A generation ago, Vision Zero was launched as a systems-based approach to reducing traffic harm. The vision is simple – zero fatalities. The means are more complex – recognizing that people make mistakes that cause harm, and designing roads and traffic environments that minimize risk when mistakes are made. Vision Zero has been adopted as policy in leading European countries and many N.A. cities.
Sweden is now “Moving Beyond Zero” on the principle that eliminating harm is good, yet encouraging healthier behaviours and lifestyles is even better.
An article in the Guardian prompts with the provocative headline, “Street wars 2035: can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist?” However, in a more measured tone the article goes on to explore the challenges of designing systems for driverless vehicles that allow them to coexist safely with the unpredictability of people moving more naturally – walking, cycling, skateboarding, running, or those using using mobility-assist devices. Continue reading “Driverless vehicles vs people”
As described in this release from the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, the City of Toronto adopted a complete streets policy in 2014 and has now released it’s design guidelines document to support the program.
“The City of Toronto joins a number of other Canadian cities in publishing Complete Street Guidelines. Ajax, Halifax, Calgary, Ottawa, London, Edmonton, Waterloo, and York are some of the cities that are taking strides towards building more inclusive, multipurpose, and safe streets. ”
The document is available for download on the City of Toronto’s website here.
You’ll soon hear discussion of “Neighbourhood Greenways” in Brockville. In design and function, they fit between off-road trails and complete streets, aimed at providing calm routes through low-traffic neighbourhoods, linking them to each other as well as to busier and more direct thoroughfares (spine/core routes) that need complete streets or protected bikeway treatment. Continue reading “Greenways Link Neighbourhoods”
Many questions and objections to safer roads for all modes of transport are raised frequently in Brockville and in every city moving to create a healthier place that competes to attract and retain families, and businesses that create jobs.
What’s often not well understood is that the paradigm for transportation infrastructure and services has changed irrevocably over the last decade. Municipal planning and transportation engineering was once focused on ensuring that people in private automobiles could get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Over several decades, following that paradigm contributed to unsustainable cityscapes that contribute to social exclusion and inequity, pollution, obesity-related population health decline, constrained property values and other challenges.
Over the last decade, however, that paradigm has changed. Planning and transportation is now focused on providing sustainable and healthy options for people to move about cities. Municipalities are moving quickly to prioritize “all ages, all abilities” accessibility – helping people move around their cities, for purpose or for pleasure. This paradigm shift was described by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in this 2013 paper (pdf) for the Journal of the International Transportation Engineers.
The new paradigm has been embraced by governments at all levels across North America and Europe, as witnessed by the evidence presented in abundance in this site’s articles. Simply put, the priority now is on allowing people to travel safely, whether choosing to walk, cycle, skateboard, use transit, drive or some combination of any of those modes.
In Ontario, there are 12 ministries of the provincial government and dozens of stakeholder groups collaborating to accelerate this paradigm shift, with changes in the Provincial Policy Statement, changes in the Highway Traffic Act, updated highway design guidelines and requirements, and municipal funding. Almost all professional organizations understand the need for this shift and are supporting it.
The paradigm that led us once to say that someone can find a nice alternate route is no longer accepted. The question, for example, is not “why Laurier?”, but rather “why aren’t we moving quickly to make every street safe for all ages and all abilities?” The paradigm that led us once to say that, “the street is too dangerous” now leads us to say, “well, let’s make the street safe.”
The public workshops leading up to the creation of Brockville’s 2009 Official Plan recorded comments from many asking for improved walking and cycling support. The Official Plan commits the city to implement a cycling network. Council’s commitment was reinforced last September when it endorsed and adopted the Healthy Community Vision, including active transportation in support of, “All community members have the opportunity to make the choices that enable them to live a healthy life, regardless of income, education, or ability.”
This paradigm shift is not comfortable for everyone. There are some societal changes that some find difficult to accept, for any number of reasons. As witnessed in just about every city that evolves, those opposed to change mount campaigns based on fear, uncertainty and doubt. Yet cities do evolve and in almost every case, the benefits of safer roads for all conform and contribute to the growing evidence base. As with Brockville’s upgrades to Cty Rd 2 and King St W pictured above, the world does not end. We cannot shy away from moving ahead to create a healthier city.
The USA is on track this year to kill 38,000 people in auto collisions, rapidly overtaking the 35,000 deaths by gun. An analysis of US vs European factors, coupled with emerging trends in selected US cities, shows how a different design approach pays dividends by reducing drivers’ ability to cause harm. Cities that implement Vision Zero – assuming people will make mistakes and designing facilities that reduce the impact of those mistakes – coupled with complete streets, and protected facilities for those walking and cycling, are yielding big reductions in fatalities. Read more here.
We live in a strange world in which road fatalities are normalized, expected and have been a socially acceptable price to pay for unfettered impatience. Finally, society is coming around to the notion that it’s not acceptable, and cities are starting to embrace Vision Zero. This editorial in the Globe and Mail hits the nail squarely on the head. Read more here.
In a recent consultation in Toronto, Sweden’s manager of that country’s successful Vision Zero program highlighted the change in paradigm needed to improve road safety. A paradigm that accepts that people make mistakes, and that designs roads better to reduce the opportunity for and impact of those mistakes.
“You have to realize that you have young people, you have old people, you have all kinds of people. With a philosophy like Vision Zero, you take that for granted. Instead of starting to change them, you have to start to accommodate for them and design a system for humans.”
[To date, Vision Zero has been endorsed in Edmonton and Vancouver, with Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa circling closer and closer to adoption.]
“The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the Global Designing Cities Initiative today unveiled the Global Street Design Guide, the first-ever worldwide standard for redesigning city streets to prioritize safety, pedestrians, transit and sustainable mobility for an urban century.
‘Street design is one of the single most powerful instruments available to city planners to combat traffic danger, a persistent global health crisis responsible for 1.25 million deaths annually. Street design is also the key to resolving larger issues of cities’ economic vitality, livability, and physical and social mobility. The Guide comes as urban populations increase around the world and amid a sea change in the number of cities designing, testing and implementing street transformations.”
A new poll shows that 86% of Torontonians support a safe cycling network, including 81% of non-cyclists, and that 67% of Torontonians want an investment of 4.8% per year or more of the City’s transportation budget to build that safe cycling network in less than 9 years. This is yet more evidence that Ontarians consider safe active transportation an economic necessity.
Continue reading “News: New Poll Reveals Strong Toronto Cycling Support”
“The needs of our communities evolve over time, and our street design should, too. That’s the idea behind ‘rightsizing streets’ – reconfiguring the layout of our streets to better serve the people who use them, whether they’re commuters driving, shoppers walking, or children bicycling. Across the country, communities large and small are achieving impressive safety, mobility, and community outcomes by implementing such reconfigurations.” Read more.