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What is Vision Zero?

Written by: Angus Macdonald

17 October 2023

Introduction to Vision Zero in the first part of a series of articles on this issue in London and Haringey

Vision Zero aims to put a stop to road traffic deaths and severe injuries by rethinking how we approach road safety. The Vision Zero Network states:

Vision Zero is built on the basis that traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable. Vision Zero emphasizes a Safe Systems approach, which acknowledges that people make mistakes, and focuses on influencing system-wide practices, policies, and designs to lessen the severity of crashes.

Transport for London describes the Safe Systems approach as being based on the following principles:

1. People make mistakes, so our transport system needs to accommodate human error and unpredictability

2. There are physical limits to what the human body can tolerate. Our transport system needs to be forgiving, so that the impact of a collision is less likely to cause fatal or serious injury

3. All those with a role in designing, building, operating, managing and using our streets have a responsibility to reduce danger

This presents a real shift from the status quo requiring changes in the way we approach our city’s transport infrastructure. Reducing the danger faced by all Londoners will leave people more confident in walking, cycling and using public transport and encourage people to travel by means other than by car.   

Reducing the dominance of car use creates more livable urban environments for all with a whole host of benefits, as this illustration from Lucy Saunders of Healthy Streets illustrates:

So the benefits of safer streets extend far beyond transportation; they affect the whole streetscape and how residents experience and enjoy their streets.

While London and Haringey have their own particular challenges, it’s worth pointing out that Vision Zero has been successfully introduced abroad. Oslo and Helsinki are shining examples of what can be achieved when there is real commitment to Vision Zero with the elimination of cyclist and pedestrian deaths.

In the coming weeks we will have follow-up articles looking at what’s being done in London and more specifically Haringey to meet Vision Zero aims and whether we are on target to meet the Mayors’ stated goals.

You can find a look at what the London Mayor and the Haringey Council are doing in the second part in our series.