Best practice lessons from cities implementing Vision Zero and Safe Systems Road Safety

Author: Dr Adrian L Davis FFPH

Date of Publication: March 2022

Uploaded to Knowledge Centre: 11 May 2022

In most cities, including in High Income Countries, approximately 80% of road traffic deaths are pedestrians and cycle users, with pedestrians comprising the majority and with poorer residents significantly more likely than wealthier residents to be among the injured and killed. As the OECD notes, in some cities the figure is higher. While speeds may largely be low enough to avoid fatalities for people inside vehicles, those who are often termed ‘vulnerable road users’ are truly most vulnerable to being hit and seriously injured, if not killed, by people driving motorised vehicles. This is not a new phenomenon but whilst safety has certainly improved over recent decades for car occupants it still hasn’t for vulnerable road users.

In 1997 the Swedish Parliament made a historic decision to no longer accept deaths and life changing injuries in the traffic system as a price for personal mobility. They adopted Vision Zero. In the intervening 25 years many countries and settlements within countries, mostly cities, have followed and joined in that vision for zero. That vision has been supported and promoted by the major organisations concerned with health and transport: the World Health Organisation, the OECD, and World Bank. Vision Zero from Sweden has now become part of the wider concept of Safe Systems Road Safety.

One of the first cities in the UK to develop a Safe Systems Road Safety Plan was Bristol. In 2019 Bristol City Council issued its first One City Plan. This had a target for 2040: “There will be zero people killed or seriously injured due to avoidable incidents on Bristol’s roads”.1

In this report, taking case examples from across cities in High Income Countries and the learning that has gone with Safe Systems Road Safety programmes, a first set of steps is offered. These are steps that can be taken on a path which could ultimately deliver on that One City Plan target to end road traffic fatalities and life-changing injuries in the City of Bristol.

To move beyond the rhetoric of a target there needs to be a coalition of support from across the city that buys in to the necessary decisions and actions along the pathway. This is likely to need advocacy from community groups pressing the case for freedom from fear which is a necessary marker of road safety, as noted in New York, US. From this it will be possible to gain a shared understanding of the ambition.

In all, eight steps are provided in this report. Efforts to end serious injury will also help with enabling people to choose to walk more and perhaps to feel safe enough to cycle, as has been shown in some of the case examples, when city networks of protective infrastructure are provided from motorised traffic.

Click the link below to access the report: