Cyclists champion Vision Zero

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 29: A cyclist drives past a parked car and its exhaust pipe March 29, 2005 in Berlin, Germany. Many German cities are close to violating EU-regulated emission limits of so-called fine particle dust, which mostly comes from diesel engines and worn tires. The German city of Munich recently exceeded its limit, and other cities, including Berlin and Frankfurt, are likely to do so soon. While other countries in Europe, such as Italy and France, have been dealing with the growing problem, Germany has lagged behind. An estimated tens of thousand of Germans die every year because of the medical consequences of breathing in fine particle dust. Several German automakers recently announced they will introduce particle filters for their diesel cars sooner than originally planned. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Philadelphia’s third Vision Zero Conference is happening on Wednesday and it’s set to be the most diverse set of speakers and organizations the city has seen make the case, and talk best practices, for safer streets.

Organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia — an early proponent of Vision Zero in Philly — there’s a range of organizations that have come together this year to promote the idea that our city should record zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries.

For those unaware, Vision Zero is the Swedish-born policy that advocates engineering, education and enforcement options that can be put into place to bring an area’s or municipality’s (or, you know, country’s) traffic deaths down to zero.

It sounds Utopian. Because it is. But it’s also attainable.

Many cities and countries that have instituted Vision Zero policies (from New York City to the Netherlands) have seen dramatic decreases in traffic deaths. New York City had fewer traffic deaths last year than ever before. If the U.S. had instituted Vision Zero when the Netherlands did in the late 1990s, we could have avoided 20,000 traffic deaths per year, as noted in a recent report by Professor Peter Furth of Northeastern University in Boston.

Philly’s commitment

The policy has been seen as somewhat unachievable and a bit wonky until recent years. The Bicycle Coalition and our partners actually put together a mayoral debate in 2015 in which all the candidates made a commitment to Vision Zero if elected. And Mayor Kenney signed an executive order in late 2016, creating the city’s first-ever Vision Zero Task Force, which is currently constructing the city’s policy.

Philadelphia’s Vision Zero 2017 Conference is being led by organizations like the Bicycle Coalition, AAA, Uber, AARP, SEPTA, Jefferson University, and many others, to discuss how to create roadways that respect all human dignity. Those in attendance will hear from panelists, experts, and advocates about how they can work to make their communities safer for everyone.

“People of all ages deserve to be safe on the streets, whether walking, bicycling or driving. Focusing on transportation issues is one way we’re working to make Philadelphia a more livable community,” noted AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh in a recent news release.

Vision Zero assumes that people make mistakes — a correct assumption. Every day, someone’s eyes are taken off the road to check a text message, change the radio station, get someone’s attention, or a range of other distractions. When that happens, it’s up to us as a society to make sure the conditions in which that happens do not result in anyone’s death. More and more people are understanding that, and Wednesday’s conference will show how we can put it all into action.

Tickets are still available at VisionZero2017.org.

Randy LoBasso is communications manager for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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