As the momentum around Vision Zero spreads across the United States, one of the most common questions we hear from interested stakeholders is: What makes a Vision Zero community?
We know that achieving the goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries can’t be achieved with a “business as usual” mindset. While Vision Zero is, indeed, a set of strategies, it is also, fundamentally, a new approach, a different framework, that starts from an acknowledgment that severe traffic crashes are preventable.
Based on the experiences of early-adopter cities in the U.S., we have an understanding of the most critical components of a strong, effective Vision Zero commitment. While this is not a comprehensive list, and ideas will continue to evolve, these nine elements are proving essential to building a strong base for Vision Zero success. Another, more detailed, resource is Core Elements for Vision Zero Communities.
1) Political Commitment
Highest-ranking local officials —Mayor, City Council, City Manager — make official and public commitment toward a Vision Zero goal to achieve zero traffic fatalities and severe injuries among all road users (including people walking, biking, using transit, and driving) within a set timeframe. This should include passage of a local policy laying out goals, timeline, stakeholders, and a commitment to community engagement, transparency, and equitable outcomes.
2) Multi-Disciplinary Leadership
An official city Vision Zero Taskforce (or Leadership Committee) is created and charged with leading the planning effort for Vision Zero. The Taskforce should include, at a minimum, high-ranking representatives from the following local departments: Office of the Mayor, Police, Transportation (or equivalent), and Public Health. Other departments to involve include Planning, Fire, Emergency Services, Public Works, District Attorney, Office of Senior Services, Disability, and the School District. Examples of strong collaboration are here.
3) Action Plan
A Vision Zero Action Plan (or Strategy) is created within one year of initial commitment. The Action Plan is implemented with clear strategies, “owners” of each strategy, interim targets, timelines, and performance measures. Much more detail on the fundamental elements of a strong Vision Zero Action Plan here.
City stakeholders commit to both an equitable approach to Vision Zero by establishing inclusive and representative processes, as well as to equitable outcomes by ensuring measurable benchmarks to provide safe transportation options for all road users in all parts of the city. Read more about Equity Strategies for Vision Zero here and here.
5) Cooperation and Collaboration
A commitment is made to encourage meaningful cooperation and collaboration among relevant government agencies and community stakeholders to establish a framework for multiple stakeholders to set shared goals and focus on coordination and accountability. More about model programs that emphasize multi-departmental coordination here.
6) Systems-Based Approach
City leaders commit to and prioritize a systems-based approach to Vision Zero — focusing on the built environment, systems, and policies that influence behavior — as well as adopting messaging that emphasizes that these traffic losses are preventable. More on the Safe System approach here and here. And more from U.S. DOT here.
City stakeholders leading Vision Zero efforts commit to gather, analyze, utilize, and share reliable data to understand traffic safety issues and prioritize resources based on evidence of the greatest needs and impact. Examples of the importance of data, especially the High-Injury Network, are here and here.
8) Community Engagement
Opportunities are created to invite meaningful community engagement, such as select community representation on the Taskforce, broader community input through public meetings or workshops, online surveys, and other feedback opportunities. Examples of strong community engagement strategies and considerations are here and here and here.
The city’s process is transparent to city stakeholders and the community, including regular updates on the progress on the Action Plan and performance measures, and a yearly report (at minimum) to the local governing board (e.g., City Council). Read about one community’s process here and here.
Additional relevant resources (not already listed above):
- Core Elements for Vision Zero Communities
- Managing Speed for Safety
- Where to Start on the Road to Vision Zero
- Moving from Vision to Action: Fundamental Principles, Policies & Practices to Advance Vision Zero in the U.S.
- We Know How to Fix Deadly Streets
Find out how communities may be recognized by the Vision Zero Network here.
Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit organization working to advance safe mobility. The goal is Vision Zero, zero traffic deaths or severe injuries among all people. Learn more about the Vision Zero Network. And more about Vision Zero. You can support the work of Vision Zero Network by making a contribution. And stay updated by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter.