Prioritizing Health Equity

in Vision Zero Planning

New Resource Highlights Key Actions, Examples

We cannot achieve the goals of Vision Zero without also addressing the systems that result in disproportionate safety risks for some, particularly low-income and BIPOC communities. Given these unfortunate realities, policymakers, roadway safety professionals and advocates have the opportunity—and responsibility—to recognize and address the equity disparities that show up in our work. With increased urgency to address both the nation’s roadway safety crisis and the need to remedy historic and ongoing inequities, now is the time to make change.

Vision Zero Network has developed this new resource, Prioritizing Health Equity in Vision Zero Planning, that shares actionable steps and examples to align Vision Zero work with meaningful advancements towards safe, healthy and equitable mobility for all.

Why Health Equity Matters in Vision Zero Planning

Stark examples of these disproportionate roadway safety impacts in the U.S. include, but are not limited to, the following:

Source: U.S. traffic deaths disproportionately affect Black and American Indian people. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016-2020 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates; Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS): 2016-2020 Final File and 2021 Annual Report File (ARF)

These disparities in roadway safety risk are spurred by the reality that these same communities are more often overburdened with roads designed for high volumes of traffic and high speeds, leading to more crashes, serious injuries and fatalities. These same communities also experience a lack of safety infrastructure, specifically for people walking and biking. This includes limited access to crosswalks and connected sidewalks; fewer functioning street lights; fewer bikeways; and even limited basic traffic calming safety features. Moreover, decisions related to our everyday transportation systems intersect with many consequential aspects of our lives: access to jobs, education and healthy food; opportunities for economic advancement and other critical destinations. Despite this, most traditional transportation planning and policy work continues to focus on individual behavior-related strategies that often restrict movement and access to resources, rather than addressing the infrastructure, policies, and past decisions that created and sustain these unsafe built environments in the first place.

With growing focus on Vision Zero—safe mobility for all people—there is an immense opportunity to not only align the goals of roadway safety with the goals of health equity, but to take steps towards lessening health disparities through roadway safety. Specifically, local, regional and tribal communities across the nation are receiving significant federal funding for Vision Zero Plan development and implementation that prioritizes the safety of underserved communities and vulnerable road users.

Learn more about what steps you can take for a more equitable Vision Zero Planning process in our October 10 webinar.

A Framework for Action

We hope that planners, engineers, policymakers, consultants, advocates and other key stakeholders working on Vision Zero efforts will find the recommendations highlighted in this new resource useful for incorporating equity goals, strategies and outcomes in Vision Zero Action Plans and ongoing work.

The actionable steps highlighted in Prioritizing Health Equity in Vision Zero Planning are categorized under six key recommendations:

We recognize that communities are at various stages of development on these topics and have differing capacities and needs. In some communities, the ideas shared here may already be under way or may be actionable in the near term, while in others, the ideas shared may be seeds planted for longer term progress. If some recommendations seem out of reach for your community now, we encourage thinking about how they can be helpful conversation-starters with colleagues and stakeholders to encourage steps towards change. So, rather than approaching the recommendations as a one-size-fits-all strategy, we empower you to think of the strategies recommended here as places to build from and opportunities for growth towards the goal of safe and equitable streets for all. 

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