There are many reminders of how interconnected our world is today, none as stark as the global pandemic we face. As of this writing, it is being reported that more than 30,000 people have died of the coronavirus worldwide in just the past few months. It is worrying, of course, that no vaccine has been identified to protect us against this new threat.
Here I sit, inside my NYC apartment, mere blocks away from the usually bright lights, steady traffic and uninterrupted action of Times Square. I am dumbfounded by the absence of cars and masses of people. When I dare step outside, I see wide-open, empty avenues (something many of us dream about) and only sporadic passersby, mostly donning gloves, masks and a facial expression of bewilderment and fear.
From the beginning, Vision Zero discussions have involved public sector leaders, so when the United Nations convened its Third Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm, Sweden — the birthplace of Vision Zero — Together for Safer Roads (TSR) was honored to receive an invite. TSR is a coalition that builds partnerships to prevent crashes and save lives. We were founded by business leaders half-way through the 2011-2020 Decade of Action for Road Safety because the private sector saw an important opportunity to help make good on the promise of halving traffic crashes and fatalities.
On February 18th, 2020, I was one of over 200 youth delegates from 75 different countries were united in Stockholm, Sweden at the 2nd World Youth Assembly for the sole purpose of achieving Vision Zero.
I was fortunate to be a member of the Academic Expert Group (AEG) convened by the Swedish Transport Administration to inform the Third Ministerial Conference on Global Road Safety. It was a pleasure to work with people I have admired for years and participate in their discussions about what has worked over the past decade and how we can build on that experience in the coming decade.
It is deeply troubling to read the U.S. statement and refusal to support the recently developed Stockholm Declaration for Global Road Safety. Sadly, the response disregards well-proven, data-based findings about the most effective ways to prioritize safe mobility on our roadways. It also neglects to acknowledge what people across the nation are asking for in their very own local communities — safe streets, sidewalks, and bikeways offering more options to move about in healthy, sustainable, efficient, and affordable ways.