Seattle is one of the safest cities, not just in the US, but in the world. We are making progress on Vision Zero, our ultimate goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030, but we need to continue redesigning streets, enforcing the rules of the road, and educating the public.
Unfortunately, there has been an increase in traffic deaths nationally for the second straight year. In 2016, more than 40,000 people lost their lives in a car crash. And most of these crashes were preventable. In Seattle, close to 20 people die each year as a result of traffic collisions. Another 150 people suffer serious injuries, many of which are life-changing.
Earlier this month, SDOT Vision Zero program staff traveled to New York to collaborate and learn from other transportation, public health, and law enforcement professionals, along with safe street advocates, from around the world in New York City at the Vision Zero Cities conference.
At the conference, SDOT staffers dove deep into topics like data analysis, speed management, and community engagement. SDOT Vision Zero staff learned from counterparts in New York City, Portland, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and several other cities. The conference was jam packed with panels and keynote speakers discussing a range of issues, from equitable traffic enforcement to crash prevention technology, health equity to project prioritization, and more.
Claes Tingvall, a retired Swedish Transport Administration official at the forefront of developing Vision Zero in 1995, spoke to the group. He was inspired by the amount of activism and energy in the United States and noted that when Vision Zero started in Sweden, there were no advocacy organizations to build support for the effort in local communities. Here in Seattle, organizations like Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club partner with SDOT to promote design changes and build support behind safety projects.
In New York, our staff heard from Mayor Bill deBlasio, who encouraged transportation officials to challenge the status quo and touted New York City’s safety record – in 2016 they had the fewest traffic fatalities in recorded history and have seen fatalities drop 22% in 3 years. He pushed Vision Zero cities to be bold in implementing solutions:
“The way to think of this is through your own family. Make it personal and that will give you the inspiration. And remember the positive. Every life saved means a wonderful life ahead; means a family that’s whole; let that energize everything you do.”
So let’s make Vision Zero personal, because it is. Vision Zero is about improving safety for everyone – for our children and grandparents and everyone in between, no matter how they are getting around.