Yet another Canadian city — Saskatoon, SK — is poised to adopt a road safety program that aims to eliminate death and serious injury on its streets. The city’s draft Vision Zero proposal is a welcome move that has garnered letters of support from the chief of police, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and Medavie Health Services West. As it stands the proposal is a a mixed bag, so this seems like a good time to take a close look, and to draw some lessons for the benefit of Saskatoon and other communities poised to take the Vision Zero leap.
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First, a little background. Yesterday I was approached by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, and quoted as expressing my concern that no Canadian city was really grasping what I call the Vision Zero difference: Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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
Yesterday I joined Edmontonians in criticizing a proposed defensive walking campaign, admonishing pedestrians to wear high-visibility colthing and to make eye contact with drivers. Here (for as long as it’s up) is the description of the proposed campaign, and here is how I was quoted in Clare Clancy’s report on the scheme in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal & Edmonton Sun: Continue reading
Today 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan was slain on the streets of Ottawa, where I live. She and her bike went under the wheels of a truck at the intersection of Laurier and Lyon. Both streets have nominally protected bike lanes. These days I cycle four days a week to a building on that same block, but I generally avoid the Laurier bike lanes. They are too narrow, they’re constantly overrun by pedestrians and cars, and the crossings are a free-for-all of motorists and vulnerable users. And downtown they’re about the best we’ve got.
I regularly take the Lyon street lane, “protected” by intermittent floppy plastic bollards, on my way home. Two weeks ago I was knocked from that lane onto the sidewalk by an SUV making a right turn from Lyon to Gladstone. After completing the turn the driver paused a good distance away after hearing me bang against the vehicle, and as I got up with the help of another cyclists the vehicle simply drove off. Why wait around after hitting a cyclist in front of a witness? Continue reading
A New Vision for Canada
Vision Zero in a Nutshell
Vision Zero vs. ‘Towards Zero’
Success to Date
Help Me to Help You
A New Vision for Canada
Welcome to the web site of Vision Zero Canada, a registered nonprofit devoted to the elimination of death and serious injury on Canada’s roads. At time of writing (11 July 2016) this campaign is being run entirely by Graham Larkin, as announced in a December 2015 post on my Slow Ottawa web site. Before today its public face was a Twitter feed with 1350 followers, along with the safe speeds campaign Love 30 Canada that I launched in June 2016. This post provides a run-down of the Vision Zero Canada activity to date.
Vision Zero in a Nutshell
Vision Zero combines ethically-rigorous traffic safety principles, including a commitment to the timely achievement of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries, with a holistic “Safe Systems” approach dedicated to achieving that goal. When safe systems are in place, serious injury and fatal crashes have a hard time penetrating the multiple shields of safe vehicles, safe roads, safe speeds, and safe drivers. While there are educational and enforcement components to these systems, the focus us largely on design that protects road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Safe speeds are also crucial, as you can see from the information at our sister site Love 30 Canada.
A superb video from the Swedish government claims that Vision Zero boils down to the following principle. Continue reading