Streetfilms: Talking Traffic Safety at the Home of Vision Zero

Clarence Eckerson shot this great interview with Mary Beth Kelly of Families for Safe Streets and Claes Tingvall, director of traffic safety for the Swedish Transport Administration.

On Queen Street in Stockholm, a car-free plaza once “choked” with vehicle traffic, and standing within sight of the parliament building where Vision Zero took shape in the 1990s, Tingvall and Kelly discuss street safety policy for the 21st century.

“It’s about time the victims of everything we did wrong get a voice,” says Tingvall. “We want safe mobility for the elderly, for children, for anyone in the community.”

Tingvall says Vision Zero in Sweden involves “moving responsibility upwards” — holding fleet owners, like taxi companies, accountable for street safety, and not just individual drivers. “Safety becomes part of the market, rather than enforcement and punishment and other things — sure this is important — but in the end it’s going to be the leadership who really pick up all those norms first.”

With the advent of Vision Zero, says Tingvall, came the realization that mobility and safety are not mutually exclusive. “We as people today, I think we are not willing to sacrifice one thing for another benefit. Or that some should sacrifice so that someone else is getting a benefit. That time is over.”

  • Mark Walker

    One characteristic of a third-rate country with no future is a refusal to learn from best practices in other countries. I once tried to explain to a car-dependent friend how his suburb might be adapted for walking, biking, and transit and he disdainfully replied that it “will never become a Euro village.” We just suck at some things, and with that attitude, we won’t get any better till it’s too late.

  • bolwerk

    My favorite is “New York isn’t Copenhagen!!1!!1hurr”

    (It’s not Copenhagen, of course. It’s much more suitable for most of the things Copenhagen did very successfully.)

  • Kevin Love

    And in Copenhagen, one of the common comments 40 years ago was “Car-free streets? This is Denmark, not Italy!”

  • Joe R.

    I get the same thing, even from people who live in NYC. A friend of mine who lives in Coney Island actually thinks cars should remain at the top of the food chain in NYC. He once suggested to me that we take a joy ride in his car through Manhattan. He seemed kind of flabbergasted when I told him how could one truly enjoy Manhattan sitting inside car. Also, I mentioned I’m not going to add to NYC’s already horrendous traffic problem for what amounts to a totally non-essential “pleasure” trip (well he considered it a pleasure trip while I consider driving in Manhattan something to be avoided like the plague).

    Another sign of a declining country is when large portions of the populace turn to religious doctrine instead of science for answers. I have no objections if someone chooses to believe in a higher being, but religious doctrine shouldn’t guide public policy, nor should religious instruction substitute for a well-rounded education in all subjects. The end result is an ignorant populace who can be led like sheep, which is exactly what we have.

    Eventually, the US will fall, probably in less than a generation. I’m not the only one who feels this way:

    I’m not concerned about the fall. In fact, I say good riddance. I’m also not worried long-term as fallen empires are usually eventually followed by a golden age of enlightened rule. I am however worried about what comes in between. When the US falls, we might be in for a decade or more of chaos. It continually amazes me how we easily could have solved a lot of the problems facing us if we had started when it was apparent these problems weren’t going away. Instead, we squandered literally decades with pointless wars, endless consumerism, and almost dogmatic adherence to the status quo, as if no other way of living were even possible. Now these problems are nearly intractable, even if we suddenly devoted all our resources to solving them. When the first oil price shocks hit, Americans will regret having a transportation system which relies almost 100% on fossil fuels. Those places which at least have some alternatives, such as NYC, will likely fare much better but we’re still reliant on fossil-fuel powered shipping for much of our goods/food. We’ll probably finally see vertical farming come into its own as it becomes less expensive to grow food in 50 story towers than to ship it many thousands of miles.

  • douglasawillinger

    Did not Stockholm get to construct an underground downtown orbital freeway without its construction funds being siphoned away as with NYC’s Westway?


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