Vision Zero Frequently Asked Questions

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Vision Zero

What is Vision Zero?

The internationally-recognized Vision Zero Network defines Vision Zero as, “a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.”

Why is it called “Vision Zero”?

The name “Vision Zero” reflects a goal of zero transportation-related serious injuries or deaths.

How and where did Vision Zero begin?

The set of holistic principles known collectively as Vision Zero were first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s. Those implementing the first Vision Zero strategies sought to evolve beyond disjointed, reactive responses to traffic deaths to implement a goals-based, multi-disciplinary approach which shifts the focus from individual incidents to system-wide improvement.

Through its Vision Zero efforts, fatalities in Sweden have been reduced by half making it one of the safest places in the world to travel. Now Vision Zero safety programs are gaining traction across America and seeing dramatic results.

How is Vision Zero different than the traditional approach to transportation safety?

The traditional approach to transportation safety assumes that traffic deaths are inevitable and relies on perfect human behavior for safe outcomes. The traditional approach assumes that it is expensive to save lives, which requires large-scale projects or efforts. Traditional approaches to transportation safety typically focus on reducing or preventing collisions, regardless of severity.

Vision Zero focuses on preventing fatalities and injuries – not collisions in general. A Vision Zero safety approach considers transportation-related serious injuries or deaths as preventable and integrates human failings into the approach to traffic management (i.e., assume that people make mistakes when driving, walking, and cycling).

Applying the Vision Zero approach, Arlington County will collect and analyze data/experiences related to transportation safety to identify problems on a systemic level, prioritize resources, and implement changes—both big and small—to address safety issues before they cause harm. The multi-disciplinary approach may require changes to a range of County policies and procedures as well as changes to the built environment.

What are the core principles of Vision Zero?

  1. Transportation-related serious injuries and deaths are preventable. Crashes aren’t accidents – they are often the result of inadequate infrastructure or behavior. Together we can improve our policies, systems, and environments to meet our goal of zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries.
  2. Human life and health are prioritized within all aspects of transportation systems. People deserve safe transportation regardless of how they get around, whether walking, biking, rolling, riding transit, or driving. Benefits of speed and mobility are secondary to health and safety.
  3. Human error is inevitable, and transportation systems should be forgiving. People make errors, mistakes, and misjudgments. The transportation system must be designed to minimize the consequences of human error.
  4. Safety work should focus on systems-level changes above influencing individual behavior. Policies, systems, and the built environment should be designed to encourage desired behaviors rather than rely on individuals.
  5. Reducing vehicle speeds is recognized and prioritized as the fundamental factor in crash severity. The force of a crash and impact on the human body due to speed is directly related to the severity of a traffic injury. Travel speeds need to reflect context and be set to protect human life.

What other U.S. cities have Vision Zero programs?

Over 40 cities in the US have made a commitment to Vision Zero. Places like New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Seattle, WA; and Los Angeles, CA, have demonstrated how the resources of a large city can work toward Vision Zero. Smaller cities (including Alexandria, VA; Bellevue, WA; and Eugene, OR) have demonstrated that Vision Zero can be successfully scaled to any size and tailored to local needs. You can view a map of Vision Zero communities in the United States on the Vision Zero Network website.

Where can I learn more about Vision Zero?

Vision Zero Network website: https://visionzeronetwork.org/.

 

Vision Zero in Arlington

How many transportation-related serious injuries are there in Arlington per year?

  • There were 178 critical (serious or fatal) crashes reported in Arlington County between 2017-2019, or just less than 60 per year on average.

Arlington’s transportation network is relatively safe by national standards, with an annual average of 0.84 traffic deaths per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 11.17 traffic deaths per 100,000 people. But no serious injury or death on our streets or trails is acceptable, no matter how we compare to other communities.

Why did Arlington County adopt a Vision Zero resolution?

  • Everyone in Arlington depends on a safe transportation network as they move throughout the County. On July 16, 2019, the Arlington County Board affirmed these values by adopting a resolution committing to Vision Zero.

The principles of Vision Zero are supported by existing County policies and goals, from the Master Transportation Plan to Destination 2027 to the Arlington County Police Department Strategic Management Plan. In addition, the County has many plans and policies that are aimed at making the streets safe for all.

What will Vision Zero mean for Arlington County?

  • All agencies and departments at Arlington County will commit to a set of strategies aimed at reducing serious injuries or deaths via the Vision Zero Action Plan. The Plan will commit to report progress, including increased collaboration, toward the goal of zero transportation-related serious injuries or deaths.

Arlington County is committed to achieving Vision Zero through system-level cultural change in policies, practices, and actions. It is our responsibility to maintain a transportation system in which crashes do not result in fatalities or serious injuries. We will collaborate with community members, policy makers, elected officials, law enforcement, public health, and transportation providers to ensure shared responsibility and accountability.

Is the goal of zero transportation-related serious injuries or deaths realistic?

  • Yes, the goal of Vision Zero is realistic. That does not mean it will be attained overnight. Each action in the plan will tackle a small piece of our greater safety needs—and we (County staff, County partners, and community members) will work piece by piece to achieve the goal of zero. Between now and when the goal is reached, numerous lives will be saved and serious injuries will be prevented as each action comes into play.

People should not be killed or seriously injured as a consequence of mobility. Vision Zero is a bold approach to change our culture around how we view transportation safety. With commitment and intention, we can make an impact toward realizing zero serious injuries and deaths on Arlington streets.

What are Arlington’s goals for Vision Zero?

The County shared draft goals with the community in January and February, and refined the goals based on community input. We refined the draft goals based on what we heard, and these are the result:

  • Ensure safe transportation, no matter how you get around.
  • Put safety first on County projects and policies – big or small.
  • Be transparent, responsive, and accountable on Vision Zero progress and outcomes.
  • Apply timely data to take action on safety.
  • Promote a culture of transportation safety for everyone.
  • Prioritize transportation safety investments equitably in the most vulnerable and historically-underserved communities.

Which agencies and departments are involved in transportation safety and Vision Zero in Arlington County?

  • Vision Zero emphasizes multi-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration to address traffic safety. This requires improving communication and information-sharing between agencies while breaking down the barriers and “silos” that arise as each local agency pursues its own mission.

The Interdepartmental Stakeholder Group is comprised of the various departments and bureaus within Arlington County Government that relate to transportation safety and equity. The Interdepartmental Stakeholders Group meets monthly to provide input on the development of the Vision Zero Action Plan, and will continue to meet once the plan is in place to coordinate/report on progress toward each action in the plan.

What was Arlington County doing to support safe transportation before it adopted Vision Zero?

  • Arlington County has many ongoing transportation safety and safety-related programs, policies, and standards that cross multiple disciplines. These include efforts related to engineering, evaluation/planning, enforcement/policy, education, and engagement. Still, we know there are opportunities to improve our programs and increase safety practices.
  • One of the first steps in creating the Action Plan was to identify Arlington County’s existing and ongoing transportation safety programs through each of the County’s departments

This presentation to the Vision Zero External Stakeholders Group provides a summary of safety-related programs, including goals or objectives in adopted plans, mission or value statements, policies, codes, standards, ongoing programs, day-to-day activities, and roles/responsibilities.

Where can I learn more about Arlington County Vision Zero?

The Arlington County Vision Zero website is the best resource for information specific to Arlington County’s Vision Zero Action Plan effort.

 

Action Plan

What is a Vision Zero “Action Plan”?

This Arlington Vision Zero Action Plan will be a document listing specific actions and commitments taken on by the County, our partners, and community to achieve our transportation safety goals—and ultimate vision of zero transportation-related serious injuries or deaths.

The County’s Vision Zero Action Plan will detail the County’s commitment to achieving the objectives defined in the County’s Vision Zero resolution. It will articulate goals, objectives, action items, and performance measures to guide actions and evaluate the County’s progress toward eliminating serious transportation injuries and fatalities.

The community will be able to review and provide comments on the first Action Plan before it is finalized.

The Vision Zero Action Plan will be a living document that will be updated to evolve with new circumstances and needs. Since Vision Zero is based on transparency and flexibility, the Action Plan reflects these principles.

What is the timeline for developing Arlington’s first Vision Zero Action Plan?

expected to wrap up in Spring 2021. The process includes three public engagement phases to integrate the values and needs of the community throughout the process.

Is Arlington County working on safety actions to make traveling safer while we are developing the Vision Zero Action Plan?

Yes, there are a number of initiatives already underway in Arlington County and those actions are being reviewed, expanded, and focused as part of the development of the Vision Zero Action Plan.

 

Implementation & Accountability

When will the County start to implement the actions/projects in the Vision Zero Action Plan?

Arlington County will begin implementing and reporting on actions as soon as the Vision Zero Action Plan is adopted by the Board, which is anticipated in Spring 2021. As mentioned in the response above, there are new and ongoing efforts that the County is working on in advance of Action Plan adoption given the urgency of transportation safety matters.

How will Arlington County implement the Vision Zero Action Plan?

The Vision Zero Action Plan will include an implementation strategy describing the roles, responsibilities, timelines, and reporting metrics for each action set forth in the plan.

How will the County pay for implementation of the Action Plan?

Much of the action and impact under Vision Zero will focus on culture shifts—like revisiting guidelines, standards, and processes to put safety first as decisions are made that impact the built environment. These changes focus on interdisciplinary action, coordination, and prioritization rather than funding. Funding opportunities will include a dedicated fund for fast-action safety improvements, as well as leveraging grants, partnerships, and other resources to complete action items.

How will Arlington measure and share progress on implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan?

Crash data and statistics will be shared through an online Vision Zero Dashboard. The Dashboard will be posted following adoption of the Action Plan.

To report on progress toward each action item in the Action Plan, the County will publish periodic updates on the Vision Zero website.

For updates on the implementation of the Vision Zero Action Plan and future engagement opportunities, please “Sign Up for Vision Zero Updates” on the right panel of the County’s Vision Zero website.

How will Arlington County update our Vision Zero Action Plan?

The initial Vision Zero Action Plan will cover a five-year period, subject to adjustments and edits as the program evolves within that five-year timeframe.

The Vision Zero Action Plan will be refined as progress is made and actions are evaluated for their effectiveness. Interim plan updates may occur as progress is made on the initial set of actions and/or as new actions are identified.

Will Vision Zero result in immediate, large-scale changes (for example, reducing speed limits county-wide)?

Many factors contribute to safety, and there are many who stand to benefit from increasing travel safety. Arlington County will consider a full range of potential actions (e.g., revisions to existing guidelines/policies, new ways to report transportation concerns, or using data to target new safety projects) during the development of the Vision Zero Action Plan. Draft actions will be reviewed with the community prior to plan adoption in Spring 2021.

The vision of zero serious injuries or deaths will not be immediate. Each action in the plan will tackle one piece of our greater safety needs—and we (County staff, County partners, and community members) will work piece by piece to achieve the goal of zero over time. Between now and when the goal is reached, numerous lives will be saved and serious injuries will be prevented as each action comes into play.

Does Vision Zero mean that it will take longer to drive places in the County?

No, Vision Zero does not mean it will always take longer to drive places. It does mean that the safety of all users will be taken into account when transportation projects are being designed and constructed.

Is Vision Zero just another bicycle or pedestrian program?

While it will be important to improve safety for vulnerable users – including less-protected travelers such as people walking or riding bicycles – Vision Zero is a comprehensive approach to improving safety for all people, no matter how you travel in the County. That includes people in motor vehicles, who account for the majority of transportation-related fatalities in our community.

 

Equity

Are there disparities between people of different races, ages, classes, sexes or abilities in Arlington?

Social equity is at the core of Vision Zero. Throughout the US, some community members are systemically underserved by current transportation systems and polices. People of color, low-income households, people with disabilities, older adults and youth, people with limited English proficiency, households with limited vehicle access, and people walking and biking often face more challenges and barriers to safe transportation. Vision Zero targets to learn more about these disparities and close the gaps to safe transportation.

In Arlington, our existing data includes some of this information, but does not include all of these demographic categories. Expanding our understanding of the impacts of transportation-related serious injuries and fatalities on different groups in our community is one of our goals for data analysis in our Vision Zero work.

How will Arlington County ensure that the Vision Zero Action Plan supports an equitable transportation system for all people in Arlington?

Arlington County is committed to addressing disproportionate impacts of transportation-related serious injuries and deaths by eliminating the barriers to safe mobility for all by:

  • Identifying neighborhoods that are currently underserved by our transportation system
  • Inviting and encouraging meaningful dialogue and partnerships, seeking input from diverse voices in the traffic safety conversation
  • Investing and prioritizing in safety improvements that fill gaps and provide transportation options in areas most in need
  • Ensuring Vision Zero actions do not place additional burdens in our neighborhoods or result in racial profiling
  • Integrating new data sources to measure the success of safety improvements to ensure equitable outcomes and make refinements based on outcomes.

Stay tuned, as implementation of the Action Plan will include opportunities for you to get involved in advancing equity and inclusion in the transportation planning process.

 

Outreach & Engagement

How is the County promoting awareness of and gathering input on the Vision Zero Action Plan?

The development of the Arlington County Vision Zero Action Plan is an all-community effort. Meaningful public engagement and consistent project communication are long-established cornerstones of Arlington County’s planning efforts.

The County is reaching out to the community through the project website, email newsletters, public meetings (virtual as needed during COVID-19 restrictions), pop-up events (when safe/feasible), and targeted mailings. The County is also working with Interdepartmental and External Stakeholders Groups to coordinate community engagement efforts and disseminate information.

What can individuals or groups do to promote or help implement Vision Zero policies?

Once completed, the Vision Zero Action Plan will be a tool for Arlington County staff, elected officials, and community members.

The Action Plan will include a pledge for you to sign up to commit to Vision Zero.

The County will also provide tools and materials to help spread the word and get people involved.

Stay involved in the development of the initial Action Plan to see how you can help to implement the plan when it is completed.

How do I stay involved?

We’re glad you want to be involved! Please sign up for Vision Zero email updates (on the sidebar of the website) to get a notification when there is new information available or events are scheduled.

Stay tuned for future Vision Zero Action Plan updates.

I have a specific concern about transportation safety. How can I report it?

If there is an immediate safety need that you would like to see fixed (e.g., a missing street sign, a pothole), you can report the issue on the Report-a-Problem tool on the Arlington County website.

If you would like to make a request for a new transportation safety element (e.g., a new crosswalk, stop sign, warning sign), please email DES-TEO@arlingtonva.us.

I have a question that is not on this list. Who do I send it to?

Please contact Christine Sherman Baker, Project Manager, at csbaker@arlingtonva.us.