Anticipating the unforeseeable, perceiving the unexplainable and designing the unthinkable, all within the framework of something international in scope, but applicable locally. Vision Zero is a road injury prevention strategy with a bold approach to road safety. Vision Zero refuses to accept road fatalities and serious injuries as the inevitable expense of mobility.
A SHIFTING GLOBAL PARADIGM IN ROAD SAFETY
Addressing not only what is possible, but also what is necessary, Vision Zero is a new dimension of road safety that focuses on injury prevention, pushing towards a safer future.
With more than 1.25 million traffic fatalities annually, at a cost of approximately 3% to government GDPs, a multifaceted approach to effective and long-term changes to road safety around the world is long overdue. Despite increased mobility, reductions in road traffic deaths and injuries have been witnessed in high-performing countries under the Safe System approach, which envisions safer road systems that take human error into account. The challenge ahead is to replicate and enhance those statistics globally, including in low- and middle-income countries that account for up to 90% of road traffic deaths.
ADVANCING THE CORE ISSUES
Since Vision Zero’s adoption in Sweden 20 years ago, the initiative has received considerable international interest and has spread to countries around the globe. Vision Zero distinguishes itself from traditional road safety approaches by focusing solely on fatalities and serious injuries, drilling down on those issues through acknowledgment of human error and the sharing of road system responsibility between users, designers and decision-makers. In the course of pulling together data from police reports, trauma centers, first responders and much more, Vision Zero has emerged as a new perspective on road safety that is intended to address the epidemiological problem that road transportation represents.
Some of the main pillars of Vision Zero include:
- Zero is the only acceptable number of deaths within our transportation systems;
- Humans fail, design shouldn’t. System designers are responsible for the design, operation and use of the road transport system and are thereby responsible for the level of safety within the entire system. Road users are responsible for following the road transport system rules set by its designers. If users fail to comply with these rules due to a lack of knowledge, acceptance or ability, the system designers are required to take the necessary further steps to counteract people being killed or injured;
- Collaboration between various levels of government, public services, private industries and other road managers is the key to successful implementation;
- Collaboration with police, health/rescue, road users and society in general is essential;
- The advancement of Vision Zero must focus and rely on evidence-based science.
AT THE FOREFRONT OF A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
WSP’s experience with Vision Zero work has positioned the firm to assist municipalities around the world in achieving their road safety goals. We assist clients with:
Establishing targets, strategies and policies;
- Preparing action plans;
- Conducting safety audits;
- Collecting data and analyzing statistics;
- Designing roads and streets;
- Designing cycling, pedestrian and public transit infrastructures;
- Designing safe and sustainable residential developments, and more.
WSP is a global leader in road safety and has played a major role in the reduction of collisions around the world. WSP’s ongoing history with Vision Zero projects in Sweden includes the Municipality of Huddinge, where WSP provided a road safety program and action plan as part of the municipality’s Vision Zero goals. The firm provided targets for the year 2020 and strategies to achieve those goals, while prioritizing certain areas to focus on fewer fatalities and injuries. WSP also mobilized a multidisciplinary team of street designers, landscape architects and urban and traffic planners to address the City of Stockholm’s desire to increase accessibility for cyclists in its busy Vasagatan district, while ensuring road safety within the confines of a very narrow setting. Using LIDAR, VR and sketching to create a variety of perspectives, WSP provided the city with alternatives of critical importance to future political decisions and financing negotiations. WSP has also been working with the road safety program for Stockholm and has been involved in several research projects conducted for the City of Stockholm and the Swedish Transport Administration.
The success of Vision Zero projects in Sweden has spurred a global movement that has spread across borders to the rest of Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Asia. With offices around the world, including in countries with the highest per capita road deaths, WSP has built an experienced network of Vision Zero experts. By gathering and sharing our expertise on road safety, creating innovative tools for our consultants and anticipating the demands and requirements of our clients, WSP is fulfilling its mission to be a solution-driven advisor in the market of tomorrow.
In the US, WSP has been a key partner in New Jersey’s award-winning Complete Streets Initiative, preparing the Complete Streets Design Guide for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and presenting tools and methodologies to design Complete Streets in a variety of settings. In Philadelphia, WSP is helping the City implement the first Vision Zero Action Plan through the creation of a “Measures of Connectivity” tool enabling the analysis of “before” and “after” conditions for candidate corridors for Complete Streets investments. WSP’s expertise includes a variety of planning, design, outreach and educational efforts to ensure optimal implementation in municipalities with differing needs.
Across Australia and New Zealand, WSP is at the forefront of transport planning and traffic engineering. With over 70 people working in 16 different offices, the region’s Integrated Transport Planning team delivers a diverse range of projects for local and state government clients, many of which involve road safety.
Recently, WSP played a key role in the planning and design of several “Safe Active Streets”. These corridors (sometimes referred to as “bike boulevards”) can be described as traffic-calmed local residential streets which prioritize the needs and safety of vulnerable road users, while simultaneously making local communities more livable and family friendly. Although relatively new to Australia, the concept of re-engineering local residential streets to reduce vehicle speeds and traffic volumes is gaining traction in many other parts of the world. Numerous studies have shown that reducing speed limits on local streets to 30km/h leads to a significant reduction in the number and severity of accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.
WSP has also led the development of an innovative new type of shared path speed control device which aims to minimize instances of conflict between very fast cyclists and other path users, particularly around train stations and in areas popular with joggers, dog walkers, etc. The treatment adopts the design principals of “brommerdrempels”, which are sinusoidal speed humps employed to slow moped users on similar paths in countries such as the Netherlands. In the coming months, WSP, in collaboration with the Western Australia Department of Transport, will be evaluating the treatment from the perspectives of safety and effectiveness in a closed environment situation. If successful, a second phase of the trial will be undertaken on an active shared basis, involving a comprehensive before and after study.
Vision Zero represents an exciting new direction that is taking road safety to another level. The concept can be tailored to any road environment to ensure greater mobility, a better quality of life, healthier communities and much more. With estimates suggesting that 75% of global infrastructure still remains to be built by 2050, Vision Zero is the here and now, with a relatively short timeframe to achieve the goal of eliminating road deaths and serious injuries in the global road traffic system.