“Words are powerful. They shape the way we see the world around us.”
Aaron Naparstek, the founder of Streetsblog, wrote those words, and I quote it a lot, including in a recent post about why we should stop using the now watered-down and almost meaningless phrase "Vision Zero" and replace it with something with more emotional impact, like a loose translation of the successful “ Stop de Kindermoord” - Stop Killing our Kids. “We have to lose the devalued 'vision zero' and simply “stop the murders.”
But the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has come up with something better. They are having a rally for Streets That Don’t Kill People. They have crafted an emotional, powerful message and they are delivering it to the Mayor of Washington, who has, like many North American mayors, been dithering on so-called Vision Zero messages. It’s powerful stuff. Forget Vision Zero; they have a simple demand: Streets that don’t kill people. They have powerful language, which we could reprint where I live, in Toronto Canada, without changing a word (but maybe some numbers). WABA’s short letter to the mayor:
It’s been three years since you committed our city to eliminating traffic fatalities.
Since then, more than a hundred people have died on our roads.
Every single one of those deaths left an unfillable hole in a family and a community.
Every single one of those deaths could have been prevented.
This is not just a Department of Transportation problem. It’s a moral crisis that requires action from every agency in the city. It requires leadership from the top—that’s you.
You have the power to stop this, if you make it a priority.
People not dying is more important than potholes.
People not dying is more important than traffic congestion.
People not dying is more important than parking.
It’s time to stop making promises and start doing the right thing.
But of course, we know that people not dying is not more important than traffic congestion or parking, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But perhaps, with passion like this, it might be some day. Because, as Aaron notes, words are powerful.