Vision Zero is one of the biggest changes to transportation, as it turns traditional road safety upside down. With origins in Sweden, this framework proposes an ethical question – how many serious injuries and fatalities will we allow on our roadways?
How it works
For Sweden, in 1997, that answer was a resounding zero. The Swedes recognized that humans make mistakes – we can’t be perfect, all the time. Knowing that, they designed Vision Zero, which shifts the responsibility of safety to the system designer. Vision Zero demands that if a user fails, the system will protect them. Over time, this will eliminate serious injuries and fatalities.
What it looks like
Canadian cities have started to adopt Vision Zero, following countries such as Sweden and the United States. In every city, the concept looks different, as it responds to the jurisdiction’s current road safety issues. Changes to the roadways are based on proven, effective safety measures such as speed reductions, photo radar, barriers between vehicles and more vulnerable road users, like cyclists.
The good news? It works. Edmonton was Canada’s first official Vision Zero city. In three years, traffic fatalities have gone down by 41%. There is still more work to be done, but results are promising.
What does it mean for you?
Change can be frustrating or challenging. With Vision Zero, the change has the potential to be lifesaving. As a road user, whether in a car, on a bike, or as a pedestrian, there will be updates to how you move.
Look out for speed drops, one of the most effective ways to save lives. Toronto recently voted to reduce speeds on nearly 250 kilometres of roadways, from 60 km/h to 50 km/h. Your routes may change, with timed closures or limited access– Toronto did this with the implementation of their King Street Transit Priority Corridor, which prioritized transit through a major thoroughfare in the city
Good things take time
Overall, Vision Zero contributes to increased safety, with an opportunity for cities to tackle ageing infrastructure as they overhaul the larger traffic system. It prepares cities for the future, pushing for the adoption of innovative technology (such as intelligent transportation systems).
Not all communities are ready to commit to big targets, and it is understood that a vision of zero is aspirational. It is a long-term approach, as infrastructure improvements take time. But this new way of thinking represents a new opportunity for cities to rethink transportation needs now, as well as for the future.
Systems-based frameworks ensure greater safety for all road users, at every age and stage, with special emphasis on vulnerable populations. That means safer kids, older adults, cyclists, pedestrians and more – something we can definitely get behind!
What are your thoughts on Vision Zero, as a fellow driver, cyclist or pedestrian? Tweet us @OnliaCA to join the conversation!