Vision Zero By the People

By Leah Shahum

Seeking Community Input

Already, we are seeing a Vision Zero that requires extensive debates and community consensus. Boston’s Visioning Lab moved beyond the constraints of the public meeting last year, engaging people in interactive “Creation Stations” to visualize how they want to get around Boston in the future, using not just community mapping but also collages, models, poems and more. On bikes or in bright colored trucks, city staff traveled to different Boston neighborhoods to gather questions and ideas from community members where they actually live, work and play. They collected people’s stories to better understand their travel experiences through their personal perspectives, including following a blind man on his commute to understand his unique challenges. His story was shared, along with hundreds of others, with residents and decision-makers citywide.

Marketing Culture Change

In the nation that stretches from Mad Men on the East Coast to Hollywood on the West, the need to sell culture change is obvious. From attentiveness to language — like the campaign to shift from traffic “accident” to “crash” — to glossy marketing campaigns against drunk driving, we see a novel focus on how our movement looks and sounds. Unlike in Sweden, where culture change is expected to trickle down from changes to engineering and policy, Vision Zero leaders across the U.S. are consciously and dramatically shifting the way we talk, and ultimately think, about traffic safety.

Leading with Grassroots

The silver lining to a less top-down approach is that in the U.S., well-organized social movements do indeed influence change. In New York City and Portland, Oregon, people who lost loved ones in traffic crashes are organizing under the banner of Families for Safe Streets. Last year, families and others impacted by traffic violence organized in more than half a dozen cities to commemorate the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the widest-ever U.S. recognition of the 20-year-old international event.

Vision Zero 2.0

Today, in Sweden, some officials are even looking to American cities for ideas about how to move Vision Zero forward. Thanks to a unique approach, led by multitudes, rooted in culture change, and founded by the outcry of the most affected in every urban center, the U.S. is providing a real example for how to save lives around the world.

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Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives is your advocate for walking, bicycling, and public transit in New York City. We stand up for #VisionZero & #BikeNYC.