Each year ~1900 people die on Canada’s roads, and ~153,000 are injured (9,500 people seriously injured). Vision Zero Canada recognizes that this carnage is predictable and preventable, and campaigns for the elimination of harm to any road users including drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The Vision Zero approach is rooted in sound principles, including the premises that safe independent mobility is a natural right, and that no loss of life is acceptable. Emulating countries that are leading the way in the reduction of traffic violence, Vision Zero Canada promotes results-driven policies and practices, with a strong focus on public investment in failsafe design.
The Swedish government, who coined the term Vision Zero in 1997, are now talking about Moving Beyond Zero, with a dual focus on the elimination of traffic violence and the promotion of active mobility (e.g. walking and cycling). These twin goals are also at the root of the Vision Zero Canada mission.
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To support Vision Zero advocacy on the municipal, provincial and federal levels please donate $30 to be listed as a sponsor. You’ll receive your choice of weatherproof bumper, bike or bin stickers for every $10 donated, or a resellable bike sticker multipack to recoup your donation.
Executive Director Graham Larkin is a nationally and internationally respected advocate for safe, sustainable and equitable streets. He trained as a historian of art and architecture (PhD Harvard, 2003) with a special interest in communications and the built environment. As a postdoctoral fellow on the faculty at Stanford University he became a prominent advocate in a national (US) campaign to safeguard academic freedom. After moving to Ottawa he spent six years as Curator of European & American Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and he taught classes including data visualization seminars in the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism at Carleton University.
In 2013 Graham launched the Slow Ottawa campaign for ecologically, economically and socially sustainable living. A growing passion for resilient, people-friendly communities led him to found the Vision Zero Canada and Love 30 Canada road safety campaigns, in 2015 and 2016 respectively. He has been an invited speaker at major road safety and urbanism conferences, and he is regularly quoted in the media across Canada. Through those activities and through his consulting work he is helping municipalities across Canada transition from old-fashioned ‘road safety’ plans to forward-thinking safe streets / safe mobility strategies.
Vision Zero Canada in the Media
What follows is a selective sampling of statements—including many recordings of live discussions—in the media by Vision Zero Canada Executive Director Graham Larkin.
▶ 20 Jan 2019: Patricia Coppard, I walk my daughter and her friend to school; I don’t want you to kill them, Times Colonist Victoria. Quotes VZC / Love 30 Canada ED Graham Larkin in favour of 30 km/h residential speed limits.
▶ 14-17 Jan 2019: Lots of press throughout Canada regarding the Westboro bus disaster, including this open letter that a fwe of us wrote. Coverage includes the 15 Jan conversation between Michael Powell and Graham Larkin on CKCU FM Ottawa, where we talk for a half hour about the need for better motor vehicle regulation in the wake of the Westboro bus disaster.
Confused about the #WestboroCrash aftermath?
Summary + links added here: visionzero.ca/2019/01/14/ope…
▶ Alanna Rizza, Experts call for Transportation Safety Board to investigate Ottawa bus crash, Canadian Press across Canada including CBC, 13/14 Jan 2019. In light of another major double-decker bush crash in Ottawa, VZC ED Graham Larkin and Ahmed Shalaby call for Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to start investigating motor vehicle catastrophes.
▶ Lauren Pelley, New council needs to shift gears on ‘piecemeal’ Vision Zero plan, road safety advocates say, CBC News (web/radio) Toronto, 13 Dec 2018.
▶ Hope Berk, Group calls for automated pedestrian signals for Bank Street, Capital Currents Ottawa, 16 Nov 2018.
▶ Oliver Moore, Community crosswalk flags spark controversy in Halifax, Globe & Mail, 9 Nov 2018.
▶ Nadine Yousifs, Pedestrian death revives debate over Vision Zero, StarMetro Edmonton, 20 Sept 2018. A couple of us weigh in on Edmonton’s 13th traffic fatality of the year. A 23-year-old woman was struck on the sidewalk by a man driving a Dodge Ram.
▶ Phil Tank, Vision Zero more than a slogan, Canada rep advises Saskatoon, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, 11 Sept 2018. Initial VZC reactions to Saskatoon’s Vision Zero plan. Later comments on the report proper are here.
▶ John Rieti & Lauren Pelley, Jennifer Keesmaat promises lower speed limits, blasts John Tory for ‘inaction’ on road safety, CBC Toronto, 7 Sept 2018.
▶ Oliver Moore, Toronto rolls out photo radar in school zones, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 4 Sept 2018. “… a prominent safety advocate said the cameras were a waste of money unless they have penalties that can deter speeding. ‘It’s very misleading to call these safety cameras or refer to them as automated speed enforcement, that’s just wrong,’ said Graham Larkin …’.
▶ Steve Kupferman, How do we make Toronto’s streets safer? A car-loving city councillor and a Vision Zero advocate square off, Toronto Life, 16 August 2018.
▶ Jon Willing, City tests traffic-calming markings disguised as speed bump, Ottawa Citizen, 10 August 2018. VZC ED Graham Larkin dismisses paint simulating speed humps as “pretend infrastructure” and urges the city to but in a real speed hump if calming is needed.
▶ On 16 July 2018 VZC ED Graham Larkin appeared on a dozen CBC radio stations across the country talking about fake 3D crosswalks including the new one in Montreal. Some show were live, and some pre-recorded for airing at a later time or date.
▶ READ Zane Woodford, Halifax committee amends road safety plan, but advocates say it still falls short, Star Metro Halifax, 28 June 2018. Update on the story below, including tweets by VZC ED Graham Larkin and support for his indication that road violence data is already plentiful.
▶ READ Zane Woodford, Advocate says city’s road-safety plan lacks vision, Star Metro Halifax, 26 June 2018. VZC ED Graham Larkin raises the flag about Halifax’s proposed Strategic Road Safety Plan. The critique began as a Twitter thread, and was continued in the phone interview with Woodford. In the same article Councillor Shawn Clearly attacks the credentials of Larkin, who subsequently invited him to debate the SRSP in public.
▶ READ Ben Spurr, After another deadly week on Toronto’s streets, Mayor Tory to seek $13 million more for road safety plan, Toronto Star, 15 June 2018. VZC ED Graham Larkin says the latest Toronto road safety plan is nowhere near adequate, and that the city needs to implement big, bold, game-changing initiatives like the ones we’ve seen recently in New York City.
▶ VZC ED Graham Larkin chats with Jim Richards of Toronto‘s NEWSTALK 1010 on 13 June 2018.
▶ READ David Rider and Samantha Beattie, ‘It’s time to declare a state of emergency’: Anger, calls for change follow deaths on Toronto streets, Toronto Star, 13 June 2018. On the two-year anniversary of the city’s dismally failing “zero traffic deaths in five years” commitment, four urban advocates are asked for three ideas to protect vulnerable road users. To a person we lead with safe 30 km/h safe speeds.
▶ W̶A̶T̶C̶H̶ ̶C̶T̶V̶ ̶N̶e̶w̶s̶ ̶L̶o̶n̶d̶o̶n̶‘̶s̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶r̶e̶p̶o̶r̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶4̶ ̶J̶u̶n̶e̶ ̶2̶0̶1̶8̶. (Link no longer current.) Six weeks into the city’s “Slow Down for Kids” sign campaign residents tell reporter Daryl Newcombe the signs are not working, and VZC ED Graham Larkin says I told you so.
▶ LISTEN to Vision Zero under scrutiny as advocates say there already are “proven solutions“, Global News Radio 640 Toronto, 4 June 2018. VZC director Graham Larkin tells host Tasha Kheiriddin that Toronto’s Vision Zero Challenge — a public data hackathon billed at $118,000 — is not a responsible way for the city to solve its road safety problems. Instead, what’s needed is investment in infrastructure that will slow traffic and separate cars from vulnerable road users.
▶ READ Lauren Pelley, City’s $118k Vision Zero competition slammed by road safety advocates, who say ‘proven solutions’ exist, CBC News Toronto, 3 June 2018.
▶ LISTEN to VZC Director Graham Larkin and Mike Stubbs talk Vision Zero on Global 980 CFPL, London, Ontario, 24 April 2018 (18 min). “Following the start of a lawn sign campaign in London that urges drivers to slow down in residential neighbourhoods, executive director of Vision Zero Canada, Graham Larkin, joins Mike Stubbs to talk road safety and whether or not the signs are a good idea.” (A good introduction to Vision Zero principles & practices.)
▶ LISTEN to Graham Larkin of Vision Zero Canada The Live Drive with Andy Oudman on London, Ontario’s Newstalk 1290 CJBK, 19 April 2018 (16 min). We talk about Canada’s 28th-place road safety record, and we touch on trending topics such as school zone safety cameras and investigations into Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Andy likes to play devil’s advocate, which makes for a bracing exchange.
▶ READ David Rider, Photo radar to be in school zones this year, Tory vows, Toronto Star, 19 March 2018. Good summary of VZC reaction to Toronto’s tepid and scattershot pedestrian safety measures. (Much fuller response here.)
▶ On 5-6 March 2018, Vision Zero Canada ED Graham Larkin was invited to comment on the plans for London Ontario’s Bus Rapid Transit system, after tweeting about their failure to accommodate active transit. W̶A̶T̶C̶H̶ ̶B̶r̶y̶a̶n̶ ̶B̶i̶c̶k̶n̶e̶l̶l̶’̶s̶ ̶C̶T̶V̶ ̶r̶e̶p̶o̶r̶t̶ ̶f̶e̶a̶t̶u̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶G̶L̶’̶s̶ ̶c̶r̶i̶t̶i̶q̶u̶e̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶1̶1̶:̶0̶0̶ ̶n̶e̶w̶s̶ [link expired] ; LISTEN to GL’s conversation with Craig Needles starting at 35:30 here; and READ some extracts from that conversation on the Global News site here.
▶ READ Brian Fitzpatrick, Advocates slam city’s ‘pay as you go’ road safety plan, Toronto Star, 29 November 2017. A progress report on Toronto’s Road Safety Plan proposes that “interested” residents might offer donations for recommended road safety initiatives. I panned the idea on many grounds.
▶ READ Stepping Up Pedestrian Safety: Graham Larkin of Vision Zero Canada on ways to make our streets safer for pedestrians, Global News Toronto, 5 April 2017. Lunchtime TV spot, prompted by news that Madeleine Petrielli’s family is suing the city over her recent death. In response to a police statement (“[i]t doesn’t appear that speed was a factor”) I share some Toronto statistics indicating that speed is always a factor in traffic violence.
▶ READ Clive Ngan, City Pushes for More Road Safety, CentreTown News, Ottawa, 8 February 2017. In which I’m quoted alongside my local City Councillor Catherine McKenney, who is pushing to implement Vision Zero in Ottawa.
▶ READ Megan Dolski and Hina Alam, “Could Teen’s Tragic Death Crossing Street Have Been Prevented?“Toronto Star, 12 December 2016. As the father of a 15-year-old girl I found it deeply moving to be featured alongside a mother grieving the recent loss of her teen daughter, Madeleine Petrielli. The quotations are based on my phone conversation with Megan Dolski. This article appeared with alternate photos in the Hamilton Spectator, here.
▶ READ Ben Spurr, “Advocates Push to Change the Way People Talk About Car ‘Accidents,”Toronto Star, 12 December 2016. A sophisticated and timely take on road safety advocacy, this is a far cry from reporting traffic “accidents” like we report the weather.
▶ READ Clare Clancy, “Ad Campaign Suggests Edmonton Pedestrians Should Wear Reflective Clothing to Help Eliminate Traffic-related Fatalities,”Edmonton Sun, 19 September 2016. I come down hard on an idea for a defensive walking campaign, which was scrapped the next day, as discussed here.
▶ PRE-2016: Before launching Vision Zero Canada in late 2015, I was living in Ottawa and active in local campaignin for safer streets. This clipping from the Ottawa Citizen (28 Nov 2014, p. 3) shows how little the basic message has changed. We need to base street design on independent safety audits that make them safe for all mobility modes. This means applying methods that have been proven in places like the Netherlands.
Conferences and Workshops
♦ On 22 October 2019 Vision Zero Canada ED Graham Larkin conducted a Vision Zero Masterclass as part of a two-day consultation with the City of London, Ontario. In attendance were some 40 city and county employees and advisors from many domains including transportation, planning, law enforcement and public health.
♦ On 21 June 2018 Vision Zero Canada ED Graham Larkin participated in the Complete Streets panel at the Building a Better City event, Westin Hotel, Ottawa. Organized by The Globe and Mail in partnership with Dream Unlimited.
♦ On 28 May 2018 Vision Zero Canada ED Graham Larkin spoke on the Vulnerable Road Users panel at the Canada Bikes National Bike Summit.
♦ On 11 November 2017 VZC ED Graham Larkin gave workshops at the annual Cyclenation conference in Oxford, England.
♦ On 1 August 2017 VZC ED Graham Larkin joined major US road safety experts on Andy Boenau’s Radicalism of Vision Zero panel at the Institute of Transportation Engineers annual conference in Toronto.
♦ On 13 October 2016 VZC ED Graham Larkin spoke to some 130 local citizens at the Ottawa City Hall Budget Speak event, giving an introduction to road safety which is one of the three themes for that year.
What follows is a selective timeline, in reverse chronological order, indicating the impact of the Vision Zero Canada / Love 30 Canada ‘safe systems’ message beyond the media appearances listed above.
♦ On 27 June 2018 the City of Toronto responded in an unprecedented way to mounting public pressure around road violence by adding another $22M to the road safety budget.
♦ On 19 June 2018 a coalition of Toronto advocates for evidence-based public policy launched the savvy and comprehensive #BuildTheVisionTO proposal in response to the city’s failing “Vision Zero” plan. The plan replaces the old “Education, Engineering and Enforcement” model with a true Vision Zero (safe systems) approach to curbing traffic violence.
♦ On 15 June 2018 the City of Toronto added $13M to its road safety plan.
♦ On 22 May 2018 the Toronto Star editorial board published a hard-hitting indictment of Toronto’s so-called Vision Zero program. This critique is in keeping with the message of VZC, including the much-read Toronto needs real Vision Zero.
♦ On 24 April 2018 Vision Zero Canada ED Graham Larkin helped launch Our Greenway, advocating for the implementation of all-mode mobility corridors throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
♦ On 24 April 2018 CBC archives agreed to a VZC request to eliminate the word ‘accident’ from their descriptions of motor vehcile crashes. This is a substantial victory, since CBC News had been especially recalcitrant in dropping the ‘a’ word, which tends to portray road violence as something other than predictable and preventable.
♦ The 21 March 2018 VZC blog post Toronto needs real Vision Zero strikes a nerve, earning 500 hits in a single day. This is the clearest statement to date about the difference between safe systems and the antiquated ‘3 E’s’ paradigm.
♦ On 6 March 2018 the Government of Canada invites public response to the summary report Let’s Talk Vulnerable Road Users and Heavy Vehicles Safety Measures. The sudden interest in a ‘safe systems’ approach to pedestrian and cyclist fatalities is, in part, a reaction to Vision Zero Canada’s critique of the absence of viable policy around matters like truck sideguards and pedestrian safety.
♦ In January 2018 some preliminary French content is added to the present website, in the form of a Vision Zero information page and a design for a French-language bike sticker multipack that will be printed when resources permit.
♦ On 20 November 2017 VZC follows the Swedish “Moving Beyond Zero” campaign by adding the promotion of active mobility to its core mandate.
♦ In June 2017 VZC releases the Bike Sticker Multipack. This is a $10 package of 8 weatherproof stickers, available in stores across Canada. In the same month VZC editor Graham Larkin assumed editorship of the Drop the A Word campaign (blog / Twitter) devoted to banishing the use of the word ‘accident’ in reporting on road violence.
♦ On 13 June 2016 the City of Toronto unveils its much-anticipated pedestrian and cyclist safety plan, with a target of a 20% death reduction in five years. This is a misstep, since by now the zero-death goal has become engrained in the public consciousness through the work of advocates and journalists. The ensuing public outcry — making liberal use of the #zerovision hashtag — leads the city to back-pedal. Within hours of the announcement PWIC head Jaye Robinson says she will put forward a motion to amend the target to zero deaths in five years. The following month the road safety program is rebranded as Vision Zero, and the budget is increased from $40M to $52M over five years. (Details here and here.) Sadly, this rebranding has not entailed a commitment to actual Vision Zero policies and principles, and the traffic violence rate continues to soar.
♦ In June 2016 websites are created for Vision Zero Canada and Love 30 Canada, which had thus far been Twitter feeds.
♦ In May 2016 Love 30 Canada is launched. This sister site to Vision Zero Canada is a franchise of the remarkably successful 20s Plenty for Us campaign in the UK, which has lowered the speed limit to 20 mph in communities where more than 15 million people live.
♦ Graham Larkin launches the registered non-profit Vision Zero Canada in December 2015 to advocate for a ‘safe systems’ approach to the elimination of road violence. This project, which began its public presence solely as a Twitter feed, is largely inspired by Neil Arason’s book No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2014).