Building a Strong Vision Zero Foundation from the Start

by Leah Shahum December 5, 2022 in News, Webinars

An increasing number of communities in the U.S. are leaning into the Safe System approach, which is fundamental to making Vision Zero progress. With much-needed, new federal funding dedicated to Vision Zero planning and implementation and higher-level federal commitment, now is the time to make sure your community’s foundational work toward safe mobility for all is solid, effective and equitable.

In our November 20, 2022 webinar, we focused on what it takes to develop a strong Vision Zero foundation. We learned from leaders in Alameda, California (population 76,362) and Madison, Wisconsin (population 269,196) who are relatively new Vision Zero communities and modeling an impressive approach. 

It’s important to remember that making a Vision Zero commitment is not just about setting a goal or adopting a slogan. It’s about making a paradigm shift in how we prioritize safety over speed in our everyday transportation system (hear more directly from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who spoke powerfully about the need for a paradigm shift in a recent conversation with Families for Safe Streets and National Safety Council).

At Vision Zero Network, we are impressed by Alameda’s and Madison’s Vision Zero planning and priority areas and actions. Following are some highlights from our discussion with these communities, emphasizing key takeaways:  

  • Leverage Vision Zero’s more in-depth, intentional, cross-departmental planning process to develop a different philosophy internally — one that recognizes how Vision Zero differs from the traditional approach, including that safety can and should be prioritized over speed or perceived convenience;
  • Prioritize Safe System measures in the areas of most need, including identifying High-Injury Networks (even in smaller communities, as Alameda does) and layering on racial, income, and other health and demographics considerations. This moves beyond the “squeaky wheel” approach to who receives safety attention to which communities deserve it most;
  • Use proven safety strategies in proactive, systemwide ways, moving beyond reactive, spot improvements (learn more about this proactive Safe System approach from these cities’ examples). In the webinar, Alameda and Madison share their experiences with strategies such as lowering speed limits, redesigning roadways for safe speeds, replacing stop signs with roundabouts, and daylighting intersections – all in more systemic and preventative (not just reactive) ways; and
  • Recognize that commitments to safety are not new, nor are most of the strategies being used in these and other Vision Zero cities. What is critical is building great political will and public buy-in to use proven strategies to make real change. The reality is that, for the most part, we know what works to save lives on our streets, but we need to grow the strength to challenge the status quo and make change. Read about how Zero is Possible.

Whether your community is new to the concept of Vision Zero and Safe System planning, or perhaps it is updating an older plan, we encourage you to check out these key resources to develop a strong Vision Zero foundation.

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