Top 5 Vision Zero Trends of 2016

2016 was a monumental year for Vision Zero across the United States.

The number of cities committing to Vision Zero more than doubled, and interest in adopting meaningful, action-driven policies for safe streets has spread from a few early-adopter, big, coastal cities to communities large and small across the country. As we roll into 2017 with a challenge that is as big as ever, it’s helpful to look back at the trends — both promising and troubling — that shaped Vision Zero progress in 2016.

Vision Zero, Equity & Law Enforcement

In the wake of appalling violence in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas during the past few weeks and swelling racial tensions nationwide, a spotlight is shining on systemic inequities in our nation’s law enforcement system. These tragedies are influencing our thinking across the country. Personally, I am thinking differently about Vision Zero. Not only as it relates to law enforcement, but also in other ways that U.S. communities are interpreting and implementing Vision Zero efforts as they relate to social justice and equity. Admittedly, at this point, I have more questions than answers. I acknowledge that I feel uncomfortable talking about some of these issues, and that I’m far from being an expert in this area. Yet I do feel a responsibility, as the leader of the Vision Zero Network, to share my concerns, including places that I think Vision Zero may have misstepped early in its short history, and to look for solutions.

The central role of public health in Vision Zero

If 30,000 people were killed each year in the United States by a curable illness, we would call it a public health crisis. We would deploy resources, vaccines and interventions to address the spread and bring the death toll to the only acceptable level: zero. Yet, every year 30,000+ people are killed in preventable traffic collisions in this country. Vision Zero asks us to see those traffic deaths like polio or cholera: epidemics that, with an urgent health framing and public response, can be eradicated. In this case study we explore how San Francisco, New York City and Chicago are using the tools of public health — including epidemiology, research and a focus on the root causes of health inequities — to advance their Vision Zero efforts.