When Vancouver-based urban cycling advocates Chris and Melissa Bruntlett dropped by the Vision Zero Canada World Headquaters in Ottawa they were wrapping up the Canadian leg of the tour promoting their brand-new book Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality (Island Press, 2018). I wanted to record a talk with them, but after all the media attention, including many podcasts, I figured they needed a break from paraphrasing their book. The result is a casual, free-wheeling conversation about the changing state of urban cycling in Canada, and what we can learn from the Dutch in everything from engineering to municipal politics. Continue reading
What the Swedes call Vision Zero and the Dutch call Sustainable Safety is an evidence-based mobility paradigm that focuses on designing fail-safe streets. It is primarily about infrastructure improvements, but it also entails the regulation of vehicles and the setting of appropriate speed limits.
The Vision Zero paradigm is radically different from the old ‘Education, Enforcement and Engineering’ approach to road safety that still holds sway in North America, including cities like Toronto that are rebranding such programs as “Vision Zero.” A survey of traffic death and serious injury data indicates that a rigorous safe systems approach—real Vision Zero—is the only way to make our streets safe. Compared to Canada, Vision Zero countries like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have about half the road violence and many times the rates of active mobility for people of all ages and abilities.
It’s misleading to brand any education measures, and most if not all enforcement measures, as Vision Zero. Research over many decades has proven that educational campaigns—whether watch for cars or watch for kids, wear a helmet or don’t text and drive—rarely result in the desired behavioural change, and they certainly don’t protect us from reckless drivers. The city of Toronto could save money by dispensing with frivolities like ‘suggested speed’ signage, and focusing instead on fail-safe and evidence-based approaches to road safety. Continue reading