by Molly North
On Monday, February 10, 2020, Molly North attended Bicycle Colorado's Moving People Forward Conference through the CALC conference scholarship program. She shares her thoughts on the Vision Zero Panel below. Thank you, Molly!
Chances are good you know someone who has been in a traffic crash. Each year, approximately 40,000 people are killed on roadways in the United States and an additional 2.5 million are seriously injured.
Because this is a public health issue, a variety of strategies have been employed to decrease the number of crashes on our roadways. Most of these are focused on design, education, and enforcement. But more must be done. The Vision Zero policy says zero deaths are acceptable on our roadways. Sweden was the first country to adopt this policy in 1997 and currently 45 cities in the United States have adopted the policy. In Colorado, only Denver and Boulder have officially committed to Vision Zero. Denver adopted its Vision Zero policy in 2016, just after the founding of the Denver Vision Zero Coalition, a group of 14 member-organizations that promote safe streets for everyone.
The Denver Vision Zero Coalition identified 10 Core Principles for their work:
Zero is the right number
Life is most important (more important than speed)
Every person matters
Government is responsible for safe street design
People make mistakes
Safe designs lead to safe behaviors
Enforcement cannot correct for dangerous street design
The most dangerous locations and behaviors merit the most attention
People driving have a critical responsibility
Safe streets enhance our freedom
The first session of the Moving People Forward Conference was a panel on which representatives from five agencies discussed their roadmaps to Vision Zero. The panelists were Charles Meyer (State Traffic Engineer, Colorado Department of Transportation), Col. Matthew Packard (Chief, Colorado State Patrol), Beth Doliboa (Transportation Planner, Denver Regional Council of Governments), Eulois Cleckley (Executive Director, Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure), and Michelle Roche (Roche Communications Group and mother of a traffic crash fatality victim). The moderator of the session was also the keynote speaker for the conference, Robin Mazumder. Mazumder is an urban neuroscientist working on his PhD at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
It was wonderful to have a mother on the panel. Michelle said she didn’t know anything about Vision Zero until after her son was killed a few years ago. Since then, she has been an active member of the Denver Streets Partnership. Her perspective was refreshing; at times her comments were personal and actionable, and at other times they were the voice of someone still learning all of the intricacies of this complex work. I’m sure it felt welcoming to people who were new to the conversation about how to eliminate traffic fatalities on our roadways and certainly it was informative for people like me who have been working on it for many years.
Here are some of my takeaways from the panel:
Charles Meyer said 60% of CO crashes are occurring in urban areas, this is a major shift
Eulois Cleckley said the City of Denver is focusing on three main behavior changes: slow down, phones down, no drunk driving (I think this is too focused on driver behavior.)
He also said, "We can’t blame cars, they are inanimate objects. We have to work together." (Yessir!)
Michelle Roche said, "The solution is for people to take more personal accountability when driving" (Which I don’t totally agree with. I believe design has a huge impact on behavior.)
She also pointed out that 50% of Denver’s roadway fatalities occur on 5% of our streets, and that the fatal crash map mimics the redlining maps. (Glad this was shared!)
It is wonderful that this statewide conference highlighted Vision Zero. I believe we all have a right to move around our communities safely and I believe we should be doing everything we can to address this epidemic of traffic deaths. Communities must develop coalitions with diverse stakeholders, including transportation engineers and planners, public health professionals, economists, developers, child advocates, policymakers, emergency services, and community members. They could each contribute specific expertise to address the multidimensional elements of traffic violence and hold one another accountable to the monumental task of working together to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries.
Want to attend a conference on CALC's behalf? We are proud to sponsor registration fees for local trainings and conferences relevant to CALC's mission to make it easier and safer for all to walk, bike, and use transit in Denver. Read more about the program on our website: