Acting for Racial Justice & Just Mobility

by Leah Shahum June 8, 2020 in News, Press

Vision Zero Advocates: Let’s Step up to Our Responsibilities

The Vision Zero Network expresses our support for and commitment to act on the growing calls to dismantle anti-Black and racist systems in our country.

Source: Oshua Roberts/Reuters

In light of continued, stark examples of institutionalized racism and police violence — too often in the name of “traffic safety” — we join with others calling to replace the failed police approach in this country with strategies that live up to Vision Zero’s goal of safe, healthy, and equitable mobility for all. We recognize the intersections between traffic safety and institutionalized racism and acknowledge that we need to make changes and help others make changes to ensure safety for Black people, Latinx people, Indiginenous people, and people of color.

Black people in the U.S. are more likely to be killed in traffic crashes and are also more likely to be stopped by and killed by police during routine traffic stops. We cannot focus on the first half of that reality without also working on the second.

And we cannot — whether out of uncertainty or fear or convenience or ignorance — deny that some of the strategies promoted for safe mobility, including Vision Zero, are intertwined with historical and current problems of systemic racism and police violence.

Source: Oshua Roberts/Reuters

Vision Zero, as first developed and as the Network supports it in the U.S., focuses on proactively improving the built environment and systems — such as safe street designs, slow speeds, and policies that promote safe movement — rather than on reactive, punitive enforcement methods or unproven, victim-blaming education strategies.

Yet, most (likely all) local Vision Zero communities’ plans, strategies, budgets, and messaging in the U.S. still rely on the traditional E’s framework — including Engineering, Education, Enforcement, etc. This is harmful. And we need to do more to change the thinking and actions around this and to help disentangle police activity from Vision Zero work.

The Network commits to being proactive and explicit in calling this problem out and making changes in our own work; encouraging others to do the same; and providing guidance to replace police actions in Vision Zero work with anti-racist strategies. There are better ways to promote safety in our public space than today’s police system.

Listening to, learning from and partnering with those with experience and expertise about racial justice, police reform, and working against institutional racism, we commit to the following steps:

  • Replace traditional enforcement roles and strategies in Vision Zero Network guidance with strategies that uphold our belief that truly safe  design and infrastructure, coupled with policies and processes that are anti-racist, won’t require enforcement; and encourage individual Vision Zero communities to do so too.
  • Promote alternatives to punitive, inequitable fine systems, particularly in relation to traffic infractions, given the disproportionate burden on low-income people, Black people, and Brown people.
  • Commit ourselves — and provide guidance to Vision Zero communities — to dedicate more resources and time to pay, center, and yield leadership to those whose voices have been marginalized.
  • Leverage — and help others in the Vision Zero space recognize, leverage, and share — our power to center equity in our work, including in shaping the built environment; influencing policies and budgets; and communicating with the public, policymakers, media and others.
  • Draw attention to and improve upon other worthy Vision Zero strategies that will lead to unintended racist consequences if anti-racism is not a core desired outcome of our work. Examples include the emphasis on data-driven decision-making, which usually rests on police-collected crash data and commonly undervalues the experiences and rights of marginalized community members. Another is automated (camera) enforcement, which has benefits over officer-initiated actions, and must be designed and managed in ways that prevent racial profiling by transparency and accountability.
  • Recognize and change the “we know what’s best for the community” attitude that often permeates white-centered planning spaces.
  • Elevate the voices of those who’ve been working to upend structural racism and whose lived experiences should be centered in this intention, particularly within the Vision Zero and related spaces we work.

This isn’t intended to be a complete list of actions, but a starting place. We thank the many people we’ve learned from to shape our thinking — now and in the future. We acknowledge that real change won’t be quick or easy. And we welcome input and ideas. Check back in the near future for more details about our immediate next steps and longer-term plans to achieve these aims.

Following are some related writings & resources:

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