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A Negative Review of 'Vision Zero'

The 'Vision Zero' movement to eliminate pedestrian deaths is fantastic. It is helping cities around the world create better, safer streets. The name and its embrace of absolutes dooms cities to failure.
November 3, 2015, 10am PST | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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The "Vision Zero" movement is influencing planners around the world, encouraging them to give greater advantage to humans in the century-old battle between pedestrians and cars. A dozen cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, have adopted its principles. The principles are admirable, writes Josh Stephens in the California Planning & Development Report. The name, though, is antithetical to how planning actually works. 

"Accidents are going to happen, even in Copenhagen. Someone is going to bust an inner tube and hit the curb. Someone is going to slip on a carelessly discarded smørrebrød. Someone will get tangled in his scarf and end up in a canal. Even perfect cities aren't perfect." 

"The fact is, planning can never eliminate all bad things -- whatever the thing happens to be. In the case of pedestrian safety, it can absolutely reduce deaths. It can, if you go back to high school calculus, approach zero. But this is still a free country. Unless Los Angeles bans cars entirely and replaces all its pavement with compacted marshmallow, it can never reach zero. Not in 2015, not in 2035, not ever. In the battle between absolutes and public policy, policy never wins."

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Published on Thursday, October 22, 2015 in California Planning & Development Report
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