The City of Surrey hosted the first Vision Zero summit in British Columbia at Surrey City Hall. Vision Zero refers to zero road deaths and no serious injuries on roads, with the philosophy that every life matters. Applied in Sweden since 1997 the core belief is that “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”. This approach differs from the standard cost benefit approach, where a dollar value is based upon life, and that value is used to decide the cost of road networks and calculate the cost of risk.
This Vision Zero summit brought together the Provincial Health Services Authority and the City of Surrey to lead a discussion on implementing Vision Zero to mitigate road fatalities and serious crash injuries in the Province. The conference also advocated for the adoption of the Safe Systems Approach to evaluate roads as safe for all road users. This is different to the “85th percentile” speed philosophy that bases road speeds on the speed 85 percent of vehicles travel past a certain fixed point on the road.
In the City of Surrey twenty people a year die from car crashes and there are over 12,000 traffic related injuries.
While aiming at no deaths on the road network, Surrey has adopted a target of achieving a 15 per cent reduction in road deaths and in road injuries within five years. Surrey has also adopted a Vision Zero Surrey Safe Mobility Plan and has an interdisciplinary Road Safety Team working towards creating the safest roads in Canada. Surrey has immediately targeted 35 locations for enhanced enforcement and will be using high friction road surface treatment at 14 high accident locations. Under the plan they will be focusing on a holistic approach focusing on road design, speed and driver behaviour ( including impairment and distraction).
It was Dr. Perry Kendall the former Medical Health Officer of British Columbia who released the report “Where the Rubber Hits the Road”. That report studied and outlined that vehicular crashes are a major cause of death and injury in this province. I have written about the importance of this document in directly addressing that nearly 300 people a year die on roads in this province, with vulnerable road users being the majority of road deaths and injuries.
Dr. Bonnie Henry the current Medical Health Officer for the province is also an author of the groundbreaking report on crashes. She noted that between 1996 and 2017 fatalities and injuries had increased and that the statistical curve is still going up. Dr. Henry is advocating for a collaborative approach between health authorities and municipalities to adopt viable alternatives like active transportation, and the Safe Systems Approach to lower death and injury.
This is a groundbreaking collaboration where the health authority is recognizing that to keep citizens healthy that road systems need to be redesigned and re-evaluated and the way forward is to prioritize road design for safety and health. One key component is the Provincial approval of 30 km/h speeds to be allowed within municipalities. At that speed 90 percent of pedestrians and cyclists can survive vehicular crashes.
Setting a target of zero road deaths in British Columbia is ambitious but necessary where road crashes are a major cause of death and serious injury. By ascertaining that fatalities and serious injuries are preventable, street design can mitigate deaths and serious injuries. It is a philosophy that can save lives. This new collaborative work and potential funding from the Province can make streets safer and more accessible to all users. We’ve talked about the Vision Zero approach for a while. It’s time to make the change.