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Jan-10-2022 18:30printcomments

Making Streets Safer Through Vision Zero

The streets of yesterday just aren’t designed for today’s society.

city street
City streets have more vehicles using them than ever before.
Photo: Pixabay

(SALEM, Ore.) - The Vision Zero Action Plan of Portland Oregon is a blueprint for how cities can make their streets safer for both motorists and pedestrians.

The goal of this initiative is to eliminate traffic deaths and serious accidents on Portland’s roads by developing specific actions that aim to reduce risks associated with driving.

Cities across the U.S. are joining the campaign to reduce and possibly end traffic-related fatalities. For example, in San Francisco, its Vision Zero initiative has reduced the number of severe pedestrian injuries through its Vision Zero initiative from 190 in 2016 to 137 in 2020.

So, what specifically are governments doing to mitigate the risk of traffic fatalities and injuries? Let’s take a look.

Pedestrian Initiatives

A major goal of all Vision Zero plans in all cities is to make the roads safer for pedestrians.

Some ways they are making this happen include changing the timing of signals to provide additional time to get across the street, improving visibility at crosswalks by removing overgrown vegetation and parking areas that block the line of sight, prioritizing street lighting so both pedestrians and motorists can see better at night, and installing side guards on city trucks to protect pedestrians from heavy truck injuries.

Speed Reducing Strategies

Speed is the number one contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents. The faster a car is going, the longer it takes to stop it. Plus, speed causes driver control issues and leads to more severe crashes as well.

The best things cities can do to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents is to implement speed reducing strategies like setting safer speed limits, redesigning streets with speed reducing features such as roundabouts and speed bumps, educating residents about the impact of speed, and enforcing speed limits.

Cities around the country are currently studying speed limits on their streets to determine safe speeds, which will vary by location. In some places, it might be safe to drive 55, but in other places, like neighborhoods, the speed limit should be significantly lower.

Sometimes, the speed in an area will be too high and city officials will need to lower it. If this happens on a street that you drive, understand that the reason behind the lowering of the speed limit is improved safety.

Enforcing speed limits has become more challenging as police departments deal with staffing shortages and an increasing number of vehicles on the road. As a result, some cities, like Portland, are installing speed safety cameras, red-light cameras, and other technology to help automate enforcement.

Drivers may not like these new devices, but they are effective in slowing people down in areas where safety has been an issue.

Smart Street Designs

The streets of yesterday just aren’t designed for today’s society. Capacity is too high for many streets to be safely navigated and as a result, pedestrians are at a higher risk of getting struck by a car on crowded roads.

Many cities are facing this issue and are redesigning their streets to be wider, have tighter left-turning radiuses (to force left-turning vehicles to slow down), and moving cars further back from intersections while they wait at red lights.

Additionally, following every fatal crash, city officials intensely evaluate the crash site to determine the factors that led to the accident.

They use the information and data from the site to decide whether improvements can be made to prevent a similar accident from reoccurring.

If necessary, the city will put temporary traffic and operational changes in place at the site to make it safer until permanent changes can be implemented.

Awareness and Shared Responsibility Campaigns

A major part of any Vision Zero plan involves educating the public. Unless and until the actual drivers are aware of the factors that lead to traffic fatalities and severe injuries and understand their personal responsibilities, nothing will change.

Cities are budgeting for awareness and shared responsibility campaigns that are designed to make drivers think about the huge privilege it is to be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Portland, for instance, is marking the locations of tragic traffic events to remind drivers of the importance of driving safely.

Variable Message Signs are placed in prominent areas near accident sights that provide thought-provoking messages about traffic safety.

Other programs designed to promote awareness and traffic safety strategies include Portland’s Safe Routes to School (raise awareness of the importance of driving safely in school zones) and the Street Teams program that provides Portland’s residents with safe travel tips at city events throughout the year.

Interactive Traffic Crash Map

Another way that Portland is educating its residents about traffic safety in the city is through its Interactive Traffic Crash Map. Visitors to this web-based application are able to see where in the city crashes have occurred between 2010 and 2021.

They can filter the data by people in vehicles, people walking, and people biking and can get an idea of where the most dangerous areas are for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in Portland.

Knowing and understanding the data and how it has fluctuated throughout the years can help drivers avoid high-risk areas at certain times of the day, choose the safest routes for walking and cycling, and perhaps even brainstorm solutions for areas that are continuously dangerous.

Seeing this data presented in a visual manner really drives home the purpose of Vision Zero and allows residents to see the program’s progress over the years.

Other Program Components

Not only can Portland residents access crash data on the Vision Zero website, but they can also request free Vision Zero stickers, pins, brochures, and fliers; watch traffic safety education videos, report non-urgent traffic safety concerns, and gain valuable information on fixed speed safety cameras and speed limits.

It’s a comprehensive centralized information portal that can help keep the focus on eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries through awareness and infrastructure improvements.


Major cities across the United States are aware of the epidemic of traffic fatalities and serious injuries and Vision Zero initiatives are cropping up to help reduce, if not eliminate, these incidents.

It won’t be easy to reach the lofty goals set by these campaigns, but with everyone working toward the same outcomes, the streets can become safer for everyone.

Source: Special Features Dept.


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