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Spain Is Slowing Down Too

Blog Date - 28 December 2018

Previously I blogged about the French dropping their speed limit from 90kmh to 80kmh on countryside single carriageway roads (France Is Slowing Down, So Are We.). Well it seems the Spanish are doing the same - sort of.

Spain is dropping it's own countryside limit from 100kmh to 90kmh as of January 2019. There is also talk of wide ranging 30kmh zones where presently most urban areas are 50kmh, I am not aware that this is coming into force as yet.

A standard 50 in a red circle as the speed limit sign in Spain
Will this read "30" one day?

It seems my 500cc 47bhp "small adventure motorcycle" is in fact grossly overpowered for European touring. I can see hoards of BMW GS1250s and KTM1290s all hooning up and down the fabulous Spanish mountainsides... in first gear. I also see large touring behemoths like the Gold Wing or BMW 1600 slipping their clutches to keep to the 30kmh limits in towns.

I can not deny there is a good portion of me that is disappointed, gutted even. Riding The Picos this summer was a joy, a wonder, a marvel and thrilling. While I don't believe the new limit will "ruin" such delights I can't help but feel it might take the edge off. Many of the bends are exciting and challenging below 90kmh but knowing I had that extra 10kmh in hand was nice.

A sharp 180 degree corner on a Picos mountain road
I don't need to be doing over 90kmh to enjoy this.

No - from a rider's point of view it is sad. But should I rail against this, should I bemoan the death of joy caused by the safety Nazis? Yes I am saddened but the writing has been on the wall for ages and I do not believe I have a god-given right to "thrill" myself on public roads. 

If a plane crashes we demand better safety standards, more thorough checks and we insist someone resigns because it MUST be someone's fault, surely! Yet we seem to think WE know what we are doing and WE will be fine. Unfortunately several thousand families each year in both the UK and Spain learn this is not true - the hardest way possible. Often it is not just our lives we are risking but those of other road users too. If it were merely our life then it's a lifestyle choice but it's not.   

It seems Sharon's 27bhp lightweight Z250SL is pretty much the ideal bike for riding in Europe. It will happily maintain 120kmh on the motorways, Sharon would disagree but think it cruises better at 100kmh. It's a darn sight easier to ride in the 30kmh zones than my lardy 500. It sips fuel. It is also a delight to ride.   

If only Sharon's Z250SL had good luggage options...

Ren's CB500X loaded to the gunnels and Sharon's lightly laden Z250SL
Well someone's gotta carry all our kit.
A beautiful rocky mountain in The Picos reflected on a lake
We'll just have to slow down and appreciate the scenery. Oh dear, what a terrible shame

If you'd like to sponsor Ren a track day you could witness the slowest lap ever! Contact

Reader's Comments

Rod said :-
I have just been watching a guy on a motorcycle tour this year up to the arctic circle on YouTube. The biggest part of his trip was in Norway, and they have a 80kph (50mph) limit on their normal single carriage way roads.
At first he was trying to stick to the speed limit, but on well surfaced roads with little traffic he soon increased his pace to around 75mph. I personally thought that he looked perfectly safe at this speed.
My point is having these blanket speed limits on all roads makes no sense, and if the speed limits do not seem reasonable people will ignore them.
I will ride quite happily along a country road at the legal limit, but when that same limit is applied to a long straight A road I am more likely to exceed the limit.
So does reducing the speed limits really make us safer, or should we all ride so that we can stop in the distance we can see to be clear to remain safe?
28/12/2018 21:53:21 UTC
Stuart said :-
I have seen a road near me go from a 60 to a 40 and is now a 30 limit. In part this is due to the spread of the town centre, so what was countryside is now riding past the end of drives to big executive homes.

I can understand this but one of my favorite roads in the middle of nowhere has gone from 60 to 50. Why I don't know other than a blanket ruling but the police are stretched enough and have never seen a speed trap or indeed a police car on that road.
29/12/2018 07:57:57 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I have to confess to ignoring those 50 mph limits that crop up on many rural A roads (except of course where there's a camera - and even so these are rarely working). I stick to the old national limit of 60 and TBH find that's what most other people do as well.

Of course I knock the speed off when going through villages, complex junctions etc. And of course keep an eye on the mirrors for flashing blue lights. But then they'd have to be cracking on a bit to catch me up anyway so where would they have come from?
29/12/2018 14:56:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
In spite of all the protestations from motoring bodies and many riders and drivers it seems that lowering speed limits does reduce road deaths.

Rod - IF IF IF all road users rode and drove at a safe and sensible speed such that we could stop in the distance we can see to be clear then there would be very few accidents. BUT regrettably this is not the case at all. If there were sufficient police for us all to have an attending officer ride with us to ensure that we only go "fast" when it is safe and clear to do so then we could employ this method of road safety.

This is obviously impractical so we have speed limits.

Stuart - I suspect councils are under pressure to improve road safety and the easiest way to do this is to bring down speed limits. Ideally better road design and such are the way to go but this costs an awful lot of money which is something the councils don't have.

Ian - blue flashing lights in your mirrors? Come on, there's hardly any coppers left now. It's much more efficient to put a van somewhere and set up a speed trap. You'll be getting your tickets through the post.

I ask again. Do we have a right to travel at high speed? Imagine speed limits had been set at 20mph in town and 40mph in the countryside "back in the day". We'd have grown up with these speeds, altered our riding style and motorcycles to these speeds, developed our culture around these speeds and we'd have not known any different. Are we upset because the speeds we are used to and enjoy are being curtailed? Change happens, things never remain the same.

Do you have the right to break the law because you disagree with it? A psychopath may disagree with the law on murder but 99.9% of the population will want to lock them up and throw away the keys if they kill someone. Yet we "tolerate" speeding because, well, everyone does it don't they? We hate mobile phone users and drink drivers but speeding? That seems acceptable somehow.
29/12/2018 19:24:34 UTC
Stuart said :-
Some years ago we went to a Yamaha test event (the 350 LC was new then) and found out that the ride was to be led by off duty police riders. We expected it to be a cruise but it was a flat out blast every time we came to a national speed limit section of road.

I'm also led to believe that the I.A.M. take the view that when you get to a national speed limit section you are encouraged to 'make progress'. I've never taken the course so can't confirm if that is true.
29/12/2018 20:40:35 UTC
Rod said :-
Ren, I was not saying that we do not heed speed limits. I am just saying that to me the speed limits make no sense.
I am not advocating a no restriction zone outside a school! Speed limits must make sense!
I think speed limits can be useful, but when we have variable speed limits on a motorway of 60mph when we have congestion, why does this only increase to 70mph when a motorway is empty? not for any logical reason.
I read a report on German Autobahns a couple of years ago where they looked at introducing a blanket 120kph limit, but they found that the death rate was the same on the restricted Autobahns as the unrestricted Autobahns and shelved the plan.
Again, my logic (which I am sure I will be told is flawed) would dictate that a motorcycle with less stopping ability that a light weight supercar with big wide tyres should have a lower speed limit.
Imagine the 20mph / 40mph scenario, I think we would all give up motorcycling and buy a push bike (probably a battery assisted one with my level of fitness).

29/12/2018 22:19:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Variable speed limits is an interesting thought. There are pros and cons as ever. When I were a lad it seemed basically 30 in town and 60 out of town. Now there's a change in limit every 500 yards or at least that's what it feels like. I would like to think we're "fine tuning" the limit for each road and each stretch of road, but I sincerely doubt this is the case.

In a perfect world we'd have LED speed limit signs everywhere. 0300 on a Sunday morning? Yeah sure go through a sleepy countryside village at 45mph, then during the day it's 30 save for when the kids are coming out of Sunday school it's 20. Empty motorways at 0300? 100mph, norra problem then at rush hour 50mph. That tech is possible today but my word it's expensive. So we end up with a blanket limit.

What about rules? Timed out speed limits? That could work. Like bus lanes this road is 30 between 0700 and 2200 and 40 between 2200 and 0700. Of course this could confuse a lot of people.

When I was teaching people to ride I attended an advanced course back in the late '90s. It was indeed deemed acceptable by the instructor to "exceed the limit" in a 60 zone. I did some very very bad things with the training company's lead instructor too. I believe having spoken to a friend though these days the IAM tends to keep to all the limits.

I dare say all this will become a mute point with the advent of the self-driving vehicles.
30/12/2018 08:35:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I too have seen research that suggests the Autobahns without speed limits are as safe as those with. But...then...I've also read reports stating that those with limits are safer. Of course the problem with research and statistics is they can be interpreted to suit whoever is paying for the research.

That battery assisted bicycle is looking more and more attractive - when the speed limit drops to a blanket 20mph everywhere.
30/12/2018 09:56:41 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
It's all about society choosing where to draw the line really. If you had a man with a red flag walking in front of every vehicle, then you would reduce deaths down to almost zero, but most people would find this unacceptable. I think that the currently reduced speed limits are a step too far, but I expect anybody who was around when they reduced the national speed limit from 'unlimited' to the current 60/70 mph would have also complained that that was unreasonable.

I do think that a concerted effort by the police to enforce existing limits, rather than a blanket lowering of limits, would be far more effective but society has to be willing to commit the necessary resources to the police in order for this to happen.
03/01/2019 13:05:08 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Obviously many speed limits are complete nonsense and definitely not safety driven, they're driven by revenue. IMO.
Regarding the red flag idea, I think we'd have to see how many red flag persons ( we certainly couldn't stipulate a male operative, all genders, and that's quite a few these days could apply) get killed before slapping ourselves on the back for negating Road Deaths, i.e.KSI's.

03/01/2019 13:24:43 UTC
NigelS said :-
I had a 10 year gap from bikes (economics, family, economics, nowhere to put it but mainly economics) until I bought a BMW F650 in Jan 2014. My wife insisted I went on the Staffordshire Police Ride by Five safety course and I drove round the parish for a couple of hours followed by a very nice lady Police Instructor. The main criticism in her feedback was that I was only doing 30mph in a 30mph speed limit . . . . WHAT?? I explained that maybe that would explain why a) at 66 years of age I was still the upper side of the flower bed and b) I still had a clean licence! She was unimpressed and told me that I was holding up the traffic and it would cause other road users to become frustrated and put them in jeopardy of loosing their self control. There you go, so 40 is the new 30, 75 is the new 60 and if I had an R1, 160 would be the new 70 - only I'm happy to continue in my old 'bad' habits of sticking to national speed limits!

Beemer by the Guthrie Memorial, IoM
03/01/2019 16:21:25 UTC
Rod said :-
That is a very nice looking BMW!
I can understand your reaction to the 'only doing 30mph in a 30mph zone as I failed my first bike test in 1971 for not making good progress in traffic. I was riding at exactly 30mph in a 30mph zone. I took my second test about two months later and passed by riding the whole test at 40mph in a 30mph zone!
I still get some stick from my wife when she criticizes my riding when she reminds me that she passed her bike test first time.
03/01/2019 17:42:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
So CrazyFrog, instead of having a divisive vote on Brexit we could have a (probably divisive) vote on speed limits AND/OR funding for the police to enforce such limits. You're right - society can and to some extent has decided upon the current limits. We could choose a range from 4 to 400mph these days. I wonder what we'd settle on?

When I was instructing, around 1995 to 2000, we trained our customers to keep to the speed limits. They were expected to reach those limits if conditions (and with 125s the bike) allowed. I'd give the rider's around 2mph over before getting on the radio to slow down, and about 2mph under if it was safe and clear to be at the posted limit. I trained mostly in the North West but occasionally seconded to various places around England. I had the odd customer fail for being over the limit and only one for being too "cautious" - and indeed he certainly was. I was always under the impression examiners countrywide would not tolerate any speeding. Sharon's experience 3 or 4 years ago was similar.

I recall when I was learning to drive (1989) my tutor kept me at the limits. My mother, when sitting in with me on the "L" plates would encourage me to keep up with the traffic (35-38 in a 30 back then). For my test I certainly kept within the limits - and passed.

I can imagine how a legal case could pan out.
"Why did you drive into the rear of the 3rd party's vehicle?"
"She was driving too slowly and it really hacked me off"
"How fast was she driving?"
" a 30 zone!! I mean what kind of moron does 30 in a 30 zone for Christ's sake?"
"Ahh right I see. Your honour, I move to direct the court to find the 3rd party Mrs Smith to be the found at fault here as she was... obeying the law!"
03/01/2019 21:09:18 UTC
Rod said :-
Ren, Just for clarification in 1971 the examiner was walking around the test area on the pavement, and making observations. So if the general traffic was moving at 40mph in a 30mph zone someone taking their test at 30mph looked slow.
03/01/2019 21:28:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ahh yeah of course. Plus it would have been black and white back then and everything was speeded up wasn't it?

Oh wait, erm yeah, I was born in 1971. I brought colour to the world and decimalisation. Oh and the helmet law soon followed too.

I was one of the first years to actually take my motorcycle test with an examiner following on a bike connected via one way radio. We had colour by then but but I still had a whippet down me pants and a cloth cap, albeit under my helmet. Times wur 'ard but we wur 'appy.
03/01/2019 21:33:18 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Arghhhh, I've managed to avoid reading or hearing the 'Brexit' word for a whole three weeks over Xmas and now you've sneaked it in on here Ren, under my radar :(

I'm off into the garage now to start up the Jawa and inhale some nice calming 2T fumes....
04/01/2019 10:26:08 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh no! Sorry CrazyFrog, and you were doing so well. Instead of just inhaling the fumes why not actually put your coat on and go for a ride?
04/01/2019 10:35:43 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
When I did my IAM bike test in the 1990s (pass? of course....) the examiner (a serving trafpol officer as they all were, at least then) said that he would come down hard on exceeding posted limits such as 30 and 40 but on the open road (NSL) would expect reasonable progress to be made.....

However, my late father was a police Class 1 driver and the stories he told about what they considered "reasonable progress" were rather hair raising.
04/01/2019 10:45:47 UTC
Glenn said :-
While I agree with smaller bikes capabilities,there is a certain joy to having more than is required, 650cc will manage that quite nicely.
Bigger bikes do a better job of carrying a passenger and the assorted accoutrements that we collect in the name of comfort.
At 50 and some change I understand that better than I would have at 20 and saving madly for my GSX1100, I survived that mostly by luck and the grace of his noodly appendages.
I barely maintain licence points with a CRF250 and a Honda Jazz.
Social attitudes toward speeding have changed immensely since I was 20.
I got the changes to drink driving easily enough, speed seems to not have taken so well.
Time and place, I'm very aware of school zones and suburban roads, 4 lane interstate highways with 100k limits and towns separated by 500ks?
Boredom kills at 100, 120 requires a little more attention, and it shouldn't be on the speedo and your rearview mirror.
08/01/2019 09:04:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Noodly Appendages? Are we talking about the mighty worshipfulness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster? By it's grace we all go surely?
08/01/2019 17:12:46 UTC
Jim said :-
Always nice to find a fellow Pastafarian!
08/01/2019 22:34:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I don't know if I'd consider myself a pastafarian but it seems to be the religion I relate to the most. I have no colander too, is a plastic sieve acceptable?
09/01/2019 06:33:51 UTC
Mike said :-
I think the limits are more to do with reducing green gasses that the government signed up to do,(they're running out of ideas) and to reduce noise in built up areas. Knocking 10mph off the national limits isn't going to save many more lives, outside schools and oap's homes maybe. But then I'm an old cynic.
09/01/2019 07:52:59 UTC
Glenn said :-
FSM indeed, as you say Ren, the one I relate to the most.
I'm cynically atheist, first, do no harm, seems to be a major part of the Pastafarian philosophy and I can live with that easily enough.
Enjoy the blog immensely, thanks for the entertainment, may the new year bring you and Sharon more of the things you enjoy and solutions to the issues you may have.

09/01/2019 09:27:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
There are as I see it several possible reasons to reduce speed limits.

1. Save lives. Whether you agree or believe it's misleading, statistics suggest reducing speed limits saves lives.
2. Emissions. Whether you agree or believe it's misleading, statistics suggest slower limits reduce emissions.
3. Fines. Whether you agree or believe it's misleading, some people believe it's done to increase revenue from fines.
4. Conspiracy. Whether you agree or believe it's misleading, apparently the great "they" do this to annoy us.

I am open to other possible reasons.

5. The Flying Spaghetti Monster realises the human beings need some angst in their lives. While we're arguing over the reasons behind speed limits we're not harassing people with different religions or points of view on Brexit.
09/01/2019 12:22:18 UTC
Jim said :-
A sieve indeed Ren - you'll be starting a new sub-sect next. Personally I'm in favour of a broad church when it comes to straining implements. And I reckon you'd suit a pirate costume.
09/01/2019 13:52:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yes erm...after seeing Jonny Depp in Pirates of The Caribbean Sharon wants me to dress up as a pirate. I can't think why?
09/01/2019 14:23:52 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Has she bought any planks lately, Jim Lad?
09/01/2019 17:41:58 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Agree completely on 1,2 and 3 Edster.
And would any of us truly like to ride in the free for all of a unregulated world?
09/01/2019 17:45:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Now you come to mention it Upt'North, there is a new plank coming out from the bedroom window with a small paddling pool in the garden beneath it. What on earth is going on?
09/01/2019 20:33:10 UTC
steve said :-
My experience closely mirrors Nigel's and Ian's. I retired in 2010 and a couple of years later with time on my hands decided to get another bike after a 12 year lay off. My wife was unhappy about this and to put her mind at rest I signed up for a IAM skills for life course. The very first outing the instructor/observer after our ride said we might not be able to continue as I had ridden at 32 mph in 30 zone. Later on during the course i consistently got reprimanded for momentarily increasing my speed to mid to high sixties whilst overtaking on national speed limit roads.
Later on as the the course progressed the threat of going over 60 or dawdling for what seemed like minutes at 58mph meant we did very little overtaking.
Of course going out with the group on a Sunday " making progress " was a totally differnt experience
11/01/2019 15:09:43 UTC

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