Step on the brakes! Reduced speed limits!

You may have heard about it from colleagues, or via the news, but here is a full break down of the new speed limit that will come into effect in March.

From mid-March 2020 new road rules will come into effect on Dutch motorways where currently the speed limit is 120 or 130 kilometres per hour. On these roads, between the hours of 6am and 7pm, a new reduced maximum speed limit of 100 kilometre per hour will be in effect.

Rijkswaterstaat, who are responsible for highway maintenance in the Netherlands, have said it will take a long weekend to adjust the 4000 speed limit signs that are affected by the changes. The job is scheduled for Thursday 12th March from 9pm to Monday 16th March, 5pm. However there is a chance the changes will be delayed in the event of bad weather till the end of March.

Roads where the current speed limit is 100 km per hour or less will not see any change.

The changes in speed limits is one of the measures taken by the Dutch government to reduce nitrogen emissions.

Photo by Heorhii Heorhiichuk from Pexels

Why Nitrogen?

Nitrogen by itself is not a problem, the air around us is made up of about 80% nitrogen. However, when fuels burn at a high temperature, such as in a car engine, the nitrogen that is released combines with oxygen to produce nitrogen oxides (NOx). Animal manure also contains a lot of nitrogen and when this combines with water it creates ammonia (NH3). When nitrogen oxide and ammonia are present in high concentrations in the ground, it will cause some plants to not grow well, and even lead to the disappearance of some types of vegetation. That in turn can have a negative effect on wildlife.

The main research driving the Dutch government to make these changes now has shown that over the last decades the concentration of nitrogen oxide and ammonia in the ground and air has doubled. These changes are beginning to affect the vegetation, and in turn the wildlife. The conclusion from the research was that if nitrogen emissions continue to increase at the current rate, over 10 years’ time we could see a reduction of 25% in the number and diversity of insects in the Netherlands. This reduction would have a substantial negative effect on Dutch (and worldwide) agriculture.

Other changes?

Road users are not the only ones affected by new measures to combat nitrogen emissions. Agriculture, construction and industry are also facing changes and new rules to help reduce nitrogen emissions.

You may have seen the news about farmers protesting, or seen tractor demonstrations on the roads and city centres. These protests are against some of the measures the Dutch government are introducing to reduce nitrogen emissions.

Over 15,000 construction projects in the vicinity of vulnerable nature reserves were put on hold in 2019 – projects such as new housing projects, widening roads, maintenance of dikes and railway crossing and defence projects. All these projects need to be re-evaluated for their long term effects regarding nitrogen emissions.

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Gray Asphalt Road Under Blue Sky, copyright Heorhii Heorhiichuk from Pexels