Category Archives: traffic violence

Toronto needs real Vision Zero

Memorial near Kennedy Public School, Scarborough for 11-year-old Duncan Xu, who was fatally struck by a driver as he was walking home on Feb 27, 2018. (Photo : Jaren Kerr / Toronto Star)

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

Road violence and the English language

Orwell, again

My previous post included a long quotation from George Orwell, and an explanation of how fully he grasped the importance of safe speeds and collision-resistant infrastructure. Here are some excerpts from that remarkable 1946 statement.

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In the following brief post I will again quote Orwell at length. But today the subject is how we talk and write about traffic violence, and I’ll be quoting the opening section of his famous essay Politics and the English Language, also written in 1946.

Orwell writes:

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language—so the argument runs—must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Continue reading

George Orwell on Traffic Safety

'Keep Death off the Road' campaign poster designed by William Little and issued by the Ministry of Transport, Great Britain, 1946.

William Little, ‘Keep Death off the Road’ poster issued by the Ministry of Transport, Great Britain, 1946.

Eric Arthur Blair (1903–1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, is one of the greatest English prose stylists and social justice critics of the 20th century. He is also an unsung hero of traffic safety advocacy.

After being declared unfit for passionately-desired military service during the Second World War, Orwell ultimately obtained war work with the BBC in 1941, supervising cultural broadcasts to India to counter Nazi propaganda.

Realizing that this well-meaning campaign was having little effect, he resigned in November 1943 to take up work as literary editor with the left-wing weekly Tribune. For the next three and a half years he would write a series of free-ranging columns under the title As I Please.

The 8 November 1946 column included reflections on a new propaganda effort—Britain’s Keep Death off the Roads campaign Continue reading