Adopting Vision Zero and why is so important

Many years ago, Vision Zero was a mere idea. Its goal is to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while on the road. It is also a strategy to help increase safe and healthy mobility for everyone. 

The principle is simple: “It can never be ethically tolerable that people are killed or seriously injured while they are within the road transport system” 

It was just an idea back then. Sweden approved Vision Zero in October of 1997, and since then, it has proved to be a successful strategy in Europe. By implementing this strategy, Sweden has cut their traffic fatality rate in half!

With its growing success, Vision Zero has quickly gained momentum in major cities in different countries such as the United States. Chicago became the very first city in the United States to adopt this strategy in 2012. Soon after, more than 30 United States cities have adopted Vision Zero.

This incredible concept is further affirmation that we can prevent deadly crashes. The main priority on Vision Zero is safety. It is, after all, a universal goal.  

This vision opens doors to a more comprehensive approach to transportation. These approaches involve collaboration between different agencies and advocacy organizations. 

More importantly, it breaks barriers and traditional thinking. Instead of placing all of the responsibility for safety on each individual, Vision Zero recognizes that everyone who creates and enforces the road network should also be responsible for the safety of each individual and vice versa. 

So, how does it affect cyclists on the road? Check it out below.

Your role as a cyclist

Each year, the number of cyclists all over the world grows. More people are relying on their bicycles for their daily commute to work, to the grocery store, to run errands, and more. Some use cycling as a recreational activity for fun and for health reasons.

No matter what your reason is, bicycling is a great way to get from point A to point B more efficiently and cost-friendly. It is also a great way to be active and stay fit. 

However, as a cyclist, you also have a responsibility to stay safe not just for yourself, but for the other commuters around you. Here are some tips to stay safe while riding a bike:

  • Keep out of blind spots – a majority of vehicles (specially the large ones like trucks) cannot see a bicycle in their blind spot. It is important that you, as a cyclist, do not pass when trucks and buses are turning. Stay out of the side to which they are making a turn.
  • Make yourself visible at all times – installing headlights and taillights on your bicycle are required by law. Make sure that your headlight is white, and your taillights are red. It is also ideal to wear bright, neon color or reflective clothing while you ride your bike. Installing lights to your helmet is also a good idea.
  • Go with the flow – make sure that you bike in the direction of traffic. Vehicles, other cyclists and even pedestrians expect all traffic to come from the same direction. Keep in mind that a head-on collision is much more dangerous than a rear-end collision.
  • Know the cycling laws – each state has their own cycling laws to follow. As a cyclist, it is important that you know these laws for you and everyone else’s safety. 
  • Be informed – stay on top of the news for new information regarding cycling laws, traffic rules, and traffic information.

Is Vision Zero a Possibility?

Now, you may ask yourself how a city government can ensure zero fatality on the roads. Is it possible to achieve this with Vision Zero?

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Well, Oslo, Norway, proved in 2019 that it is, indeed, possible. During their quest for Vision Zero, Oslo has witnessed zero cyclist and pedestrian deaths in 2019. 

And while Oslo has not completely accomplished Vision Zero as of yet, their city is, by far, the closest to achieving it. Boston has also recorded zero cyclist fatality in 2016. The city started Vision Zero in 2015, and their goal year to achieve the vision is by 2030. 

Naturally, success doesn’t happen overnight. It will take years – maybe even decades, to achieve success with Vision Zero. There are a lot of factors to consider before fully achieving the goal. This is why cities who have adopted the idea have set goal years. 

For instance, New York City started Vision Zero in 2014, their goal year is by 2024. Los Angeles started in 2014, and they hope to fully achieve Vision Zero by 2025. 

Indeed, there is still a lot more to do. But acting as early as possible can make Vision Zero a reality. It can prevent thousands of accidents each year, and thousands of lives can be spared. 

Traditional Approach vs. Vision Zero

Here are a few key differences between the traditional approach to traffic safety vs. Vision Zero:

In traditional views, traffic deaths are considered inevitable. However, with Vision Zero, traffic deaths are considered preventable.

Vision Zero believes in integrating human failure in their approach while the traditional approach perfect human behavior. By acknowledging that people will sometimes make errors in judgement, Vision Zero anticipates to construct road systems and affiliated policies to ensure that unavoidable mistakes do not lead to severe injuries or fatalities. 

Traditional approach aims to prevent collisions while the other prevents fatal and severe crashes. Vision Zero believes this can be done by improving the roadway environment, policies and other related systems. These will help decrease the severity of crashes. 

It will take a lot of different strategies to commit to Vision Zeroes, and it will ultimately require the cooperation between individuals and the system. It requires building and sustaining leadership, accountability and collaboration between policy makers, transportation professionals, the police, public health officials and of course, the community members. 

The best thing you can do as a cyclist is to do your part in riding safely and making sure you are following the cycling rules. This way, you know you’re doing your part in adopting Vision Zero. Safe cycling! 

© Image credits to Alexey Topolyanskiy, Yolanda Sun & Nick Night

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