“Healthy speed” in the Barcelona Metropolitan area

By News Editor / Updated: 29 Aug 2014

The introduction of a speed limit of 80 km/h on the access roads and motorways to Barcelona city helps to reduce congestion, air pollution and accidents.

Background & Objectives

Background and Objectives

Since beginning of 2008, the Metropolitan area of Barcelona has introduced progressively different measures to limit the speed on its access roads. The main objective is to reduce air pollution. This measure may be common in Central European cities, but it is a new initiative in Spain. Reducing speed on the main access roads has at least three positive effects: it reduces accidents, it reduces congestion and it improves the health of the citizens as air pollution decreases.



On January, 1st 2008 a speed limit of 80 km/h was introduced on several of the roads which lead to the city of Barcelona. The measure affected 16 metropolitan municipalities, most of them situated south of Barcelona. This element was only an intermediate step to a wider project: a new variable speed limit, -due to be introduced shortly-, is the pioneer project at Spanish level. It supposes a change of the conception of traffic congestion. With this new initiative, the speed limit will change according to current congestion, accidents, road works, air pollution and meteorological conditions. As a first step, two roads with heavy traffic are chosen: the toll-free motorway of Castelldefels (C-31) and the Garraf motorway (toll) (C-32).>These two roads concentrate more than 50% of the vehicle volume entering and leaving Barcelona. At the same time these two roads give access to Barcelona airport. The forecasted benefits of the variable speed are between others a reduction of the congestion, as the accordion effect will be smaller. At the same time, this will result in a reduction of 20% to 25% of braking and accelerating provoked by congestion. Moreover, estimates show that drivers will see their travel time reduced by 10% to 15%.



After the first year of the implementation of the speed limit of 80 km/h on the access roads to Barcelona, the benefits observed are several. Firstly, the measure helped to reduce the number of accidents by 25%. The number of heavily injured and killed persons has decreased on these roads by 30% and 37% respectively. The emission has gone done by 11%. A saving of 30.000 tons of petrol (or 40 million euros) means a drop of 3,7% of the total petrol consumption in the area in question. The reduction of traffic congestion brought the level of noise down by 3 decibel.

In November 2010 the project was abolished after the election by the new government entered the Catalan Government.


Traffic and demand management
Mobility management
Kerstin Burckhart
Kerstin Burckhart
MM for cities & Regions
speed calming measures
traffic optimisation
25 Jun 2009
29 Aug 2014