March 29, 2023 BY Tiffany Smithin News, Webinars

Building a Strong Safe System Foundation: Examples from Vision Zero Action Plans

What is the Safe System approach and why is it so important to a successful Vision Zero planning effort? These are the questions we asked roadway safety practitioners in our webinar, Building a Safe System Foundation for Your Plan

We talked to Vision Zero leaders from Tacoma, WA; Philadelphia; and Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG, a regional MPO) about their experiences and lessons learned in developing Vision Zero Action Plans built on a solid Safe System foundation. Watch the recording of the 1-hour conversation below.

This webinar was the second in our series, Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Plan, which features overviews, resources and models to help communities create strong Safe System-based plans (check out the first session here). We hope this series will help communities to institutionalize Vision Zero principles in meaningful, measurable ways and improve the effectiveness of their roadway safety efforts.

>> Read our more in-depth summary of a Safe System approach, as well as actionable steps your community can take to embrace these Vision Zero fundamentals.

The webinar discussion featured three on-the-ground Vision Zero practitioners, who shared their experiences and offered advice for those embarking on Vision Zero plans (or updating existing ones). We thank our panelists for their time and expertise; they include Carrie Wilhelme, Senior Transportation Planner from Tacoma; Emily Kleinfelter, Safety/Regional Vision Zero Planner from DRCOG; and Kelley Yemen the Director of Complete Streets of the City of Philadelphia. 

Following are a few of our key takeaways:

  • In Tacoma’s Vision Zero Action Plan, which is the most recently developed of the three featured plans, the Safe System elements of Safe Speeds and Safe Streets were emphasized. These strategies are prioritized in their accompanying Local Road Safe Plan, which identifies, analyzes, and prioritizes interventions that are specific to Tacoma and incorporate public health and equity considerations into their prioritization framework. This emphasis on road design and setting speeds for safe travel are part of Tacoma’s intentional upstream focus, versus a downstream emphasis on traffic stops. The plan also prioritizes community involvement and highlights their commitment to compensating community members, activists, and advocacy groups with gift cards for their participation on the Vision Zero Task Force. 
  • Similarly, DRCOG’s plan emphasizes the need to build sustained relationships with the Denver community, while also prioritizing the experiences of people affected by inequitable conditions. Specifically, they highlighted hosting engagement meetings in locations people could attend conveniently and a focus on reducing barriers to participation. They also stressed the importance of collaborating with agencies outside the traditional transportation space, such as those in the realms of public health, housing, and sustainability. Kleinfelter explained that these cross-collaborations are important for the regional agency to better  understand and address how transportation relates to and can perpetuate inequities. Currently, DRCOG is in the process of updating its original 2020 Vision Zero Action Plan. The update is intended to provide stronger support and best practice foundation for Denver area communities to integrate better performance metrics and data reporting measures on safe system-based actions. 
  • The City of Philadelphia updated their first Vision Zero Action Plan in 2017, shifting from one that was designed on the E’s basis (Education, Enforcement, Engineering, etc.), as most U.S. roadway safety work has been over the past century. As Yemen explained, they also used a holistic approach, emphasizing strong collaboration with others, including the state Dept of Transportation, the regional MPO, and their state-owned parking agency. Their focus is on designing (or re-designing) safe streets and lower speeds throughout the city. They also worked to help stakeholders recognize the Safe System approach focuses most on preventing crashes that cause severe injuries and deaths, rather than more general crash mitigation.

Philadelphia’s 2017 Vision Zero Action Plan compared to their 2020 plan

Read more about the fundamentals of the Safe System approach, including examples from these and other U.S. communities, and additional recommendations of how to integrate this into your Vision Zero planning and implementation.

Interested in learning more? Check out these relevant resources:


Missed our previous series installments? No problem - check out our recordings, recaps, and resources on our new Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning webpage where we cover the following topics:

  1. Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning
  2. Building a Safe System Foundation for Your Plan
  3. Critical Collaboration & Commitments for Vision Zero Action Planning
  4. Prioritization: Data, High-Injury Networks, Equity Emphasis
  5. Prioritizing Speed Management in Vision Zero Planning
  6. Institutionalizing Health Equity
  7. Performance metrics: transparency, accountability, evaluation, evolution

Learn more about How to start on the road to Vision Zero and see our other Vision Zero resources. Stay up-to-date on our and other groups’ work for Vision Zero, sign up for our monthly Vision Zero Network e-newsletter.

What is the Safe System approach and why is it so important to a successful Vision Zero planning effort? These are the questions we asked roadway safety practitioners in our webinar, Building a Safe System Foundation for Your Plan

We talked to Vision Zero leaders from Tacoma, WA; Philadelphia; and Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG, a regional MPO) about their experiences and lessons learned in developing Vision Zero Action Plans built on a solid Safe System foundation. Watch the recording of the 1-hour conversation below.

This webinar was the second in our series, Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Plan, which features overviews, resources and models to help communities create strong Safe System-based plans (check out the first session here). We hope this series will help communities to institutionalize Vision Zero principles in meaningful, measurable ways and improve the effectiveness of their roadway safety efforts.

>> Read our more in-depth summary of a Safe System approach, as well as actionable steps your community can take to embrace these Vision Zero fundamentals.

The webinar discussion featured three on-the-ground Vision Zero practitioners, who shared their experiences and offered advice for those embarking on Vision Zero plans (or updating existing ones). We thank our panelists for their time and expertise; they include Carrie Wilhelme, Senior Transportation Planner from Tacoma; Emily Kleinfelter, Safety/Regional Vision Zero Planner from DRCOG; and Kelley Yemen the Director of Complete Streets of the City of Philadelphia. 

Following are a few of our key takeaways:

  • In Tacoma’s Vision Zero Action Plan, which is the most recently developed of the three featured plans, the Safe System elements of Safe Speeds and Safe Streets were emphasized. These strategies are prioritized in their accompanying Local Road Safe Plan, which identifies, analyzes, and prioritizes interventions that are specific to Tacoma and incorporate public health and equity considerations into their prioritization framework. This emphasis on road design and setting speeds for safe travel are part of Tacoma’s intentional upstream focus, versus a downstream emphasis on traffic stops. The plan also prioritizes community involvement and highlights their commitment to compensating community members, activists, and advocacy groups with gift cards for their participation on the Vision Zero Task Force. 
  • Similarly, DRCOG’s plan emphasizes the need to build sustained relationships with the Denver community, while also prioritizing the experiences of people affected by inequitable conditions. Specifically, they highlighted hosting engagement meetings in locations people could attend conveniently and a focus on reducing barriers to participation. They also stressed the importance of collaborating with agencies outside the traditional transportation space, such as those in the realms of public health, housing, and sustainability. Kleinfelter explained that these cross-collaborations are important for the regional agency to better  understand and address how transportation relates to and can perpetuate inequities. Currently, DRCOG is in the process of updating its original 2020 Vision Zero Action Plan. The update is intended to provide stronger support and best practice foundation for Denver area communities to integrate better performance metrics and data reporting measures on safe system-based actions. 
  • The City of Philadelphia updated their first Vision Zero Action Plan in 2017, shifting from one that was designed on the E’s basis (Education, Enforcement, Engineering, etc.), as most U.S. roadway safety work has been over the past century. As Yemen explained, they also used a holistic approach, emphasizing strong collaboration with others, including the state Dept of Transportation, the regional MPO, and their state-owned parking agency. Their focus is on designing (or re-designing) safe streets and lower speeds throughout the city. They also worked to help stakeholders recognize the Safe System approach focuses most on preventing crashes that cause severe injuries and deaths, rather than more general crash mitigation.

Philadelphia’s 2017 Vision Zero Action Plan compared to their 2020 plan

Read more about the fundamentals of the Safe System approach, including examples from these and other U.S. communities, and additional recommendations of how to integrate this into your Vision Zero planning and implementation.

Interested in learning more? Check out these relevant resources:


Missed our previous series installments? No problem - check out our recordings, recaps, and resources on our new Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning webpage where we cover the following topics:

  1. Fundamentals of Vision Zero Action Planning
  2. Building a Safe System Foundation for Your Plan
  3. Critical Collaboration & Commitments for Vision Zero Action Planning
  4. Prioritization: Data, High-Injury Networks, Equity Emphasis
  5. Prioritizing Speed Management in Vision Zero Planning
  6. Institutionalizing Health Equity
  7. Performance metrics: transparency, accountability, evaluation, evolution

Learn more about How to start on the road to Vision Zero and see our other Vision Zero resources. Stay up-to-date on our and other groups’ work for Vision Zero, sign up for our monthly Vision Zero Network e-newsletter.



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