Seattle's Vision Zero Program Emphasizes Safe Systems Over Enforcement

Looking for traffic safety improvements while responding to 2020's Black Lives Matter protests, Seattle has spent much of the past two years implementing a Safe System approach to move closer to its Vision Zero goal to eliminate traffic fatalities.

Read Time: 1 minute

January 12, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


SR-99 on-ramp in Seattle

Joe Mabel / SR-99 in Seattle

Ryan Packer reports in detail on the ongoing evolution of the city of Seattle's Vision Zero initiative to end traffic fatalities. According to Packer, the Seattle Department of Transportation is in the process of moving away from "emphasis patrols" performed in conjunction with the Seattle Police Department to target specific dangerous driving behaviors. In the place of such enforcement measures, the city is implementing a Safe System approach.

According to Allison Schwartz, the city's Vision Zero coordinator, the safe systems approach "emphasizes the responsibility of a city to design and operate our transportation system in a way that acknowledges and plans for both human error and human frailty." (A recent Planetizen article by Angie Schmitt provides additional details about the Safe Systems approach to traffic safety.)

As proof of the shift away from enforcement, Packer cites the Safe Routes to Schools action plan published by the city last year. The seven "Es" proposed for action by the plan notably lack "enforcement."

And for proof of the shift toward Safe Systems, Packer lists attention to high-injury corridors, leading pedestrian intervals, and hardened center lines.

The source article includes a lot more detail and context for the shifting Vision Zero approach in Seattle.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022 in The Urbanist

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee