There’s so much to love about Italy: spaghetti carbonara, Ferraris, tiramisu, Michelangelo, high speed limits….
About those speed limits.
In Bologna, a town with enormous character and exceptional cuisine, the city fathers only last month imposed a speed limit in the town of 30 kilometers per hour — about 20 mph — to make it safer and “more livable.”
Critics of the measure are not contento.
According to a recent story in The New York Times, drivers there argue that Bologna is “slowing to a standstill since it became the first major Italian city” to join a growing group of European municipalities that in the past few years have adjusted speed limits downward by half.
The new rules, in place in Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen and cities across Spain, mark an effort to cut pollution, reduce energy use, and disincentivize car use.
As reported by the Times, Bologna’s mayor, Matteo Lepore, included the new speed limit among the campaign promises that helped to get him elected in 2021. Referring to the lower limit, he said, “Driving at 30 is part of a vision of a more democratic and more sustainable use of public space,” where neighborhoods put children and older people first, and investments favor bike paths and public transportation to work toward carbon neutrality.
Adding fuel to the smolder, Bologna is the capital of a region that is home to Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani.
The action in Italy has spurred protests, and petitions from some commuters that their daily travels to and from the city have grown substantially longer.
And recently, the Times reported, a gathering attracted dozens of cranky citizens and cabbies to the streets, where they drove at a snail’s pace in a makeshift parade, loudly honking horns and snarling traffic. The new speed limit “is impossible” to drive at, said Giorgio Gorza, who heads a citizen’s group. “It’s like standing still, and no one takes a car if you’re going to stay still, if it takes longer than walking. It’s illogical.”
In 2021, according to the story, Olbia, in Sardinia, became the first Italian city to set a broad limit of 30 klicks an hour. Many drivers were annoyed, but the mayor there, Settimo Nizzi, countered that it was “right for a mayor to think of the quality of life of his citizens.”
In central London, where traffic is often horrendous and a congestion charge is in place, the city had reported a 25 percent reduction in the number of collisions and a 25 percent fall in serious injuries and deaths since it cut the speed limit to 20 mph from 30 mph in 2020.