Taking a look back at the 2017 Vision Zero Summit as we gear up for round #3 beginning in February 2018!
By guest blogger: Adina Lebo, Toronto Senior’s Forum
Back in October 2017, Parachute Canada held their second Vision Zero Summit in Toronto. Parachute invited several members of the Toronto Senior’s Forum to attend the event and I was pleased to be one of them. Many of the panelists throughout the conference came from cities in Europe, the USA and Canada which have adopted many of the safety features that I will be listing below. This has reduced fatalities and casualties in their cities. The overriding principles that these cities are following are that “cities are for people not cars”. Vision Zero started in Sweden in the 1990’s. They are 35 years into the project and their streets have been transformed by it. Vision Zero also fits our Age Friendly City criteria and the Toronto Senior’s Strategy. Every city in Europe or North America that has taken on Vison Zero has fought the prevailing and underlying belief by their citizens that “Roads are for cars, and ….pedestrians should be on sidewalks and if there is an accident on the road it is the pedestrian’s fault or the bicyclist’s fault …..Because they shouldn’t be there! - They weren’t wearing a helmet or they were too slow in crossing"...and the list goes on!
The theme in all cities that are following Vision Zero is that “Streets are for People and we’re taking them back!” The car lobby and people who use cars have been opposed to many of these initiatives…but little by little ….people are gaining strength and winning against the cars. Changing norms and beliefs are critical to changing behaviour.
Here are my take aways for Canadians cities and towns:
1.) Slower Speed Limits in the City. Evidence shows that if you are hit by a car going 20 -25 mph your chances of surviving with fewer catastrophic injuries improves than if you are struck hit by a car going 60, 70 or 90 mph.
2.) No Right Turns on Red, NO left turns on Red ….Red means STOP! This alone could reduce 81% of the accidents. Many accidents happen at intersections where pedestrians are crossing legitimately and a driver turning right or left doesn’t see them because they are looking for cars in the way not people!
3.)Four Way systems and technology for giving bikes, cars, pedestrians “each” the right of way or their turn in crossing streets and at intersections by means of flashing arrows. Also the intersections must be free of cars or trucks that block the site lines which means reducing parking spots. Also paint helps define bike from care from pedestrian walkways. This would reduce 99% of the accidents.
4.) Bike lanes must be protected space with raised borders, posts, colour, etc. separating them from car lanes. Surveys have been done throughout the world by Friends and Family for Safe Streets and 97% of the survey results show that drivers don’t mind their journey taking 3-4 minutes longer in order to avoid traffic fatalities.
Other recommendations: Clear messaging- Non conflicting messages with signals – i.e. showing a red hand saying “stop” and showing 15 seconds left to “go”? Also more time buttons for seniors and those with mobility issues. Seat Belts- Believe it or not people are still not wearing seat belts. They save lives! At lights – safety automated speed cameras, as well message boards approaching lights and crossing areas. More severe penalties for alcohol and drug related driving incidents. 9/14 accidents are driver lead accidents. More organic crossing zones built into city building and development plans.