Vision Zero Is So 20 Years Ago. It's Time for Moving Beyond Zero.

via. Moving Beyond Zero

The new vision promotes active transportation like walking and biking.

In North America, even when cities talk Vision Zero, they don't really mean it. They don't really want to understand it because it goes against what they really care about, which is making the world safe for cars. So they make up their own version.

In true Vision Zero, there is one cardinal rule: “Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system.” This differs from North America, where deaths on the road are the cost of doing business.

Vision Zero uses a "safe systems approach" that assumes that people make mistakes on the road, and that if there are crashes, it is a design problem. And one design problem they had in Sweden is that sometimes design solutions that worked with cars made life harder for cyclists.

This is a problem and seeming paradox that should be borne in mind. On the one hand we have the noble goal of zero fatalities, but on the other we have to ensure that a road safety intervention does not act as a barrier to active healthy modes of transport like cycling and walking, even if the road safety intervention is effective.

Vision Zero could be seen turning into an Onion joke.

When we call for Vision Zero it must not be Vision Zero at all costs. Taken to extremes, nobody would cycle or walk, and everybody would instead be sitting in large cars moving on slow, congested roads. It is essential that the health benefit of active transport is not lost in Vision Zero/Safe Systems.

Introducing Moving Beyond Zero

With Moving Beyond Zero, cycling promotion and road safety are interlinked. They say that about 50 percent of car trips are under 5 km (3.1 miles) and 30 percent are under 3 km (1.8 miles) and see "massive potential for transitioning from motorised transport to active modes of transport like cycling." However, perceived safety risks are a significant barrier. And these are Swedes talking! They want to stop "road safety interventions" that might act as a barrier to biking. They describe one of these:

Mandatory helmet legislation is an example of a traffic safety intervention which often has the effect of reducing the number of cyclists and thereby negating the overwhelming health benefits gained from an increase in cycling.

Now before everyone starts screaming about helmets, think about what they are saying -- the whole principle of safe systems. The idea is to design really safe infrastructure, like they have in the Netherlands, so that people don't need to armor themselves up. If people need helmets then there is something wrong with the design of the infrastructure.

electric cargo bike

Moving Beyond Zero/via

One thing that has changed since Vision Zero started is bike technology, and in particular the use of what they call Electric Power Assisted Cycles (EPACs).

EPACs are providing users, including the elderly and disabled, with much-needed daily exercise, extending and increasing their quality of life. It is, however, in the field of commuting that the potential for EPACs is being most realised. Longer distance car journeys can now be substituted by active bicycle use in the form of electrically assisted bikes.


Moving Beyond Zero/Screen capture

As we have noted on TreeHugger many times, the benefits of cycling on health are significant, which is why cycling is such a big part of moving beyond zero. It is more than just reducing deaths like Vision Zero was, but it is now about improving lives. This is particularly true for older riders:

One in four persons in the EU suffers from a mental health condition during their lifetime. Cycling’s contribution to better cardiovascular health delays dementia. Cycling can improve brain function and mental health. It also helps counter cognitive declines including memory, executive function, visuospatial skills, and processing speed in normally aging adults.

Promotion of cycling also improves cities; it gets people out of cars, making the roads better for everyone.

Studies have shown that initiatives that support active transport in urban areas decrease traffic mishaps while improving people movement and encouraging commerce and employment. But cycling investments don't just benefit cyclists. Bus routes can run 10% faster and with greater punctuality, and traffic mishaps can be cut by 45%, as examples from Copenhagen show.

Perhaps they do, but for Moving Beyond Zero to work in London, Toronto or New York, drivers would have to give up some space for safe separated cycling infrastructure. They would have to stop fighting "Bike Motorways" -- whatever they are. Which is why, like the 20-year-old Vision Zero, most of us can only dream of Moving Beyond Zero.