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Learn how Cities are Protecting Road Users from Injuries and Fatalities

Vision Zero, which calls on cities to design roads that are safer for all users, particularly the most vulnerable, is being adopted across Ontario

A traffic signal shows a green light shaped like a bicycle

In 1997, Sweden adopted a road safety framework known as Vision Zero.

At the time it was somewhat radical, calling on city planners to prioritize safety over mobility and to prioritize the protection of people walking and cycling.

Today, municipalities around the world preach the Vision Zero approach, which has been credited with drastically declining road deaths in Scandinavia. The Norwegian capital of Oslo for example, a city of more than 650,000, reportedly had no pedestrian deaths in 2019.

In Ontario, several cities, including Toronto and Mississauga, have officially adopted Vision Zero but according to a CAA Member survey, 69% are unaware of what Vision Zero means. Here’s what you need to know about Vision Zero:

  • What is Vision Zero?
  • Why fatal crashes are on the rise
  • Municipal road strategies in Toronto and Mississauga
  • Lowering speed limits<


What is Vision Zero?

Simply put, it’s to design, operate and maintain roads that are safer for all road users, particularly for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and those with disabilities. Ultimately, its aim is to eliminate traffic-related road deaths. “The traditional approach to road safety assumed that a certain number of fatalities on the road is unavoidable. It’s the cost of living in a big city,” says Sheyda Saneinejad, who manages Vision Zero projects with the City of Toronto. “The Vision Zero approach challenges that and argues that road deaths are preventable.”

Why fatal crashes are on the rise

Advocates say there is a pressing need to make Ontario’s roads safer. In 2019, 543 people died in collisions, including 109 pedestrians, according to preliminary provincial data. (You can reference more Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports via the provincial Ministry of Transportation’s website.) Several municipalities have seen a rise in fatal collisions during the last decade. Experts believe the increase is due to several factors such as a rise in distracted driving, rampant speeding and a surge in the popularity of SUVs and pick-up trucks, which tend to do more damage when they strike pedestrians and cyclists.

Municipal road strategies in Toronto and Mississauga

Cities across Ontario have embraced the Vision Zero framework, including Toronto, Kingston and London, as have the regions of Durham and Peel, which includes Mississauga.

Toronto, which launched its Vision Zero Road Strategy Plan in 2016, has lowered speed limits on 500 kilometres of roads, installed 50 automated speed cameras and, in 2020, completed the largest ever one-year expansion of its cycling network, Saneinejad says.

Mississauga incorporated Vision Zero into its transportation master plan in 2019, says Erica Warsh, the program’s lead. During the summer, the city built several kilometres of temporary bike lanes and deployed 120 barricades to slow traffic. Mississauga is also planning to roll out speed cameras in school zones and ramp up education campaigns.

“We’re trying to push the message that everyone, whether you’re a pedestrian, a cyclist or a driver, has a role to play in keeping each other safe,” Warsh says.

Lowering speed limits

Skeptics have asked if lowering speed limits is another prong in the “war on the car.”

Advocates say no. “I think there’s sometimes a misconception that adding a bike lane or lowering speed limits is going to significantly impact someone’s commute,” Warsh says.

In reality, dropping speed limits 10 km/hour, as some cities have done, will have a minimal impact on travel times. But it would decrease the likelihood of a collision and the severity of a collision for pedestrians and cyclists.

Learn more

To find out how CAA is helping to advocate for safer roads for everyone, visit CAA’s road safety page. You’ll find information and tips on a range of subjects including teaching kids about the rules of the road, tips on how to cycle safely and the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis.

Image Credits: iStock.com/Michele Ursi