Vision Zero’s commitment to continuously and preemptively improve safety on the roads

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I’ve written about the global movement and the Canadian implementation of Vision Zero for Kitchener here and here, and the Montreal efforts here. Vision Zero represents a whole new way of thinking about road use and road safety.

What is Vision Zero?

The global website explanation of the movement is:

Vision Zero starts with the ethical belief that everyone has the right to move safely in their communities, and that system designers and policy makers share the responsibility to ensure safe systems for travel.

Vision Zero is a significant departure from the status quo in two major ways:

  1. Vision Zero recognizes that people will sometimes make mistakes, so the road system and related policies should be designed to ensure those inevitable mistakes do not result in severe injuries or fatalities. This means that system designers and policymakers are expected to improve the roadway environment, policies (such as speed management), and other related systems to lessen the severity of crashes.
  2. Vision Zero is a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse and necessary stakeholders to address this complex problem. In the past, meaningful, cross-disciplinary collaboration among local traffic planners and engineers, policymakers, and public health professionals has not been the norm. Vision Zero acknowledges that many factors contribute to safe mobility -- including roadway design, speeds, behaviors, technology, and policies -- and sets clear goals to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries.

From their Canadian website:

Vision Zero … was coined by the Swedish government when it pledged to eliminate death and serious injury from its roads. Launched in 1997, Sweden’s Vision Zero program has attracted widespread attention by cutting its traffic death in half, in the space of just two decades. This remarkable achievement can be attributed to the commitment to failsafe systems of road design, vehicle design and speed control.

The essence of Vision Zero is not a nice sentiment or a target. It is, rather, the action of continuously and preemptively removing the very possibility of violence (and that means serious injury as well as death) from our transportation systems. True Vision Zero systems prioritize the safe passage of our most vulnerable populations, whether they are walking or using any number of light mobility devices from bicycles to wheelchairs.

What Inspired Vision Zero?

Cities in North America have been designed for decades around the ease of use of cars rather than the safety of the roadways. The onus for safety has been placed on the users rather than on the design of roads and cars. Pedestrians in particular have been forced to learn defensive deferential behaviours towards cars. Roadways maximize vehicle flow, and the engineers of roadways and vehicles shifted the liability of the resulting road violence to the drivers and most importantly to the victims.

The Vision Zero thinking is in contrast with most of the jurisdictions in North America.

Has It Worked?

Yes, it has. It's worked so well globally that jurisdictions throughout the world are adopting the new way of thinking about road safety and road design. Again, from the Vision Zero Website:

The countries with the lowest levels of road violence have adopted a radically different paradigm of traffic safety.  

Is there Local Action?

Yes, the good news is that pedestrians deaths and ease of use design for pedestrians and cyclists has become a serious design concern for the City of Kitchener and the Region of Waterloo. In following posts we will cover the local efforts in more detail.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a car accident whether you were a pedestrian, a cyclist or a passenger, you should contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Deutschmann Personal and Disability Law. Call for your free initial consultation 1.866.414.4878

We are here to protect you and your future.