Road safety: Fewer accidents in Brussels’ 30 km/h city

20 May 2021

Five months after the Brussels-Capital Region instated a general speed limit of 30km/h in a bid to improve road safety, promising figures are showing that the approach is paying off.

An evaluation by the Brussels mobility agency showed that the average speed for cars on the Belgian capital’s roads fell by as much as 19% on some stretches of road and there was a decrease in the number of road accidents, injuries and deaths compared to last year.

These encouraging signs come after the Brussels-Capital Region made a 30km/h speed limit the rule, not the exception, across all the city’s roads on the first of January this year. This means that unless otherwise stated, drivers will have to keep the speed down on most roads.

Good Move

The decision is part of the Brussels government’s Good Move mobility strategy, and it appears that initial backlash to the plan has subsided, according to Elke van den Brandt, Regional Minister for Mobility and Road Safety.

“Brussels residents have got used to the ‘30 km/h city’ and this has borne fruit: the average speed on our roads has dropped,” she said.

Figures obtained by radar confirm this: while the average speed has dropped on higher-speed streets that adopted the new 30 km/h limit, it has also dropped on streets that kept higher speed limits. For example, there was a 7% drop in the average speed on streets that retained their 50 km/h limit.

“This has translated into a drop in the number of serious accidents,” said van den Brandt. “It’s too soon for definitive conclusions and we are aware of the experience of foreign cities before us that the evolution will continue over time, but this shows that the ‘30 km/h city’ is an important step towards a safe and lively city with fewer deaths and injuries on the road.”

Benefits for walkers and cyclists

In the last quarter of 2020, there were 708 accidents on the city’s roads, but this has dropped to 635 in the first quarter of 2021. This decrease has also been marked in serious injuries and deaths, which are down from 38 in the final three months of last year to 30 in the first quarter of 2021, and down from 46 in the same period in 2020.

What’s more, alongside a huge drop in the number of drivers that have been victims of accidents, there has also been a reduction in accidents where “vulnerable” users – such as pedestrians and cyclists – are victims, even at a time where the pandemic has pushed many people to choose their feet or a bicycle for their daily trips over public transport. This has been felt by Brussels residents.

“Recently, I’m more inclined to take my bike for inner-city trips as I feel safer on the streets,” said Peer Schulze, a resident of the Saint-Gilles neighbourhood.

Brussels joins Bilbao among the cities in Europe that have adopted this slower approach. The Spanish city recently won the EU Road Safety Award for its scheme that saw a reduction in accidents and injuries after a move to limit traffic speeds to 30km/h in its urban area.

To mark UN Road Safety Week from 17-23 May, Eurocities has joined seven other organisations, including the European Transport Safety Council, in calling on MEPs to address speeding, which remains the number-one cause of death on Europe’s roads. Read the letter here.