An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WAY TOO MANY people die in traffic accidents around here. We all know that.
The City of Kamloops wants to do something about it, and hopes joining a world-wide movement called Vision Zero will get some results.
Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1998 with a simple objective: eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by building better roads. It’s an ambitious goal but it takes a practical approach.
Basically, Vision Zero acknowledges that people will always make mistakes. I assume that includes carelessness and plain lousy driving. Vision Zero focuses on a shared responsibility between traffic infrastructure and those who use it, but leans heavily toward infrastructure.
Within that thinking, intersections and pedestrian crossings play a big role because most fatal collisions occur there. It’s a sad world where just trying to cross the street can get you killed.
Therefore, rebuilding intersections to safer standards is key. According to Vision Zero, the human tolerance for being hit by a vehicle is 30 km/h. Therefore, if a higher speed is desired at a pedestrian-crossing location, pedestrians and automobiles must be totally separated.
Let me give you an example. The posted speed limit on Westsyde Road, where many pedestrian injuries and deaths have occurred, is 60 km/h with the exception of the 30 zone at Westsyde elementary.
So that entire stretch from the school to the Halston Bridge would get a failing grade under Vision Zero standards.
Maybe it explains why it’s hard to find specifics about Vision Zero success stories despite the fact dozens of countries and many cities have adopted it as a strategy. Certainly, things like lower speed limits and structural changes such as roundabouts increase safety.
Vision Zero is an admirable goal and maybe some new ideas will come forward at public sessions on the plan tonight and tomorrow but no matter how good we make roads, saving lives is up to the people who use them.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.