But as it turns out, it is protecting life beyond its intended scope of action. Vision Zero’s progressive perspective on road fatalities prevention focuses on the most vulnerable roads users – pedestrians and cyclists. And rather than considering only the elements that are specific to the road and its users, such as road signage, traffic lights, etc., it covers road transportation as a whole. The aim is to change behaviours and reduce the number of cars on the road, which not only decreases the number of fatalities, but incidentally has a positive impact on the environment. 

Promoting Public Transit, Active Transportation and Fewer, Slower Cars

“We must provide a safe system to encourage people to get out of their personal cars and onto their feet or bikes, or on the train or bus. Public transit is 10 times safer than a personal car,” says Karin Hassner, Transportation Planner and Safety Expert at WSP’s Stockholm office. One traditional bus is comparable to removing 50 cars from the street. This has a direct positive impact on road safety, but also on air quality and community life. Social links are improved when people walk or bike and interact more often. At a larger scale and in the longer term, reducing greenhouse gases emissions contributes to climate change prevention.

For example, our US team has delivered The Princeton Bicycle Mobility Plan, presenting a vision to fully integrate bicycling as a convenient and safe form of daily transportation for residents and visitors of all ages. The Plan outlines strategies and infrastructure improvements to encourage and promote higher bicycle ridership, improve access to the municipality's vibrant downtown, and help alleviate traffic congestion and parking constraints.

Our Australian team has also led the development of a 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 devide adopts the design principles of “brommerdrempels”, which are sinusoidal speed humps employed to slow moped or scooter 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 devide’s 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.

In Sweden, we 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, virtual reality and sketching to create a variety of perspectives, WSP provided the city with alternatives of critical importance for future political decision-making and financing negotiations.

 
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Supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Although it’s entirely distinct from its core objectives, Vision Zero can have a strong impact toward sustainability. The recommendations and designs brought by Vision Zero work toward some of the UN SDGs, namely those pertaining to road safety:

goal9

Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all

goal11

By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

More men than women are killed in road accidents, and therefore reducing road fatalities contribute to greater gender equality, which is also one of the SDGs.

A Global Effort

Vision Zero is now implemented in cities around the world, and may involve promoting public transit and active transportation, designing transit-oriented developments (TOD) with more livable neighbourhoods and fewer parking spaces, building wider sidewalks for pedestrians, introducing traffic-calmed areas, using trees to delineate paths for cars and for other road users, adding bicycle trails, and more. 

Such measures could just as well be part of a strategy to improve air quality and limit global warming, as part of a city’s sustainability and resilience plan, for example. Positive environmental impacts may only be a side benefit of Vision Zero, but they are tangible and can provide added value to cities and organizations adopting the program.

 

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