Kathleen Ferrier, the Vision Zero Network’s Policy & Communications Director, is moving on to a new position as Policy Director with her local councilmember in San Diego. Since joining us, she has been an indispensable member of our team. We are tremendously thankful to Kathleen for her notable accomplishments in advancing Vision Zero in the U.S.
Given her in-depth work with dozens of communities across the country, we asked Kathleen for her thoughts on the state of the Vision Zero movement. (And learn more about the open position of Vision Zero Network Policy & Communications Director here.)
VZN: Kathleen, how would you describe the change you’ve seen in how U.S. communities are thinking about Vision Zero in the past few years?
Kathleen: In short, change is happening and that’s encouraging to see! One of the most positive aspects is that more and more cities are integrating a systems-based approach—what we call Safe Systems—into their Vision Zero initiatives. Cities like Seattle, New York City, Ft. Lauderdale, and my hometown of San Diego, are not only looking at design improvements to improve safety in areas marked historically by serious injury and fatal crashes, but also taking a proactive approach to improve street designs, increase safety, and prevent future serious crashes in a more systemic way.
I’m also very impressed with the enormous desire for change around safe speeds and lowering speed limits. We know that speed-setting policies are generally outdated and geared towards moving cars, not people. New York City, Portland, Seattle, Boston, and Cambridge are leading the charge to lower their speed limits. Their actions and advocacy are having a positive impact on building momentum to change longstanding, outdated policies around speed.
VZN: What other Vision Zero-related changes are you most encouraged to see?
Kathleen: It’s very interesting to see that so many Vision Zero cities are finding similar trends in their data, most notably, that a small percentage of roads often make up the areas with the greatest numbers of traffic deaths and serious injuries. The development of High Injury Networks is an incredibly important tool as it can help decisionmakers direct limited resources to the most important areas and literally save lives. I hope that more and more cities invest in these areas to improve safety, and that they take the time to engage communities along the way.
VZN: What was the most significant thing you learned about Vision Zero during your time with the Network?
Kathleen: The role of law enforcement in Vision Zero and local communities is a big learning opportunity. This is an issue ripe for change, and the Vision Zero component is a small piece of a larger problem. In recent months, I’ve learned of really positive programs across the country that work to build relationships and trust between police and community members. Even though Vision Zero touches on a small portion of this, the movement provides an opportunity to further explore change.
VZN: What do you think needs to change most to make real progress toward safe mobility for all?
Kathleen: I’d say it’s how our society views and deals with the problem of speed. We all know that speeding is dangerous, yet we have allowed our society to condone it. We need to grow awareness about how existing, outdated speed policies influence our actions and contribute to the public health crisis of traffic deaths. So many transportation policies operate in a vacuum to ensure the efficient movement of cars, without connecting to surrounding community issues. This is beginning to change.
As more cities adopt Vision Zero and push for reform, and more families advocate for action after the loss or injury of their loved one, I hope to see the culture shift. ~Kathleen Ferrier
VZN: What advice would you have for a community that is new to Vision Zero and considering adopting this approach?
Kathleen: The Vision Zero approach can happen in communities big and small. It takes commitment among leaders and staff to make it happen and to do it right. It’s important to take the time to build understanding of a systems approach and how it is different from a traditional approach, and then build on existing programs and policies to implement. Embrace the fundamental principles of ensuring transparency and accountability with staff members as well as the larger community. Ultimately, we all want to live in communities where we have the freedom to feel safe, no matter our age, color, background, or choice of transportation. City leaders have to rethink existing policies and ways of doing things to achieve this goal, and Vision Zero provides an avenue to do that.