by Leah Shahum May 19, 2020 in International, News, Webinars

Webinar Recap: Safe Systems for Safe Mobility: A Deeper Dive

In this webinar, the Vision Zero Network was pleased to welcome back Jessica Truong, of the international Towards Zero Foundation based in London, and formerly with the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria, Australia. A few weeks before this, Truong led an informative presentation about the principles of Safe Systems, which underlie Vision Zero. (You can watch that Part 1 webinar here.)

In this Part 2 webinar, Truong delved deeper into how Safe Systems works, sharing examples from both urban and rural experiences. And she explained how the Safe Systems approach differs from the traditional approach to traffic safety, emphasizing that Vision Zero is more than a catchy slogan or new program, but rather a transformative shift in how we advance safe mobility. (See Truong’s presentation slides here.)

Protected & separated bike lane in South Bend.

A key feature of the Safe Systems approach is acknowledging and planning for inherent risks within the system. Examples include recognizing and lessening the inherent risks by improving the roadway design: for example, using roundabouts instead of stop signs, adding center dividers on rural roads to deter head-on crashes, and adding physically separated bikeways to separate road users. Another major area for Safe Systems improvement is via the vehicles themselves, such as requiring Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) on all vehicles and heightened safety designs on heavy vehicles within areas where people are walking and biking (see example of Direct Vision Standard in London, UK).

Speed is the most important factor in determining the severity of crashes and resulting harm. Fortunately, as Truong explained in the webinar, we can control speed. Again, we can change the built environment, vehicle technology and design, and policies to limit high speeds, thus dramatically reducing the likelihood and severity of serious crashes. In the U.S. we are seeing a growing recognition and embrace of the importance of speed management, especially at the local level. Most recently, the cities of Atlanta, Minneapolis and St. Paul have all lowered their speed limits to reduce dangerous speeds and are also working to redesign streets to encourage safe speeds.

Source: Towards Zero Foundation

Notably, Truong also shared strong examples of rural areas embracing the Safe Systems approach with success, thus addressing the misconception that only urban areas can advance Vision Zero. In fact, in Sweden, the birthplace of Vision Zero more than 20 years ago, the work started on rural roadways, as Truong explained in the webinar. In the U.S., more rural and suburban areas, as well as unincorporated areas, are also showing interest in Vision Zero.

A key message for Vision Zero communities in the U.S. (and globally) is that the Safe Systems approach helps us to re-balance priorities and attention, expanding beyond the behavioral-focused traditional approach to efforts that emphasize roadway design, policies (such as speed management) and vehicle design/technology.

Vision Zero Network’s takeaway message: It is possible to design and operate Safe Systems. And it will take committed change. We hope this webinar is helpful in explaining and promoting the adoption of Safe Systems in local, regional, state, and federal transportation safety work.

Learn more about the international Towards Zero Foundation and about the U.S.-based Vision Zero Network.

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