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What should we do? Reflections from the Vision Zero Summit

 

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’sVision Zero Summiton November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’sVision Zeroapproach andParachute’s Canadianapproach.

Part of the afternoon session at the Vision Zero Summit was a panel discussion called “Vision Zero in Action”. The panel included speakers from Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto and focussed on what each city is doing towards realizing Vision Zero. One of the panelists was Greg Hart from Safer Calgary. Greg’s perspective was an interesting one as Safer Calgary is not part of the municipality; rather they are an outside agency working with the city of Calgary.  The Safer Calgary coalition is an alliance of individuals and groups that have a common interest of decreasing the potential for preventable harm and death in the city of Calgary.

Greg began his presentation by reminding us (as many speakers have today) that distracted driving is a huge challenge on our roads. There are four states in the US where texting is legal- but in the rest of the states, bans on texting have not reduced the number of distracted driving charges and fatalities. Why is that? Greg says this is because of our tendency to blame individuals for their behaviour. “He should know better than to text and drive because he’ll get a ticket” or “she should look both ways before crossing the street or she’ll get into an accident”. Statements that involve the word “should”, says Greg, raise a red flag. This is because in our brains, should statements – which are statements about our behaviour- are connected to punishment, as in my two examples above. To which our brains say, “…if I get caught”. We think that we’ll evade capture, we’ll escape an accident, that our actions won’t kill someone. Because we believe that we are smarter than we are.

VZ 2

The reality is that we’re not as smart as we think that we are. We think that we can pay attention all of the time, that we can multi-task and do all tasks equally well. This is not true. This is in part because of the role that our unconscious mind plays in our decision making. We make decisions based environmental cues that we’re not consciously processing.

Instead of thinking “should”, says Greg, we should rely on the design of our roads to guide the behaviour of the majority of road users, leaving enforcement for the 10% of underperforming road users. For example, Greg told us about an intersection in Calgary that had installed automatic ticketing, which resulted in $11 M in fines. There are two ways to view this: first that we take the money and fuel it into safety interventions or public transit etc. The second way is to realize that obviously, the intersection needs to be designed in such a way that $11 M dollars of laws are not broken. We need to create successful situations so that we criminalize fewer people and have fewer injuries and deaths.

visionzero

I am positive that I am not doing Greg enough justice with this summary of his presentation. And frankly, I wish he could have spoken for at least an hour! Please visit the Safer Calgary website to learn more.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths
Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero
Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

Public Health and Vision Zero: What role do we have to play?

Working toward Zero—together

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Websitehttp://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Parachute’s Vision Zero Websitehttp://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero



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Recap: Canada’s Vision Zero Summit 2016

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

We’re just wrapping up a terrific day at Parachute Canada’s Vision Zero Summit (#VZSummit).

After opening words from Parachute’s Pamela Fuselli (@PFuselli), City Councillor Jaye Robinson (@JayeRobinson), who is Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, spoke with both optimism and determination about Toronto’s progress towards Vision Zero. Some highlights: “watch your speed” signs near schools, red-light cameras at 79 priority locations, a plan to double bike infrastructure (hurray!), and a massive education campaign beginning in 2017. She noted that Vision Zero has had strong – and much appreciated -- support from the media.

A panel on Vision Zero around the world followed, moderated by Dr. Ian Pike. Dr. Pike enumerated five key areas for laws that help reduce road deaths: speed, drunk driving, helmets, seatbelts, and required child restraints.

Dr Mats-Åke Belin, speaking via video from Sweden and by a previously recorded presentation, noted that Vision Zero is a scientific, systematic approach to safety, putting responsibility on professionals instead of blaming road users. Implementation isn’t one-size-fits-all, however; and as more countries adopt the approach, we can learn from each other.

Dr. David Sleet spoke from his experience at the Centres for Disease Control in the US, noting that on the list of public health achievements of 20th century, #10 was advances in road safety: road safety is the intersection of transport and public health. As Europe saw 50% a reduction in alcohol-related and 47% in non-alcohol related road deaths over 10 years, he said, Vision Zero can be a philosophy, useful in keeping people’s eyes on the eventual goal of zero deaths. Implementation requires goals & targets to be set, the use of evidence-based strategies, and mechanisms to assess impact. Examples of interventions included rumble strips (which reduce run-off-road crashes by 40%) and graduated licensing, in particular reducing the number of passengers allowed in cars driven by new drivers. Each city’s mayor must commit to endorsing #VisionZero, among other requirements for designation – an interesting indicator!

Ian Grossman (@AAMVAConnection) from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (the body that represents US and Canadian driver authorities) spoke about the Toward Zero Deaths document (the US strategy on highway safety) and the Road to Zero Coalition. Toward Zero Deaths is a data-driven approach, with proven countermeasures listed in the report. Areas of emphasis in the report include drivers & passengers, vulnerable users, vehicles, infrastructure, emergency medical services, and safety management. He noted that trying to shift safety culture is the big game-changer: of course it isn’t easy, but it has been done – for example, motorbike helmets. He encouraged everyone to explore the clearinghouse for initiatives at http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/resources/.

A question came up at the end of the panel: What should Canada do? Something at the national level? At the provincial level? City level? Answer: Yes, yes, and yes.

Ned Levitt of Parachute’s Board challenged everyone – in memory of his 18-year-old daughter, who was hit by a car while out running and died -- to never give up the fight for safer roads.

An award was presented to the Ambassador of Sweden, Per Sjögren, to recognize Sweden’s lead on Vision Zero.

The next panel, moderated by Dr. Marie-Soleil Cloutier, covered the Canadian road safety environment.

Christine Le Grand of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators talked about Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025. It focuses on a number of specific risk groups as well as the general population. A database of safety measures that have been proven or are promising is available at http://crss-2025.ccmta.ca/en/road-safety-measures.

The Canadian Urban Institute’s Glenn Miller (@CANURB) focused on seniors and mobility, because Canada is aging: 1 in 6 Canadians is over 65, and it will be 1 in 4 by 2041. The safety of all roles -- drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and people using mobility devices – is important (although he noted that cyclists mostly forgotten when talking about seniors' safety). The Age Friendly Communities initiative aims to reduce the need for seniors to drive. They define mobility as the ability to travel SAFELY where and when you want.

Tony Churchill (@CARSInfo), from the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals, gave us a spoiler alert: Vision Zero is NOT about cyclists and pedestrians, but about all road users. We need to make sure messaging reaches everyone, because people ARE traffic. Semantics are important: accidents vs. collisions, aspirational vs. realistic, target/goal vs. vision….

Finally, Traffic Injury Research Foundation President and CEO Robyn Robertson (@TIRFCanada) named drugs, distraction, and automated vehicles as the three priority road issues for the next decade. Drivers testing positive for alcohol have declined in recent years, but positive drug tests have increased. Issues in implementing drug-impaired driving interventions include both the complexity of the science and popular misconceptions about the riskiness of the behaviour. TIRF’s drug-impaired driving learning centre will be available in December. Distracted driving kills about 300 people per year in Canada, especially 20-34-year-olds; a national strategy is coming in January.

The after-lunch panel was moderated by Linda Rothman and talked on a more practical level about what Vision Zero efforts are happening in Canada.

Gerry Shimko from the Office of Traffic Safety in Edmonton opened the panel. Edmonton was the first city in Canada to approve Vision Zero as their road safety strategy in their 2016-2020 plan. Targeted implementations, including right- and left-hand turn alterations, have helped Edmonton reduce road injuries from 8200 in 2006 to 3800 in 2015. At one intersection there used to be 35 crashes a year and that has now dropped to only two. “You have to do something illegal to crash there now,” he said.

Roger Browne, Manager of the City of Toronto Traffic Safety Unit Toronto talked about Toronto’s new five-year, $80M road safety plan. It has six primary emphasis areas with specific countermeasures proposed for each: pedestrians, school children, older adults, cyclists, aggressive drivers & distraction, and motorcyclists. Many agencies were partners in creating the plan as part of a large working group – again, a theme of the day; virtually all successful Vision Zero efforts involve large, diverse partnerships or coalitions. Organizational transformation inside the City is key: there must be a fundamental shift from an opportunistic to a strategic approach. They also changed focus. Since 74% of fatalities were vulnerable road users over past 5 years, it made sense to focus on these serious crashes instead of on routine fender-benders. Browne’s key lessons: 1. Be data driven. 2. Be more strategic than opportunistic. 3. Leverage existing resources.

Greg Hart (@GregsThinking) of Safe Calgary talked a lot about the word “should” and how it’s a red flag. "Should" is a product of attention & willpower: to do something you “should” do, you must be paying attention AND have the necessary willpower, interest to act. But both attention and willpower are extremely limited, much more limited than we think, and so decisions about driving are made based on environmental cues you're not consciously processing. Instead, we need to use a high emphasis on design. Enforcement should be for the lowest-performing 10% of users because design should ensure normal users do the right thing. Since people who feel vulnerable drive more carefully, design can incorporate features that make people feel more vulnerable: novel, variable, ambiguous, complex, unauthorized, proximal, opaque…. In Calgary they are aiming for safe and smooth mobility for everybody. Smooth means presenting design so people do the safe thing -- you create more successful situations so we criminalize fewer people and have fewer injuries.

The working part of the day wrapped up with a forward-looking charrette session led by the George Brown Institute Without Boundaries to get people to tease out thoughts about actions, drivers of change, and more. They’ll pull the results into a report for Parachute.

The day ended with a very welcome reception – let’s hope everyone made good plans to #GetHomeSafe!

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

Public health and Vision Zero: what role do we have to play?

Working toward zero - together

What should we do? Reflections from the Vision Zero Summit

 

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website

 

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Working Towards Zero -- Together

 
This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

It struck me that the first panel at the Vison Zero Summit this morning was really about partnership. Partnership, of course, is a topic dear to the hearts of health promoters everywhere, so to hear its critical importance emphasized by speakers as varied as City Councillor and Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, Jaye Robinson, event sponsor, State Farm, and transportation experts from Sweden and the USA was heartening indeed.

To reach zero road deaths, we need a collective effort. Every speaker this morning was clear: transport experts, planners, public health, educators, and all levels of government -- city, province, national (and even beyond) -- even car companies -- need to work together. Just as cooperation at every level was necessary for the near-elimination of polio worldwide, so too will it be necessary for Vision Zero to succeed.

Ian Grossman (@AAMVAConnection), of the Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, talked about the challenge they had in the US getting transport people and public health into the same room when they were working on the reaching consensus while working on the Toward Zero Deaths report (http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/). Then they needed to decide whether to include only the small interventions that they knew would lead to large changes in road deaths or to have an all-inclusive document including smaller contributors to change, so that everyone could see themselves in the report. The all-inclusive approach won out and (as well as the report) they created an online database of resources and interventions (http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/resources/) at all levels, available to anyone.

Near the end of the session there was a question: What should Canada do? Should we work nationally? provincially? At the city level? The answer: Yes, yes, yes. We have to work at all levels, together, to reach zero road deaths – because one is too many.
 
This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
 
 
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?
Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
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Public Health and Vision Zero: What role do we have to play?

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

Today I’m live tweeting and blogging from Parachute’s Vision Zero Summit. It’s not quite 11 am but already I’m on fire for Vision Zero and everything that it stands for. In particular, I’m really reflecting on the role that public health can play within an initiative such as Vision Zero. Today’s conference opened with a video address by Dr Matts-Ake Belin from Sweden, where Vision Zero originates. Dr Belin proposed that public health and Vision Zero take opposite approaches: that public health starts with a problem that needs to be solved and applies intervention to address the problem, whereas Vision Zero starts with the vision of what needs to be achieved. Dr David Sleet, formerly from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and now a consultant, spoke about the role for public health in Vision Zero. Dr Sleet believes that traffic injuries and deaths are the number one public health issue of our time. Advances in road safety is listed as #10 on the CDC’s list of 10 Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.

Dr Sleet asked the audience who among us work in public health. While about 10 percent of the audience raised their hands, Dr Sleet told us that today, we all work in public health because what we are doing here at the Vision Zero Summit is public health’s mandate the save lives and prevent deaths. Dr Sleet proposes that public health approach road safety in the same way as we do infectious diseases- like infection disease on wheels- by bringing the epidemiological and education lenses that we apply to outbreaks such as e-coli and Zika. In fact public health has a history of initiatives that focus on reducing to zero, such as polio.
 
VZ 1

While fellow panelist Ian Grossman from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators stated that one of the challenges in the US has been to form connections between those who work in road safety and public health, here in Ontario public health professionals are used to working intersectorally and making a difference in their communities.  While there is a role for public health, Dr Sleet stated that Vision Zero should be everyone’s vision and should involve every sector.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
 
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
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Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making mobility safe from the start

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

Vision Zero involves planning, designing and building roads and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce fatal accidents. Vision Zero believes that safety aspects must be built into the system and included when planning new infrastructure projects. The ultimate goal is to build roads and infrastructure that meet capacity and environmental challenges without compromising traffic safety.

In 2008, Montreal set a goal of reducing serious accidents by 40 per cent over 10 years. Between 2003 and 2015, the island of Montreal has seen the number of accidents causing injury or death drop by 26 per cent, to 5,203 accidents. In roughly the same period, the population has grown by four per cent, the number of cars by 12.5 per cent, and the number of people who cycle regularly has doubled, rising to 116,000 a day. Montreal’s Vision Zero plan pledges to:

  • expand photo radar speeding sectors to eight from the current five
  • reduce speed limits on certain main streets to 40 kilometres per hour
  • reduce limits on local roads to 30 km/h (where boroughs accept the change)
  • update traffic lights
  • further improve security measures at 57 of the city’s underpasses, in some cases by adding cycling lanes
  • mandate city standing committees to study the idea of prohibiting trucks of a certain size from driving in heavily populated areas, or limiting the hours when they can make deliveries
  • look into having reserved bus-taxi lanes that can also accommodate bicycles, which is presently illegal under the highway code in most cases
  • increase the number of bike boxes, putting cyclists ahead of vehicles at intersections; installing priority lights for cyclists; adding cycle lanes and boosting knowledge of the dangers of dooring.

What happens however, on existing streets, where these changes have yet to take affect? As a full-time cycle commuter in a large and busy city, I know what it’s like to bike in an environment that’s not built to keep me safe. At times like these, vulnerable road users take matters into their own hands to try to make the environment safer.

One of my favourite examples of this is Warren Huska, who Toronto cyclists have dubbed “Noodle Man” after media attention in Toronto and internationally. A year and a half ago Ontario introduced Bill 31, which requires drivers to keep at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and the bicycle when passing cyclists on Ontario roads, where possible. Despite a $110 set fine and two demerit points, few motorists are following the law. Warren took the law into his own hands by attaching a pool noodle to the back of his bike, a visual representation of the 1 meterpassing law.  Effectively, Warren makes his own bike lane where there is no bike lane, resulting in motorists giving him the space the law requires. Warren’s desperate move has hit a nerve, as the 1 million + hits to the Toronto Star video showing Warren’s noodle hack attests. Warren hopes that his pool noodle will keep the conversation about cycling safety going and influence the thinking of motorists. Colin Browne, a spokesman for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, quoted in a Washington Post article about Warren,  says “it’s frustrating that we’re relying on hacks from cyclists when really it’s a driver behavior problem,” Browne said. “The law (in Washington) says to pass beyond three feet. You shouldn’t have to attach a pool noodle to the back of your bike to make people do that.”

Warren

Photo from the Toronto Star Toronto Star

This is where initiatives like Vision Zero should come in. If the built environment makes the safe choice the only choice, wouldn’t this increase the chances of everyone using roads safely? While Colin Brown applauds Huska’s homespun approach, he said cyclists really need more bike lanes and off-road trails, more physical buffers between them and cars, and better police enforcement of safe-passing laws.

I consulted my fellow cyclists to find out how they try to be safe when the built environment doesn’t support safe cycling. 

Many of them shared stories of being passed to closely by car drivers and lack of enforcement – or even awareness- of Bill 31 by police officers. Jess Spieker shared her terrifying story of being T-boned by a car driver at an intersection in an area that has no bicycle infrastructure. In addition to safer infrastructure, Jess is calling for a Vulnerable User Road Law which would have car drivers sentenced appropriately. 

Chloé Rose bikes through parks even though there are perfectly good (if more dangerous) roads beside said parks, or adding kilometers to her route because it's safer than going straight along an arterial road. Not only does this add time onto cycling journeys, this also directly impacts businesses located on main arterials who lose out on having cyclists as a customers. Other cyclists take advantage of flex hours, changing the times of day where they travel in order to avoid high traffic times.

Another unfortunate side effect of lack of safe infrastructure is that cyclists resort to “illegal” measures such as riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way down one way side streets (salmoning) because it feels safer. Says Toronto cyclist Gerry Brown “my belief in the ability of Vision Zero to reduce road injuries and deaths is because of its focus on design changes that will make people do that. I have very little faith in our ability to change behaviour with education and PR campaigns, but with sound and proven design changes we can make everyone safer.”

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero

Vision Zero: No more road deaths

Why I’m SO Excited about Vision Zero

Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/

Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero

Montreal’s Vision Zero Plan https://mairedemontreal.ca/en/vision-zero-commitment-pedestrian-and-cyclist-safety

Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025 website features a Road Safety Measures Database

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