Vision Zero is Not a Slogan or Tagline; It is a Shift to Safe Travel for All
Leah Shahum, Founder and Executive Director, Vision Zero Network
It’s a shocking statistic: Every day an average of 100 people lose their lives needlessly in the U.S. simply while trying to move about their communities — perhaps walking to a store, bicycling to a park, or driving to work. Now, a growing number of communities are saying “enough is enough” of these tragic and preventable losses of life, and they are committing to the bold goal of Vision Zero — zero traffic deaths or severe injuries among all road users.
First adopted in Sweden 20 years ago, Vision Zero is more than just a catchy tagline to promote safety. It is a fundamental shift in how we approach traffic safety. Built on an ethical belief that we all deserve to be safe moving about our communities, it takes a Safe Systems approach to roadway safety. Instead of accepting that traffic deaths are inevitable, Vision Zero acknowledges that they are preventable and that more can and should be done to prioritize safety. Much of this responsibility rests with roadway designers and policymakers.
Vision Zero also acknowledges that people will inevitably make mistakes, so rather than designing roads that aim for perfect human behavior (impossible!), roadway designs and policies should take into account inevitable mistakes and aim to lessen the impact of crashes. Safe Systems is a shift from the traditional approach of disproportionately focusing on individual responsibility and behavior to focusing on changing the systems that most influence individual behavior, particularly how roadways are designed and how policies are set.
About the Vision Zero Network
The nonprofit Vision Zero Network supports communities across the U.S. in their efforts to advance Vision Zero. Working closely with leaders in the departments of transportation, transit, law enforcement, public health, as well as elected officials, we are helping cities to use a more data-driven approach to prioritize their valuable resources for lasting, systemic improvements to safe mobility for all road users.
The Vision Zero Network convenes meetings and calls, host webinars, offers technical assistance and develops resources for communities who are ready to commit to prioritizing safe mobility. Our latest resource, Core Elements for Vision Zero Communities, helps clarify what it means to move from vision to action and results.
In just the past four-and-a-half years, a fast-growing number of North American communities have stepped up to commit to Vision Zero and a Safe Systems approach to traffic safety. Today, more than 30 local communities, as well as a few regions, have committed to Vision Zero. These include cities as diverse as Anchorage, Alaska to San Antonio, Texas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Advancing Vision Zero in the United States
The first U.S. city to commit to Vision Zero, New York City, has seen tremendous progress, lowering its traffic fatality rate by 28 percent in five years. Its most effective strategies have included lowering speed limits from 30 to 25 mph citywide, adding speed enforcement cameras in school zones, and redesigning streets for safe conditions. This focus on managing speed and implementing Complete Streets is central to the Vision Zero principles, which recognizes that we cannot educate nor enforce our way out of today’s traffic safety problems. Greater focus needs to be placed on improving the roadway environment for safe travel and prioritizing safe travel over speedy travel. Vision Zero is about safe travel for all: safe streets, safe speeds, safe people, safe vehicles.
In fall 2018, the Network was proud to partner with Together for Safer Roads (TSR) to offer valuable learning and peer exchange opportunities among the fast-growing number of Vision Zero communities across the U.S. Together, TSR and the Vision Zero Network provided scholarships to the annual Vision Zero Cities Conference in NYC, helping 25 individuals from 21 different cities — including government agencies and community groups — learn more about Vision Zero and bring new strategies and ideas back home.
To reach Vision Zero, we’ll need commitment and action from across the spectrum — including from the private sector, government, as well as community leaders. To find out more about the Vision Zero Network, visit visionzeronetwork.org or follow us on Twitter @VisionZeroNet.