Valerie Smith, Director of Solutions at Parachute, had a great opportunity to attend the International Vision Zero Conference in Stockholm, Sweden June 14-15

Why Sweden? 

The concept of Vision Zero first originated in Sweden in 1995. Since its inception, Sweden has been tremendously successful in reducing the number of traffic deaths by half. Its transportation system is known as one of the most successful in the world. Although the Swedish government started Vision Zero over 20 years ago, they used this year’s conference as an opportunity to re-launch it, as “Vision Zero 2.0”. They spoke clearly that the only way forward was a goal of zero and that efforts needed to be magnified in order to maintain success. Vision Zero 2.0 takes Sweden to 2030, and allows them to focus on innovation and adaptability, as they work to ensure safe mobility. Many of us look to Sweden as the role model for Vision Zero. However, as Vision Zero grows and adapts, Sweden is now looking outward and leveraging the amazing approaches other cities are taking, as they reaffirm their own commitment to traffic safety. 

Who was at the conference?

There were over 200 delegates from countries all over the world, including Kenya, Malaysia, India, Israel, Mexico, and Columbia. 

What’s happening around the world with VZ, and what was a big take-away? 

One of the most important learnings from the conference was that Vision Zero is, and should be, adaptable to diverse contexts. Cities around the world are not built out the same; capacity, infrastructure, culture, history, and policies all vary drastically. While the core tenets of Vision Zero should be adhered to across the board, cities and counties around the world will roll out and foster their own Vision Zero. It was very interesting to hear about the various ways in which cities are implementing it in their own jurisdictions, facing and solving their own particular challenges.

Rohit Baluja, President of the Institute of Road Traffic Education in India, shared stories of both the successes and the challenges of two-wheeler safety issues in the streets of Delhi. Almost 73% of the over 200 million vehicle population is powered by two-wheelers. Yet India continues to outsource its traffic engineering, instead of establishing a compatible public transport policy specific to India’s particular context. He made reference to Garbage in – garbage out – stressing the importance of using only evidence-based interventions and adhering to strict diligence around data or efforts will be in vain. 

Leah Shahum, from the Vision Zero Network in the US, spoke about the power of the grassroots movement in moving Vision Zero forward, with a real emphasis on ensuring that solutions are prioritized for low-income communities. Leah discussed the implications of interventions like increased enforcement on these communities, and some of the unintended negative outcomes. 

In Mexico, Laura Ballesteros, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Mobility, shared how they are working on a huge paradigm shift in mobility, by implementing new policies and laws. These polices are being used to make the streets safer and more humane for pedestrians by focusing largely on speed reduction. In Mexico City, where they are managing not only a public transport system, but in fact 23 million journeys daily – of which 5.5 million are by car. Reducing speeds from 90 KPH to 70 KPH on highways, and 50 KPH to 40 KPH on neighborhood roads, has resulted in 18% fewer deaths in just over a year and a half. She emphasized the importance of staying strong and committed in a culture resistant to change. 

Winnie Mitullah, Director of the Institute for Development Studies, spoke about the challenges of non-motorized transport in countries such as Kenya, where transport and city planning remain focused on automobile-dependent solutions. This dominant car-centric approach does not pay adequate attention to walking and cycling and separates mobility and safety into two silos. A significant shift in both policy and political commitment is needed to prioritize walking and cycling as strategies for sustainable transport policy in urban Africa.

What does this mean for Parachute Vision Zero Network?

Attending these conferences and learning about the Vision Zero movement happening across the globe is not only inspiring, it also allows Parachute to share knowledge, lessons learned, connections and stories with our own network of engaged road safety champions.