Interview with Swedish Vision Zero expert

Vision Zero originated in Sweden in the late 90s and one of the people at the heart of the implementation has been Matts-Åke Belin who last week presented 15 years of progress to the Vision Zero Symposium in New York, a city which has adopted Vision Zero principles earlier this year and this month has reduced the speed limit to 40kph (still too high).

Here are excerpts from an interview with Sarah Goodyear:

Barriers to adoption

The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into “zero.” Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.

The other group that had trouble with Vision Zero was our friends, our expert friends. Because most of the people in the safety community had invested in the idea that safety work is about changing human behavior. Vision Zero says instead that people make mistakes, they have a certain tolerance for external violence, let’s create a system for the humans instead of trying to adjust the humans to the system.

A more human-friendly system 

Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they will talk on their phones, they will do lots of things that we might not be happy about?

In Vision Zero, the accident is not the major problem. The problem is that people get killed or seriously injured. And the reason that people get serious injuries is mainly because people have a certain threshold where we can tolerate external violence, kinetic energy. And we know quite well now how much violence we can tolerate.

If you have places in your system where you have unprotected road users and protected road users, according to Vision Zero you can’t allow a higher speed than 30kph.

Mistakes will happen all the time. In our societies now, we are so dependent on road transport, we need to allow almost everyone to use this technology. That brings it back to those of us who design the system: We need to design a system that supports these people so you don’t have catastrophic failure, i.e. KSIs

Read more here.

 

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