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“Mobility and safety at the same time.”

February 28, 2014

With New York City looking to Sweden as the inspiration for its Vision Zero plan, it’s worth asking what Sweden actually did to lower traffic fatality and injury rates. What balance should be struck between engineering, enforcement, and education?  The Economist takes a closer look:

Planning has played the biggest part in reducing accidents. Roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience. Low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic have helped. Building 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) of “2+1” roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking—is reckoned to have saved around 145 lives over the first decade of Vision Zero. And 12,600 safer crossings, including pedestrian bridges and zebra-stripes flanked by flashing lights and protected with speed-bumps, are estimated to have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years. Strict policing has also helped: now less than 0.25% of drivers tested are over the alcohol limit. Road deaths of children under seven have plummeted—in 2012 only one was killed, compared with 58 in 1970.

As the article notes, Sweden isn’t at zero traffic deaths yet, although it has cut the number of people killed on its roads in half since the year 2000.

One Comment
  1. Dmitri F permalink
    March 6, 2014 10:51 am

    Please don’t mention cycling and 2+1 roads in the same paragraph.

    2+1 roads have effectively removed the ability to cycle in Swedens rural areas.
    Before they were simple country roads with a decent shoulder, now they are cycling death traps. Every 2km or so, you basically have to share a 1 lane, no shoulder road with traffic moving at 100kmh (65mph). Because of a middle barrier drivers can not change lanes to overtake so they just do it anyway.
    And our state transportation authority refuses to build bike tracks along side roads converted to 2+1… It’s a huge issue for cyclists.


    Unfortunately Sweden’s Vision Zero has had a very strong focus on driver safety, at least “on the ground”. Most Vision Zero efforts are undertaken on roads outside the city where drivers get into crashes with other drivers. When pedestrians or cyclists are “at risk” from motor traffic, they are more often than simply blocked from using infrastructure, or when it comes to cycling, road blocks are put up to force dismounting.

    New York’s vision zero “vision” is already way ahead of anything cooked up in Sweden or Stockholm.


    When it comes to inner city traffic, in my opinion the biggest safety feature in Stockholm for pedestrians is that every pedestrian crossing that covers more than 3 lanes of motorized traffic (including parking) has a refuge island in the middle.

    Study pretty much any junction and you will see it:

    Given the number of left turn crashes I hear about in New York, in most cases the crossing has no refuge in the middle, encouraging drivers to “cut corners” and not giving pedestrians a safe place to wait if they sense danger or are slow in crossing.

    This is just my own personal opinion however.

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