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Would lowering the maximum speed limit in midtown Manhattan to 18 mph make any difference? Traffic is so bad that 18 mph sometimes isn’t achievable. How about downtown Los Angeles? And the same could be said of Paris, France. That is where today, the maximum speed limit has been set at 18 mph. 

60% of Parisians approve of the 18 mph speed limit

Paris traffic
Commuters ride on their bicycles as cars stop at the traffic light in Paris on May 11, 2020 | THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

Polling shows that almost 60-percent of Parisians approve of the new speed limit. There will be some exceptions, like the Champs Elysées and the Boulevard Périférique. This isn’t even the first city in France to drop the speed limit.

According to the BBC, Grenoble, and Lille, both have 18 mpg speed limits. And Bilbao in Spain, and Brussels in Belgium, have the lower speed limit as well. This is all in an effort to minimize accidents, and to lessen pollution and noise. 

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has taken this latest step to help fulfill her mandate to lessen traffic in the city. She was re-elected just last year partially for her efforts towards this end. And she’s just getting started. All cars In the city center be banned next year.

The speed you can actually drive in Paris is below 18 mph anyway

Paris traffic
Traffic jam in Paris, France on January 16, 2021 | Adnan Farzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some of these measures are with an eye toward the Olympics, which Paris will host in 2024. Cycling lanes are being added and parking spaces have been cut in half. And many don’t feel it changes Paris at all because the maximum speed you can actually drive is way less than 18 mph already. 

But as you can expect, not everyone is happy about these changes. “There is no reduction in sound, there is no reduction in pollution and there is no reduction in accidents, except for a reduction in accidents which is the same as in all the other communes,” Pierre Chasseray told AFP news agency. He heads the 40 Million Motorists group that is opposed to what is happening. 

Then there is the SaccageParis, or Trash Parris group. They say the city is deteriorating because of all of the cycling lanes. Increased trash and large concrete barriers make the city uglier, they point out.

Lowered speeds come as the highest temperatures in Europe were recorded in 2020

Paris traffic on Champs Elysses
Illuminations on the Champs Elysees Avenue at night and Arc de Triomphe in Paris on December 10, 2020, in Paris, France | Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

All of this comes as 2020 became the warmest year on record. The long-term average temperature over previous years was 35 degrees. That is translating to more extreme weather events not only in Europe but around the world. In all, Europe has broken temperature records five times since 2014. 

Even with the COVID pandemic reducing traffic and economic activity, 2020 recorded the highest numbers for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. CO2 levels were the highest going back 800,000 years. This information comes largely from ice core sampling. 

So what seems like the rushed transition to electric vehicles may have actually come too late. With sea levels rising and hotter temperatures every year, we are in uncharted waters.