For the past 20 years, Sweden has been building intersections and transportation systems that try to achieve an annual goal of reaching zero pedestrian deaths throughout the country. They named this 1997 Legislative initiative “Vision Zero.” The Swedes have narrowed city streets, lowered speed limits, and built intersections that prioritize pedestrian safety. Additionally, Swedes have changed their mind-set and they view collisions between pedestrians and vehicles as not a punishable event for the driver but as a warning that a fix is required and an investigation must be launched to find safer designs (a differently timed light, a better lit intersection… ect.).
New York and San Francisco have recently adopted the “Vision Zero” concept and they are prioritizing pedestrian safety. Studies have shown that speed isthe biggest difference between life and death when a pedestrian is hit by acar. A ten percent increase in the speed a car hits a pedestrian increases the likelihood of death by 45%. So if a driver is going 20 m.p.h. upon impact, the pedestrian has an 85% chance of survival. If that same car is going 40 m.p.h., the survival chance drops to 5%. New York , San Francisco, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and many other U.S. cities have been attempting to slow down city traffic by giving 4 lanes roads a “road diet” and making it a three lane road with a middle turn lane. Additionally, cities have been using speed bumps before intersections, pedestrian bridges, raised cross-walks to make pedestrians more visible, and extending curbs so drivers approaching the intersection perceive a narrower street and slow down. Bump outs mid-block are also used to slow down traffic. These bump outs are called “chicanes.” Cities have also use flashing lights at cross-walks and large pavement paintings to warn drivers to share the road. Opponents to “Vision Zero” road and intersection designs insist that city roads need to be efficient traffic arteries in and around the city and all these pedestrian safety devices will just create bottlenecks making commutes longer. Further opponents to road narrowing say that pedestrians and bicyclist should be shunted off to side roads rather than main business routes. It will be interesting to see what kind of balance Michigan cities achieve between motor vehicles and pedestrian safety and whether any Michigan cities will try to achieve zero pedestrian deaths by adopting Sweden’s “Vision Zero.”