The Catalan ministry of Environment Protection (Spain) has passed a bill that will reduce the maximum speed for cars in the Barcelona metropolitan area from 120 to 80 km/h (75 to 50 mph). The bill also sets for a recommendation of a maximum speed of 90 km/h (55 mph) in the so-called "second crown" of the city metropolitan area. In order to execute this bill, all the administrations (national, regional and local) will have to change the road signs as well as tune the speed cameras and radars during next fall.
This measure ressembles the strict 55-mph limits that the US implemented after the 1973 Oil Crisis, but the focus for this bill is the air quality. It's claimed that up to 16,000 people die in Spain per year due to air pollution. Current NOx and particullate EU standards are 40 micrograms per cubic meter but current levels exceed 50. In Spain, transport is reponsible of 40 to 52 percent of air pollution, affirms the Spanish Industry Ministry. Reducing speed from 120 to 80 km/h is claimed to reduce air pollution 30 percent.
Other measures that the Catalan government will implement along with this speed reduction are: mobility plans for all companies with more than 500 workers (such as free chartered autobuses) and substituton of public vehicles with hybrids, CNG or at least biofuels.
[Source: El Periódico (link is in Spanish)]