Five Key Lessons From Europe’s Vision Zero Success

Cross-posted from the Vision Zero Network

Berlin, Germany

From the moment that Vision Zero began capturing attention in American cities, we’ve heard many admiring references to its success in Europe, particularly in its birthplace of Sweden.

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to research those experiences and their lessons for the growing number of American communities working to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. As part of a fellowship with the German Marshall Fund, I’m spending two months visiting Stockholm, Sweden; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Berlin, Germany to interview experts and observe first-hand their approaches to traffic safety. The goal of my research: to gather and share replicable lessons for American communities, particularly in urban areas, where we’re seeing the most momentum for Vision Zero.

First, a disclaimer: I’m still actively researching and interviewing, so it’s too soon to share my sense of the “full story.” Please consider these early impressions.

And, second, a clarification: What the Swedes — and to a lesser extent the Germans — call Vision Zero, the Dutch call Sustainable Safety. While there are many similarities to what can generally be termed a “safe systems approach” to transportation, there are more differences than I realized between their efforts. (But more on that in a future post…)

So what have I observed thus far? Here are five initial  takeaways, focusing on areas that seem relevant to the U.S. experience and worthy of more exploration.

1) Managing speeds — and speed differentials — is a top priority

In all three of these countries, the leaders of traffic safety efforts emphasize that managing speed is the number one determinant in their successes in improving safety.

Over the past 15 years, the national governments of Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany have all proactively and systematically changed their approaches to speed. Each nation (to differing degrees, but all significantly) has lowered speed limits for a clearly defined hierarchy of roads and corresponding speeds. For instance, the Netherlands has shifted…

  • from 50 kilometers per hour (kph) to 30 kph on smaller, residential streets;
  • from 70 kph to 50 kph on bigger, or what we’d consider arterial roads; and
  • from 100 kph to 70 kph on the freeway-like roads outside cities.

In each of the three nations, nearly everyone I’ve spoken with credits speed management as the greatest contributor to their success in improving safety on the streets and saving more lives.

But there’s another important factor: considering and managing for speed differentials. This means a great deal of thought is given to the kinds of users and the mix of users in the specific areas when designs and policies are laid out. For instance, if an area is expected to have many different road users moving at different speeds — such as a mix of people walking, bicycling and driving — the speeds need to be lower to accommodate that mix. This strategy prioritizes the fact that slower speeds will be more forgiving when crashes do occur between users of such different weights and velocities.

It may sound obvious, but U.S. communities could greatly benefit from paying greater attention to speed differentials when we make decisions about street design, appropriate speeds and other safety policies.

2) After speed, street design is key

Rotterdam
Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Among the three nations, there’s also similarity in their high level of attention toward re-designing the physical layout of streets for the safety of  all users.

While the specifics may differ, leaders in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany all  point to investment in safer street design as the next most important element of their successes thus far. For instance, in the Netherlands, there’s strong credit given to the addition of more roundabouts to slow traffic at intersections, and to greater physical separation between cars and bicycles on roads with larger volumes of traffic and higher speeds.

In Sweden, leaders have emphasized adding physical dividers to separate oncoming auto traffic on roads outside the urban areas, where they’ve seen the greatest improvements in safety to drivers. In urban areas, there has been attention to creating safer pedestrian crossings and adding separated bikeways.

3) Engineering efforts have taken priority  over education and enforcement

Among the various “Es” that make up the core focus areas in creating safer streets, engineering is far more developed in these countries than the education and enforcement components — as seems to be the case in the United States, as well.

In each of these countries, there has been more emphasis on the issues of street design and policy-related changes, such as managing speed through lowering speed limits and adding safety cameras, than in the other areas. That’s not to say there hasn’t been any increase in education and enforcement, but those efforts haven’t received the same priority and their impact isn’t as clear as speed management and street design.

As in the United States, the term “education” is broadly defined and serves as a catch-all for many different things. In that area, there seems to be greater emphasis on two strategies: first, integrating safety training among youth, including into school curriculums; and second, focusing on drivers (and the actual vehicle design) of large freight trucks, which are known to cause more hazards. In this latter area, American communities could learn from the collaboration among European Union nations on freight vehicle safety issues, particularly as we think about a U.S. approach to dealing with varied state driving regulations.

4) Private sector buy-in strengthens efforts

In Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, it is impressive to see the deep engagement between the public and private sector on the safe systems approach. There is far more collaboration and investment from automakers, insurance companies and other related private sector players in these European countries than in the United States.

I was impressed to learn that German and Swedish insurance companies invest significant resources in traffic safety research. Of course, there’s a win-win opportunity there for the insurance companies to further the broader goals of safety while also minimizing their own risk and costs related to collisions and injuries. One interesting Swedish program piloted a system of installing speed measurement capability in the cars of some insurance policyholders, who were then rewarded with lower premium payments as they proved that they stayed within the speed limits.

When it comes to partnership with automakers, there’s a healthy skepticism about emphasizing in-car technology improvements without the same level of attention to benefiting the more vulnerable road usersoutside the car. But as technology capacity grows, this could change.

In nearly every conversation I’ve had thus far, people acknowledge the tremendous opportunity – and, I’d say responsibility – to use technology to prioritize traffic injury prevention, though not at the expense of the other focus areas that need focus, such as road design, speed management, enforcement, and education, etc.

5) What’s next? Vision Zero 2.0

Stockholm, Sweden

Both Sweden and the Netherlands are giving significant consideration to shaping the next iteration of their safe systems approaches to transportation.

Swedish leaders acknowledge that their emphasis over the past 15 years has been in the areas of enhancing automobile technology systems and improving design on rural roads. Their Vision Zero 2.0 places a greater focus on urban areas and on the safety of people biking and walking.

Interestingly, some of the people I met with in Sweden seemed genuinely excited to learn from the U.S. experience given our more explicit focus on those areas.

The Dutch are also giving their Sustainable Safety approach a fresh look, analyzing what has worked and what needs to be updated. There’s concern that the leaders of the Netherlands are directing less energy and resources toward traffic safety efforts today, in part because attention has waned as fatalities have decreased, with some assuming the work is done and moving on to other priorities. There seems to be interest in looking at the Swedish model and the nascent U.S. efforts to find ways to more actively engage key stakeholders to help renew the momentum.

How these countries position their “second wave” efforts after the early phases of success in making streets safer can offer U.S. leaders insightful  models to avoid our own version of Vision Zero burn-out in the future.

I expect to learn far more, particularly about Vision Zero 2.0 and opportunities to advance private sector partnerships, at the Towards Zero conference, a gathering of international Vision Zero experts in Gothenburg, Sweden. I promise to share more then.

  • Aron

    Oops, awkward. That Rotterdam photo is actually in The Hague. But the same safety principals are used there too, so I’ll just let it slide.

  • Mike

    Nice piece. One thing I wonder about that I don’t see covered here is cycling behavior. While we are (slowly) getting infrastructure improvements in NYC, we aren’t getting much in the way of a change in how people cycle. I’ve ridden around much of the Netherlands, and they’ve developed a way of riding that is generally far calmer and more polite that what we have here.

    In part it’s of necessity — they have far more cyclists on the road, and that sort of density makes riding like many New Yorkers impossible. Cutting off other cyclists, veering back and forth waiting for cars at lights rather than just putting a foot on the ground and lining up, unsafe passing, dressing up in spandex and racing around crowded streets/bike lanes, and so on just doesn’t happen there. Of course, it’s also drivers and other non-drivers who are different — joggers don’t run in bike lanes and cars don’t idle in bike lanes, for example.

    I wonder if and how we’ll adapt as the number of cyclists in the city continues to rise and there’s less room to ride like an ass. Will we get more rule bound? Will we develop that crazy dance of right-of-way and eye contact that makes two intersecting bike paths in the Netherlands a totally seamless experience even with high levels of usage? Is somebody going to have to come up with a list of rules and behaviors? Will it need to be enforced? Will cyclists self-police? Will drivers and pedestrians ever respect bike lanes as places they should not go?

  • red-bike

    Good to see that managing speed is the top priority.

    Kinetic Energy is what must be absorbed or dissipated when a moving object stops. Or is stopped, as in a crash.

    Kinetic Energy = ½ * mass * velocity²

    Your choices to lessen the amount of Kinetic Energy that must be absorbed or dissipated: lose weight or slow down. That’s it. There will never be anything else on this menu. Velocity is squared. Slowing down offers much more bang for the buck.

    It’ll be interesting to read more about how differences in culture dictate how best to improve safety. Not everything is as objective as speed management.

  • BBnet3000

    as the number of cyclists in the city continues to rise

    That’s not happening according to the DOT’s own counts and the American Community Survey so it’s not something we have to worry about.

    Cycling behavior improves as street design improves. New York has a long way to go before we have the street design of even a better US city.

  • 1976boy

    The kind of cyclists that make up the majority in most US cities are able bodied young men and women, for the most part. This is a direct result of the danger inherent in riding a bike in the US, which scares away most others. Aggressive behavior by cyclists is something of a survival mechanism, for without it they would be toast on most streets. This is not to excuse or defend bad behavior, but in my years riding on city streets it was a nasty and exhausting experience because drivers simply do not want to allow cyclists the right to the road.

    Look at the demographics of the cyclists in the cities in Europe, and they tend to be people of all ages and abilities. I think it’s a direct result of street design.

  • It would be interesting to see how these countries political systems work compared to ours. For example, do they have giant car and oil companies spending millions on lobbying?

  • Commuting-to-work riding, or going anywhere riding?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Bicycling in lower Mamhattan does continue to increase. The screen line Counts parts are at capacity so do not show Much growth. However, the DOT detail Counts show healthy growth.

  • jd_x

    Yes and no. When a car hits a pedestrian, it doesn’t transfer all of its kinetic energy to the pedestrian since it either knocks the pedestrian out of the way or runs them over. To confirm this, imagine what would happen to a car’s speed if a driver didn’t hit the brakes and just ran right into a pedestrian. Clearly, the car wouldn’t come to a complete stop as would be required for it to transfer all its kinetic energy to the pedestrian. (Now, if it hit an immovable object like a brick wall, a very large tree, or a very large truck, then yes, most of it’s kinetic energy would be transferred to the object.) Instead, it would keep going only being slowed down a little bit. That gives you an idea of how much energy the car still has and hence how only a fraction of it’s kinetic energy is imparted to the pedestrian. So it’s not right to say that a car going at 60 mph, for example, imparts four times as much energy to a pedestrian as one going at half it speed of 30 mph, all other things being equal.

    It turns out it’s quite a bit more complicated than that. Researchers have tried to come up with equations to represent the pedestrian fatality rate as a function of speed and you can see some good examples of these on pg 10-11 (and plots of these equations on pg 12-13) of the following 2010 report from London’s Department of Transport:
    http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/relationship_between_speed_risk_fatal_injury_pedestrians_and_car_occupants_richards.pdf

    As the plots show, at low speeds (below ~30 km/h), the relationship is more like you said, at moderate speeds (between ~30 and 50 km/h) its approximately linear, and at high speeds it’s barely increasing (though the fatality rate is in the 90 in terms of percentage so it doesn’t really matter).

    Regardless, the point is clear that low speeds makes streets safer for all, and that is the key concept.

  • SZwartz

    It is interesting to note that Los Angeles is doing the exact opposite of what these three countries propose.

    (1) Los Angeles is bringing more bicycles closer to cars and closer to air pollution. Separate studies on Bike Lanes and air pollution show a world wide consensus that where it is possible, Bike Lanes should not be constructed on major streets due to the toxic impact on the lungs. In Los Angeles, the City has a policy to conceal from the public the toxic harm caused by locating Bike Lanes on major boulevards such as Manchester and Reseda.

    (2) The City promotes Bike Lanes with no buffering, such as the Hyperion Bridge approval. That makes the Bike Lanes doubly dangerous.

    (3) The rejection of Garden Woonerfs. The City has rejected Garden Woonerfs so much that maybe 1 in 500,000 Angelenos knows what a Garden Woonerf is. They are for residential streets and their serpentine design that weaves between lawns and flowers and small playgrounds and the design automatically slows down traffic. The psychologists have discovered that when motorists can see a bend in the road, they slow down. It takes too long to explain the full concept of a Garden Woonerf, but Los Angeles has rejected them despite the fact that Hollywood’s Specific Plan [SNAP] requires them.

    (4) Education is virtually worthless. The PC bicyclist are found of saying that motorist have to learn this or that, but their laments are formulas for disaster. A straight street encourages cars to travel fast and that’s it. engineering is the answer, but with the reign of Garcettism, LA planning is a fact free zone.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    The Netherlands is in fact home to one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world. And Sweden and Germany are home to some of the largest automotive companies outside the United States or Japan.

  • Rao

    If we look at the example of driving, most New Yorkers drive like assholes *especially* when it is congested. People don’t *walk* very considerately here either. And if you really want to see people being jerks, try getting onto a crowded subway car. So no, I would not expect much change in the local style of cycling. fundamentally, New Yorkers are aggressive people and this aggression may well derive in part from the fact that they occupy a very large city, much vaster than anyplace in the Netherlands, that is saddled with infrastructure (the street grid and a pokey subway) that is incompatible with speed.

  • Joe R.

    The riding style in the Netherlands might also be a function of the heavier bikes and shorter distances. Unlike Dutch cities, NYC is huge. My guess is while we have a minority of commuter cyclists, the typical distances many of them commute are far higher than your average bike trip in the Netherlands. As a result they use faster bikes and tend to ride a lot more aggressively. For example, hypothetically suppose I worked in Manhattan but live where I do now and decided to commute by bike. A heavy bike and going 10 or 12 mph isn’t going to cut it. My commute would probably end up taking well over an hour to go something like 10 miles. Instead, I would use a fast bike, and cut as many corners as I safely can to get where I’m going. That doesn’t necessarily imply flying through crowded crosswalks when the light is red, but it will mean hauling my butt whenever the situation presents itself. I recall trying messengering for a short time back in 1981. The only way to get anywhere in Manhattan in a reasonable amount of time given the horrendous levels of traffic was to just take the path of least resistance. You see an opening, you go for it. It actually worked pretty well. I recall a run I did from 125th Street to West 4th Street in 15 minutes flat.

    If you moved NYC to the Netherlands, I’ve little doubt it wouldn’t be long before the Dutch would be riding exactly the same as NYers ride now. How we ride is largely a product of our environment. Even in a hypothetical, less congested NYC there will still be a need to ride fast just to cover the greater distances in a reasonable amount of time. However, fast doesn’t mean uncivil. Just provide bike infrastructure where faster riders can safely pass slower ones. The unsafe passing I see in NYC by cyclists is mostly a result of bike routes which simply have inadequate room for passing. If bikes really take over here, we might end up with several lanes in each direction on key bike routes just to safely accommodate all types of riders.

  • Joe R.

    Everything in this piece makes sense except one thing—the managing speeds part. Now I get the parts about managing speeds on residential and arterial roads. I’m afraid I don’t understand or agree with the part about lowering speeds on limited access highways where by definition there are no vulnerable users. That flies in the face of everything I’ve read. Per mile highways are already the safest way to travel by motor vehicle. Moreover, the fatality rates on something like the Autobahn are lower than on many slower highways. In other words, lower speeds=safety doesn’t carry over to limited access highways. Moreover, I tend to think higher speed limits would draw more traffic from local streets to highways. This can only have a beneficial effect on safety.

    It’s also worth noting European countries have the luxury of setting lower highway speed limits because they have a great system of railways. If highways are only used for short trips, then a 20 or 30 km/hr speed reduction doesn’t really affect travel times by much. In the US however I tend to think we should aim for higher highway speeds, particularly on urban highways, in order to take as much traffic as possible off local streets. At the same time we can put measures in place to make those local streets less attractive as through routes, at least for motor vehicles.

  • Joe R.

    For all intents and purposes, a human being getting hit by a motor vehicle traveling at x mph is equivalent to the same human being running into a concrete wall at the same speed. The controlling factor on injury/death rates is human physiology. We’re designed more or less to survive a collision with a stationary object at the typical maximum running speeds a fit adult might achieve. That’s approximately 20 to 25 mph, maybe 30 mph for someone like Usain Bolt. I would imagine other animals would have similar results, except these would be correlated with the maximum speeds these animals could achieve.

    Besides lower speeds, I tend to think in the long run we should focus on designing motor vehicles to be less dangerous to those outside the vehicle. If motor vehicles tended to push a person out of their way instead of imparting blunt force trauma, the speeds on those curves would shift significantly higher.

  • Mike

    From all I’ve seen, I’m clearly in the minority, but I do a 12 mile commute at a nice slow pace — it takes maybe an hour and ten minutes. My motivation is that I’d rather wait than get seriously injured or die. I’ve lived in this city for all of my 40 years, and I just don’t find it that hard to wait at a light. Maybe I just have lower blood pressure than most people in this city.

    Also, in Amsterdam, stopping is necessary quite often. While it’s true that as you leave the city center and head out to the countryside that there are miles of rarely-interupted bike lanes, if you do something like ride from Centraal Station to the Rijksmuseum you’ll likely be stopping 20+ times in 1.5 miles. It’s not really that big a deal to stop and put your foot on the ground for a few moments.

    I’m not sure that New Yorkers have an essential unchangeable aggressive nature. For one, I’m a New Yorker and I’m not that way. More broadly, other social change can happen fairly quickly, so I don’t know that it’s impossible to tame the behavior of street users — 15 years ago, every bar was filled with smoke. 7 years ago, every bar had a permanent crowd of smokers outside. Now, those crowds are far smaller if they’re present at all. Smoking is a health concern, and riding like an ass is a health concern — both also have similar second hand effects, though the rate of negative effect is clearly lower with biking like an ass.

  • Mike

    Maybe it’s how I ride (slowly, and generally following the rules), but I find other cyclists to be far more of a danger than motorists. I’ve never had a driver coming the wrong way down a bike lane at me with no room to veer left (parked cars) or right (moving cars). This happens all the time with people on bikes — twice over the course of a couple minutes on yesterday’s ride home. I’m narrowly missed by fellow cyclists trying to beat a red light more often that I am by cars.

    Heck, the only serious injury I’ve had biking around this city since I was a kid back in the early 1980s is from a pedestrian who suddenly veered into the bike lane and took out my handlebars.

    While you may view aggressive cycling as a survival mechanism, I view it as a danger to those of use who ride defensively.

  • AndreL

    Your information on speed limits for Netherlands is wrong.

    50km/h is the default for what would be called “city limits” in US. 30km/h is often signed on local roads with only a local neighborhood-level function.

    The rest you got all wrong.

    70km/h is the speed limits of access-controlled urban expressways.

    80km/h is the default speed limit for roads outside city limits (many secondary country lanes use 60km/h, but his have to be signed specifically)

    100km/h is the default speed limit for expressways with controlled-access

    130km/h (up from 120 recenlty) is the default speed limit for freeways.

    You can check my information on RWS (I do speak Dutch, that is why I can categorically say the info on the post is wrong).

  • AndreL

    The author is completely wrong about speed limits in freeways (I explained above).

  • AndreL

    There are more than 1 million daily cycling trips in the Netherlands whose distance (one-way) is longer than 10km.

  • Steven

    RE: Kinetic energy.
    I remember nearly getting hit by a car while crossing a canal in Amsterdam last fall. It was a single lane bridge and I had to take a step sideways to get around a bike that was parked on the railing. A black sedan passed me right at that moment and nearly ran over my foot and its mirror grazed my elbow. Luckily there were so many pedestrians around that the car wasn’t able to reach speeds greater than 5mph. I don’t think there was a lot of kinetic energy involved in that system, haha. Now the scooter driver going 20 that nearly took us out on the bike lane, that’s another story…

  • Steven

    I, for one, don’t find anything wrong with what Shahum is trying to express in the “managing speeds” part of this article. I’m not really sure why it’s worth pointing out that her numbers are off or that highway travel is the safest form of transit. The take-away was that managing speeds is the greatest factor in road safety when there are big speed differentials involved. This includes mixed use streets and presumably roads where motorists enter from something other than an entrance ramp. I’m always thankful when new vocabulary is introduced and then explained. Thanks!

  • no one

    Zero vision is already a failure here, it doesn’t educate non-drivers! Educate non-drivers about the dangers of motor vehicle traffic, then, and only then, will you will lower traffic fatalities exponentially.

  • Alicia

    (1) Los Angeles is bringing more bicycles closer to cars and closer to air pollution.

    Is there a huge difference in pollution exposure between riding on the sidewalk and riding on the road? I doubt it.

    Separate studies on Bike Lanes and air pollution show a world wide
    consensus that where it is possible, Bike Lanes should not be
    constructed on major streets

    What “studies”? What “world wide consensus?” I’ve been to loads of cities throughout North America (most recently, Montreal) where bike lanes are constructed in the middle of the city.

    The problem with people proposing bike lanes should never be constructed on major streets is that many desirable destinations are on major streets, and categorically stating that bike lanes should not be built on those streets hurts bike access.

    (2) The City promotes Bike Lanes with no buffering, such as the Hyperion Bridge approval. That makes the Bike Lanes doubly
    dangerous.

    True. Buffering, or better yet, physical barriers, would make it safer.

    The PC bicyclist are found of saying that motorist have to learn this or that, but their laments are formulas for disaster.

    Why? Why would improving driver education be “formulas for disaster”? i know it would be an uphill political battle to improve driver’s ed in the US, but if it were accomplished, it would be very helpful.

  • R.A. Stewart

    The difference may be in how much influence those companies are allowed to have. They will press for the greatest advantage anywhere (just found a revealing article in the Guardian about corporate lobbying strategies in Britain, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government), but in the U.S. their influence amounts to a controlling interest (see the most recent and highly publicized research, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9354310).

  • Leah Shahum

    You’re right Aron. My mistake. Thanks for pointing out. Will fix that.

  • Joe R.

    You’re clearly in the minority among hyperaggressive, neurotic, type A NYers (of which I’m one) . In my mind if I wasn’t able to consistently do a 12 mile commute in maybe 45 to 50 minutes or less I really wouldn’t consider bike commuting viable. 45 minutes is probably about what it would take to do a trip like that on mass transit most times of the day, including the walk to/from the station. An hour and ten minutes to do that commute means I’m wasting an extra 40 minutes a day, or 4 hours a week (assuming a 6-day work week). I just don’t have 4 hours a week to kill.

    As for the rest, cities generally get the cyclists they deserve. While it might be possible to hit lots of lights on certain bike trips in the Netherlands, as far as I can tell reading blogs like David Hembrow’s A View From the Cycle Path it’s not the norm. In NYC it’s pretty much the norm to hit tons of traffic lights no matter where you ride (outside of the greenways or bridges). It’s also normal to encounter tons of other obstacles. This all feeds into the general levels of frustration and aggression we see here. I think if NYC made a effort to remove traffic signals from bike paths, and the ensure bike paths are clear of pedestrians or parked vehicles, the general level of inconsiderate, aggressive riding would go down here quite a bit. Sure, people will still ride fast, but they do that in the Netherlands as well. Fast but polite is still a safe way to ride. A lot of the crap I see cyclists do in NYC just to gain a few seconds here or there really isn’t.

  • Sine Metu

    I ride 12 miles each way on my commute in LA and I def take well over an hour to do it. I get what you’re saying about time management but for me every minute on my bikes is heaven so I’m not in any rush to get it over with.

    I do think there is something to what you’re saying about environment dictating style but there are quite a few of us who don’t mind putting our feet down either.

    You also have some great points with the cultural differences between the US and Europe. I agree that we may never have the same amount of civility and harmony that the Dutch enjoy since we do look at time very differently. Hell, we won’t even take vacations.

    I’m constantly capped on vacation days but if I try to take more than a day off here and there I get extreme frown face from my corporate masters and when I get back I’m punished mercilessly for daring to set an out-of-office.

    To think that people take WEEKS off every year over there is mind boggling.

  • SLC_realist

    Yawn.

  • SLC_realist

    I’ll be interested to see if there’s any studies from Norway on the effect of the speed limit hike. The new government ran expressly on raising speed limits if elected, afaik, they rammed it through without much consultation from the DOT.

  • AndreL

    Norway raised the speed limit last summer so we don’t have all data yet.

    Netherlands started increasing the limit of some sectors of highways to 130 km/h (81 mph). Then, in 2012, it raised the default highway speed limit to that limit.

    No statistical difference on accident, injury or fatality rates, normalized to traffic volumes, was found so far.

    Most UT highways can accommodate 80 mph and some even 85.

  • Joe R.

    It’s true some people love being on their bikes to the point time doesn’t matter. In some ways I’m like that also. What might make me look at commutes differently are two things. One, I’m not necessarily riding in places I normally would for fun. Two, typically the type of riding I might be doing during a rush hour commute is so far removed from my idea of enjoyable riding that I’d consider it a chore. Basically, the kind of riding I love involves getting a bike up to speed, and then just staying there for many minutes, even an hour or two. That kind of riding is even hard to come by at midnight in a place like NYC, although at least I typically may only need to slow down to walking speed 10 or 20 times passing red lights, and might never need to stop completely at all that time of night. Rush hour, or even daytime riding, is nothing but stress for me. Stopping every few blocks, scanning constantly for myriad obstacles, breathing in exhaust fumes, etc. It’s mental stress. It’s also physical stress. If I have to stop and start more than maybe 25 times I’m done, exhausted, maybe even will have cramps the next few days.

    In the end it’s not solely a matter of being rushed or not. I can see the value of a slow, leisurely commute but at a steady pace, without stopping, on stress-free greenways. I might not even care in that case if my commute takes 10 or 15 minutes longer than it theoretically could. However, if the entire commute is in typical rush hour street conditions, I don’t want to be out there a minute longer than possible so I’ll do whatever I must to make that happen, be it passing red lights, drafting buses so I can cruise at 35 mph, doing jack rabbit starts the second the road ahead is clear, etc. I’ve talked to motorists who feel the same. Even people who really love driving hate to drive during typical rush hour conditions.

    I hear you on vacations. I’m glad I work at home as my own boss. I can take downtime whenever I don’t have work, and can set my own schedule. It’s a really sore spot with my that American employers frown on vacations. Even when you have a lot of vacation time coming, the situation is always as you described. They won’t let you take it except in drips and drabs. Asking for a week off is often pushing it, and yet I think people should get at least 5 or 6 consecutive weeks off a year just to recharge their batteries. Studies have shown you’ll make up for the time off with improved productivity the remainder of the year. Maybe we’ll figure this out in the US eventually.

  • MarkinArl

    Glad to hear the Europeans are making progress on this new Vision Zero thing after having succeeded getting everyone to give up smoking tobacco. I’m sure this new public health campaign will be every bit as swift and effective.

    What’s missing is getting pedestrians to look up from their phones and wait for their turn for the green at intersections. Icon overload is another problem where there are so many new symbols in our lives that they all now communicate poorly, lacking the clarity and impact of words like “STOP” and “HALT”.

    Urban designers are out of step with Vision Zero, endangering pedestrians and cyclists by flattening overpasses and underpasses. More are needed to reduce conflicts, not less.

  • catherinette
  • neroden

    From where I’m standing, the key part of “enforcement” is taking licenses away from motorists who commit reckless driving *repeatedly*. This is so normal in all of Europe, and has been since before Vision Zero, that they probably wouldn’t even bother to mention it. But in the US, repeat reckless drivers generally just keep driving! Heck, often the reckless drivers are cops and they *remain cops*!

  • neroden

    Motorists do have to learn things like “don’t drive at high speed on the sidewalk”, which apparently has not been learned by startling numbers of reckless drivers in New York City.

    The degree to which enforcement is totally absent in some American cities would cause jaws to drop among Europeans.

  • neroden

    The ability of corporate feudal overlords to prevent people from taking vacations shows how much of a feudal nightmare the US is.

  • SZwartz

    Trying to teach motorists to drive slower is probably the worst possible way to reduce speeding. To my mind, it is like teaching abstinence as an effective means of birth control.

    Engineering is most effective.

  • SZwartz

    Above, I explained the limits of education. The theory sounds nice, but in practice, it is a failure. That is why woonerfs are nice.

    When you read an article, it is best to pay attention to what it actually says, rather than inventing things which the article did not say. Also, when an article has lots of hyper-links to its source material, it would be wise to read those studies.

    Here’s another copy

    http://bit.ly/1e6LdPN Thursday, June 11, 2015, Zwartz Talk, City Conceals Toxic Pollution Danger of Bike Lanes, Worldwide Consensus Against Bike Lanes on Major Boulevards Hidden from Angelenos, by Scott Zwartz

  • Alicia

    Above, I explained the limits of education.

    No, you did nothing of the sort. All you said is that it is a “formula for disaster.” That’s not an explanation, but an opinion with no explanation or clarification.

    When you read an article, it is best to pay attention to what it actually says, rather than inventing things which the article did not say.

    Huh? I made no claims about what the article said. I was responding directly to your comment.

    Also, when an article has lots of hyper-links to its source material, it would be wise to read those studies.

    Since this article has a grand total of one hyperlink, your comment comes across as a non-sequitur.

  • SZwartz

    If you had taken the time to look above, you would have seen:

    “Trying to teach motorists to drive slower is probably the worst possible way to reduce speeding. To my mind, it is like teaching abstinence as an effective means of birth control. Engineering is most effective.”

    I see that I must have posted the article with the hyperlinks to another article and not to this particular one in StreetBlog.

    Had you, however, taken the time to click on the one hyper-link, which I gather was too great an effort prior to replying, you would have found an article with over 20 hyper-links to supporting scientific studies.

  • neroden

    Did you manage to read the phrase *on the sidewalk* in my comment? I think you didn’t.

    I think “education” and “enforcement” have an important place in removing the sort of lunatic drivers who think it’s reasonable to deliberately drive onto a crowded sidewalk. (You’ll find several reports of stuff like this in the Streetsblog archives. Most of them got off with a slap on the wrist, and still have licenses!)

  • SZwartz

    I thought you were using hyperbole to emphasize how poorly some people drive.

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