Vision Zero: All Safety Hat, No Safer Cattle to This Point

Citylab’s Laura Bliss, et. al., have put together a thorough statistical and visual look at how verbal-only implementation of “Vision Zero” pledges since Chicago in 2012 have  largely not resulted in any discernible drop in roadway deaths.

Expansively looking at early-adopter Vision Zero cities such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C., the piece is truly a TL;GR (Too Long; Gotta Read) examination of the many factors around the country making VZ words = little impact. One factor is the rise in deaths in communities of color since VZ pledges began back in 2012, one example being roadway deaths in African American neighborhoods of D.C.

Washington traffic

Combining statistics now achieving something of a longitudinal status (and the difficulty in keeping such data valid/reliable) with case study looks into the limited policy attempts to put VZ words into action, Bliss & Co. close with a paragraph that sums up, like good writing does, what many of us following Vision Zero have had rattling around in our heads, but haven’t been able to put into words:

Politics may be the major root of the problem in every city. In the U.S., even the cities making the greatest strides to reduce traffic violence aren’t likely to meet their ten-year targets. That is largely because eliminating those deaths and injuries will require massive infrastructure overhauls and policy changes that dramatically reduce driving speeds and driving, period, which will take years of culture-change and constituency-building to accomplish.

One of many mistakes being made with VZ pledges is the tendency to use year targets, such as “no deaths by 2030.” Bliss, et. al.’s important contribution to the literature points out the vacuity of proclaiming such targets without the paradigmatic change necessary to meet them, and the naivete of setting targets only a few years away when paradigmatic change takes far, far, far longer.



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