Success for Vision Zero
Support for Vision Zero has been sweeping at a national level. Federal transportation bodies in Canada, as well as the United States, have their own version of a committed road safety plan. While the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and the Federal Highway Administration have used “Towards Zero” language to outline jurisdictional suggestions, they share the overall sentiment of Vision Zero — a reduction of serious injuries and fatalities.
Canadian cities have embarked on Vision Zero with various levels of success — approximately 15 Canadian jurisdictions have implemented Vision Zero, or a similar approach, with even more considering the framework.
The greatest success for Vision Zero comes out of Oslo, Norway, which posted zero pedestrian or cyclist injuries in 2019. While the city recorded one driver fatality when a driver crashed into a fence, road safety advocates around the world are applauding Oslo’s achievement. However, Norway’s top road administrator remarked this is still one death too many, and the city remains committed to further improvements.
Obstacles to adoption
While zero serious injuries and fatalities should be a no-brainer, the political commitment to Vision Zero can still be a hard sell. The large price tag of infrastructure changes, combined with the lofty nature of Vision Zero’s goal, can slow political acceptance. However, just the idea of Vision Zero allows for overdue conversations about the design of our roadways, forcing the question: How can we do better?
Jurisdictional issues can slow adoption as well. Sweden, the original Vision Zero country, manages its transportation issues at a national level — meaning sweeping adoptions of change across the country. In North America, much of transportation is governed at a municipal or provincial/state level. This means that the traffic systems may change from town to town, with small budgets for upgrades in each community.
The lack of continuity is only further complicated when departments, like police services, operate at a regional level. Potentially, a regional police department may have to enforce the law across municipalities that have very different Vision Zero strategies, making the idea seem logistically difficult to consider.