50km/h speed limit has remained standard for built-up areas. Now, with the government’s new road rules for 2023, authorities are now able to implement the lower speed limit more freely, with Zurich already announcing that 31 more streets will have their speed limits reduced between now and December 2026. Many other cities are expected to follow suit.
In response, Ueli Stückelberger, Director of the Public Transport Association, said “we understand the concerns of the cities regarding noise protection, traffic calming and safety. We want that too. However, such measures must not be at the expense of public transport.” He said that while they would agree to a lower speed limit on some streets, the idea should not make buses and trams less attractive by increasing travel times.
Therefore, the organisation called for “exemptions to the 30km/h speed limit” on essential routes. “Furthermore, the introduction of Tempo 30 would have to be accompanied by the expansion of separate bus lanes and tram routes. In addition, buses and trams should be given preference at traffic lights - public transport should not be stuck in traffic,” Stückelberger concluded.