Spain’s Málaga mulls scrapping new 30km/h speed limit due to traffic jams caused

Spain's Málaga mulls scrapping new 30km/h speed limit due to traffic jams caused
Malaga was one of the only big cities in Spain that hadn't dropped its city cente speed limit below 50km/h before May 11th. Photo: Jonas Denil/Unsplash
Authorities in the Andalusian city have called into question Spain’s new speed limits on urban roads, having realised the knock-on effects of dropping the speed from 50km/ down to 30 or 20km/h. 

Málaga, which has a population of 569,000 people, is the first of Spain’s big cities to consider reintroducing the previous speed limits on urban roads, having noticed that they’re causing traffic jams in the city. 

On May 11th 2021, roads in Spain with one lane in each direction went from having a general speed limit of 50km/hour to a maximum of 30km/h. This affects 3,600 roads in the coastal city, three quarters of the total. 

Single lane roads with one-way traffic where the pavement is raised above the road now also have a new speed limit of 30km/h. 

On single one-way lanes and double lane roads with two-way traffic where the pavement and the road are at the same level, the speed limit was reduced even further, down to 20km/h. With speeds this low, drivers in Spain have already started witnessing slightly surreal situations in which cyclists and e-scooter riders overtake them on the road. 

Roads with two lanes or more of traffic in each direction (minimum four total) have kept the speed limit of 50km/h (except for vehicles carrying dangerous goods, for which the limit is 40km/h).

FIND OUT MORE: Why you now have to drive at 30km/h on most roads in Spain

Since Málaga town hall applied the new speed limits on May 11th, with numerous fixed speed cameras and four mobile ones keeping an eye on drivers across the city, some of the busiest streets have been gridlocked as a result of the considerable speed drop. 

According to Andalusian regional daily Sur, Málaga’s government department responsible for urban mobility is now considering making use of a clause which would allow them to sidestep the new rules in some cases, as long as the roads are properly signposted with their own individual speed limit.

Malaga’s Provincial Traffic Authority have reportedly confirmed this is an option, stating that exceptions can be made on roads which have a high volume of traffic and on which the speed limit drop is causing traffic jam problems on that road and surrounding ones. 

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska also stressed back in November that these new speed limits won’t apply to main roads in Spain’s big cities.

As with many official matters in Spain, local authorities are given the powers to adapt national legislation to their own particular needs, which can also apply to road rules.

In fact, many provincial capitals across Spain had already rolled out their own legislation limiting the speed on some of their urban roads to 30km/h rather than 50km/h, as a result of the long wait for this amendment of Spain’s Traffic Code by the national government.

Surpassing these new speed limits currently entails fines of €100 to €600 and the loss of six points from one’s driving licence in the most serious cases.

Critics of Spain’s new speed limits for urban roads have stressed that apart from causing more traffic congestion, driving at a very low speed more often results in a vehicle’s clutch and other parts being damaged more easily and that emmissions are also higher when vehicles are stopping and starting and kept in low gears. 


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