In recent years, it is not at all common that, once a decision has been taken that affects urban mobility, the Barcelona City Council backtracks and corrects its steps. But, although it is still only a possibility, the government presided over by Ada Colau could make an exception with the radars that, since the autumn, control that vehicles do not exceed 30 km/h in school environments.
The Department of Ecology, the area headed by Deputy Mayor Janet Sanz, has commissioned a report from the legal services of the City Council to assess the possibility that the current limitation of 30 km/h in the vicinity of a dozen 'schools in the city, which applies 365 days a year and 24 hours a day, is replaced in non-school hours, especially at night, weekends and holidays, by the generic limitation of 50 km /h that governs the main roads.
The news that Barcelona City Council is rethinking the use of the new radars was brought forward yesterday by RAC1 and was confirmed by La Vanguardia. Municipal sources told this newspaper that no political decision has yet been taken on the matter and that the commissioned report aims to clarify whether it would be legally viable. And in fact, at present, these sources claim that there are no precedents in the city of speed cameras with time discrimination. Another thing is the variable speed that, depending on the volume of traffic or the atmospheric conditions, has been applied on the approaches to Barcelona since 2009.
The presence of radars in school environments is an initiative of the municipal government that generated intense debate even long before these devices began to be installed. The City Council's initial intention was to install almost fifty of these artefacts. Finally, it was reduced to twelve radars, plus five more placed in points of the urban plot considered to be at risk of driving at inappropriate speed, although in these cases the radars are dedicated to hunting vehicles that exceed 50 km /hour.
Entities such as the RACC have repeatedly called on the City Council to reconsider its decision not to carry out hourly discrimination in the use of these radars. The mobility club considers that a flexible penalty regime should be applied, that is to say, that the devices only work when there is activity in schools and, consequently, minors moving around their vicinity. Otherwise, the use of radars hides a profit-seeking interest, warns this entity, which recalls that the vast majority of accidents that occur on the urban network do not have excessive speed as the main cause.
From the municipal government, at least until now, it has been defended that the limitation of 30 km/h and the control with these devices should always be done because this helps to reduce the speed at those points. They argue that applying it only at certain times would not help the desired change of habits, which is to drive at a speed that allows to reduce the risk of accidents and, should they occur, the severity of injuries.
The first data from the City Council on the 17 radars installed in September of last year - and which did not start issuing penalties until January 16 - indicate that the vast majority of drivers comply with the established speed limits. In the first twenty days with the penalty regime in full force, an average of 686 vehicles per day were fined for exceeding them. In other words, only 19 out of 10,000 cars that drove through the places where the radars were installed were punished for breaking the rule. As drivers became accustomed to the presence of these artifacts, the number of offenders fell noticeably (by 40% in just three weeks). The decrease in infringements for driving through Barcelona at a higher speed than the limit is an unquestionable fact recognized by the City Council itself. The road accident report for 2022 indicates that last year 278,133 complaints were made by speed cameras throughout the city. There are still many (762 per day), but almost 20% less than in 2019.