Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Vision Zero

"In every situation a person might fail, the road system should not."
"Every crash with serious injuries or fatalities is something you need to carefully look at and say what was wrong here, what should I have done, not the citizen -- what should I have done as a professional and responsible person in the system?"
Claus Tingvall, director of traffic safety, Swedish National Road Administration
Vision Zero Traffic Safety by Sweden The Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to road safety thinking. It can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.

"We were quite surprised to see that separated bike lanes made such a big difference."
"For a driver, there are so many more vehicles and the catastrophe for a driver is being hit by a moving vehicle."
"So what are they looking for when they're turning right or left? They're looking for other vehicles."
"And look but fail to see is the classic problem."
Kay Teschke, professor emeritus, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Traffic-caused deaths have been close to halved in Sweden, the country with one of the lowest rates of road deaths among developed countries. Sweden's traffic-related deaths are 2.7 per 100,000 people. New Zealand and the United States' statistics are both 10.3 per 100,000, according to 2015 statistics from the Centres for Disease Control. Third highest among ten high-income countries is Canada, with 5.4 deaths per 100,000. Nothing is static; things go up or they go down. In Sweden traffic deaths have markedly descended, in Canada they have increased.

In 1997, Sweden initiated a life-saving enterprise they named Vision Zero, with the intention of bringing traffic deaths down, and finally eliminating them altogether; a vision perhaps impossible in its final intention, but on the other hand, quite possible in its early aspiration. According to the drive behind the Swedish initiative, there is no acceptable number relating to loss of life through traffic accidents. And so, Sweden's enterprising initiative bore fruit from the tree of its intention.

And now other countries are looking to repeat Sweden's ongoing success, emulating and repeating what they saw being done in Sweden. More roundabouts are being built in Swedish cities to replace intersections, with the intention of reducing the risk of head-on crashes. Vehicles may not turn at intersections when pedestrians and/or cyclists are in the process of crossing. Pedestrian bridges are being built. There are separate lanes for bicycles. Drinking and driving has elicited an appropriately sterner crackdown by police.

In Toronto, the Vision Zero policy was adopted along with a five-year action plan for implementation, with the goal being the reduction of traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities with an eye to six vital areas; pedestrians, schoolchildren, older adults, cyclists, motorcyclists, aggressive driving and distraction. A selection very obviously comprised of the most vulnerable to come to harm through vehicle-derived accidents. Despite which, traffic accident deaths continue to increase in Toronto.

Toronto has been tardy in adopting all of the improvements listed in their own Vision Zero targets, still awaiting implementation. According to a study of bicycling in Toronto and Vancouver undertaken in 2012, cyclists using special bicycle-specific cycle tracks risk one-ninth the serious injuries leading to hospitalization, in comparison to a cyclist using a major street absent bicycling infrastructure.

To date, approximately one thousand cities in the United States and throughout Europe have reached their goal in achieving Vision Zero, with no traffic-related fatalities in a year's time, a long-sought record that they have every intention of maintaining through diligent effort, appropriate infrastructure and social engineering through education.

rallyImpromptu Ottawa City Hall rally hours after the death of cyclist Nusrat Jahan on 2 Sept 2016, where Coun. Catherine McKenney calls for Vision Zero. Photo: 1310 News

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