Vision Zero UK Campaign

Vision Zero UK is a new transport campaign working towards a road network where all users are safe from the risk of being killed or seriously injured.

Vision Zero UK wants to see pro-active moves towards 20mph speed limits, better infrastructure and the reduction of danger at source.  No victim blaming.  No road deaths.  It’s a safe management system approach/zero harm philosophy borne of the acceptance that people sometimes make mistakes ant that policies must be built to protect them from making fatal errors.  It’s a philosophy that is often found as standard in the workplace but is yet to be applied to highways.

“A mistake in the road traffic environment should not carry the death penalty” - Prof. John Whitelegg, Vision Zero UK Co-Founder.

The Concept

Successful working towards the end of fatalities and serious injuries, the objective of Vision Zero, is best achieved through the adoption of core principles to underpin transport strategy.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of a road network better able to accommodate human error - an example of this would be the better management of impact in the event of a collision, as such that no road user is exposed to collision forces likely to result in death or serious injury.  It’s a campaign championed by Vision Zero UK co-founder, Anne Semlyen, of 20’s Plenty.
  • Incorporation of several transport management strategies for better management of collision forces and rehabilitation – or ‘calming’ – of traffic.  This isn’t a policy about generating quick cash from speed cameras - in fact, in Sweden, speed cameras are ‘safety’ cameras not used to generate cash at all - it’s about enabling the best policies, policing and infrastructure to effect speed. A roundabout, for example, is an excellent speed control device if implemented in the correct way.
  • Development and delivery of evidence and robust economic analyses in order to engage key influencers, communicate cohesively through the forming of inter-agency partnerships and secure investment into intervention programmes that deliver the greatest societal benefit. Do your projects garner public support; do they gather data? Adopt ambitious visions and use performance indicators to measure progress and drive longer term targets.
  • Alignment of road traffic safety management decision making with broader public health, economic and environmental health objectives. This involves the creation of a commercial environment – breaking the silos to link health, safety and sustainability departments - that both generates demand for road safety whilst benefiting users of road transport services.
  • Embraces an ethos of ‘shared responsibility’ for road safety among the various actors of the road transport system, plus the wider public and organisations that are using/are engaged with it. The ethos invites more partners to become part of the traffic safety culture; it cannot – it mustn’t – be solely up to a panel of road experts to make decisions; it (safety) must be under the skin of every mayor, every councillor, every body.

By embedding and applying these principles, countries can establish a platform for building Vision Zero UK.

“Salus populi suprema lex esto - the safety of the people should be the highest law.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

It was Sweden that agreed Vision Zero in 1997, and its policy has had a transformational effect on the way road traffic danger and total design is tackled. Its philosophy/system energises and stimulates year-on-year improvements in the way their road safety management system operates and its ethos has since been committed to by other countries including Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and cities like New York, San Francisco and Vienna.

That is not to say, the vision has not had its protestations, the most common of these being: “Zero can surely not be reached: therefore you are on the wrong track”. To this one might ask, what then is an acceptable number of road deaths per year? Worth stating, also, is the fact that as demonstrated above, Vision Zero is not simply about delivering zero fatalities – it’s about a vision for ethical, cohesive change to transport infrastructure development.

“Vision Zero is not a set of rules; it’s a policy package that is developing all the time.” – Anders Lie, Road Safety Expert, Swedish Transport Administration

Vision Zero UK is asking local authorities in Britain to commit to a Vision Zero policy also.  It aims to work collaboratively and recruits volunteers to lobby councillors. To loosely quote what was said at the launch of Vision Zero UK, ‘local authorities handing out hi-vis to passers by, just doesn’t cut the mustard.’

The Crux

The Vision Zero debate is at its core a matter of choice.  We can choose to blindly acknowledge that ‘accidents happen’ and accept that the way that we move around will inevitably kill/injure a few people.  Or we can choose a future that sees mobility as being a function of safety – NOT the other way round. We can choose to transform our transport networks in order to get as close to zero deaths/injuries as possible.

If fatalities are predictable and preventable, as the World Health Organisation maintains, why wouldn’t we set out to eliminate them?

So What Would Vision Zero UK look like?

Key policy interventions hope to include:

  • Speed control (20 mph in all urban areas and on all roads approaching/leaving towns and villages)
  • Reduction in blood alcohol limit (Swedish level is currently 0.02%; England and Wales is currently 0.08%)
  • Zero tolerance policy towards drug-driving and mobile phone usage
  • Road traffic reduction
  • Urban design to deliver clear road traffic danger reduction for vulnerable road users

Small Steps

‘Vision Zero’ halved road deaths in Sweden between 2000 – 2009 and has already been picked up in Brighton and Hove, Edinburgh and Northern Ireland but we believe it needs to be rolled out across the whole of the UK to protect all road users including vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

If we want to start along a similar road towards Vision Zero then we need the UK Government to make financial commitments towards such policy from the £15 billion being invested on our road network in England over the next 5 years.

You can help by joining Vision Zero UK to lobby councillors and local politicians to commit to reducing road danger through approving Vision Zero.

For an in-depth analysis of the Vision Zero concept, there’s a great white-paper document from the Stockholm Environmental Institute that can be accessed here.