Friday, 11 December 2015

Vision 0

Vision 0 is a concept where absolutely nobody can die on the roads or as a result of a crash on them, neither can a major injury, and it is not accepted if it ever does, and everything possible must be done to prevent the collision from happening again. All other collisions and minor injuries must be prevented if at all possible. It says that safety takes precedence, no matter what, it is absolute in that regard. Nobody should be penalized by getting from their current location to their intended destination.

It originated in Sweden, in 1997 by their national parliament. Sweden has 9.5 million people, and had 264 deaths in 2013. If we adjust for population in Canada, that would mean that we would have 1000 deaths. A third that of what we have today. It also has an interesting provision that I particularly like. It says that those who regulate, fund, build and design roads have accountability in collisions if the infrastructure or rules did not prevent a collision. This means that you can not blame a driver who genuinely missed a cyclist while turning right and caused an injury if the roadway could have been built to provide much better sightlines, and those who fail to provide funding for this while having funding for less important things, like the 176 thousand dollar salary the mayor got, which could easily be 90 thousand dollars and he would still have a very good life, are also accountable, at least in my eyes.

It acknowledges that humans WILL make mistakes. Humans find all kinds of ways to fail at doing what they are supposed to do on the roads. truck drivers are pressured to take fewer sleep and rest breaks than they should, drivers think that their friend will be angry if they don't respond to their text, people who genuinely don't know what the rules are supposed to be, like small toddlers, and there are even people you can't blame. A blind person crossing the street is by definition incapable of knowing by sight if a car has stopped for them. They depend on their hearing, and if a car is electric and a sound generator wired to mimic the sound of an engine is not used, then they have no way of knowing if a car is in their way or not.

 It acknowledges that infrastructure is the best possible way to prevent as many mistakes as possible and minimizing the damage of a mistake. The Dutch have a slight variant, Sustainable Safety, but they are closely related.

I like this video that the state of Victoria in Australia made to show how no death or major injury is acceptable, regardless of who died or was injured, why, when, or other characteristic of that casualty. Link here: Think about what you might be thinking if the death number went from 100 to 4 next year. Sounds good right? But then imagine that you were that guy who said 70 was OK at first. And then he saw his family and a whole bunch of other people. There are 4 others in my family. That 4 could be anyone's family, friend, business partner, spouse, colleague, student, teacher, you name it. Obviously that 96 people did not die this year is good, but there is still progress to be made. We shouldn't throw the big party until that number is 0. And also worth thinking about is injuries. If you got nerve damage in your neck and couldn't move anything, is that a life you would want? A broken bone in the wrong place might mean that you could never work again, especially the older you are. I broke my arm a long time ago and it healed right, but that was when I was maybe 8-11 or so. Still means you can't enjoy soccer, maybe not even bike. If you broke your thighs, then you really couldn't ride a bike, at least not an ordinary one. It is also likely to make you fear that it's dangerous, and do it less or not ever again. That is not good!

Engineering is really capable of preventing a huge number of injuries, collisions and deaths in general, and as a side effect, it can make it very pleasant and subjectively safe to ride a bike, ride a scooter/moped, drive a car, walk or even use a wheelchair on the streets. Even minor things we almost never think of can play a role. The curbs next to a cycleway for instance could be angled, and doing so has prevented at least several dozen, if not more than 100 injuries in the Netherlands when this has been done. By designing the 30 km/h zones to have mostly uncontrolled intersections, cyclists mixing with motor vehicles, traffic calming and being next to homes and businesses, you make it as self evident as 2+2=4 as to how to drive here. It doesn't need as much explaining as the statement 4(4x)+2(x)=72, and find x, which by the way is 4. You instantly adjust, not waiting for the speed limit sign or the sign warning of pedestrians and cyclists to adjust.

By engineering conflicts out of the road, differences in mass, speed and or direction you make it a very safe road system. Cycle tracks on roads where the speed limit is greater than 30 km/h, or the volume exceeds 2000 vpd, or both, with the occasional exception of cycle lanes on some collector roads with a maximum of 40 km/h speeds and less than 3500 vpd, removes the conflict in mass and speed which is dangerous. This applies for cars too, taking out conflicts can really improve safety. Adding bus lanes physically separated gives the bus priority over traffic, lets it bypass congestion, but also takes away the conflict in mass and speed. Buses have a mass of 11.7 tonnes depending on which model it is, and for articulated buses, which we are going to see more of if transit gets more popular on some routes, and is already used for some routes, like the 9 and 8 in Edmonton and sometimes the 100, has a mass of over 17 tonnes (I know I said 24 tonnes a few times before, but I found out that I thought that was 24000 kilograms, not 24000 pounds for the 12 metre buses), and while it's top speed can be pretty high, the Leduc transit buses get up to 110 km/h, they stop frequently where a driver might not be expecting it, and because we rarely use inlets for buses to stop at, we have no laws obligating a driver to let a left signalling bus back into traffic, the drivers behind can get caught off guard, and with 11 or 17 tonnes vs 1.5 tonnes, you probably know who is going to be worse off.

Swedes, the Dutch and some other countries, like Denmark, Sweden, a few roads in Ireland, and Nova Scotia have something called Super 2 highways. These prevent all side conflict by grade separating the side road, often with a simple overpass, but also often with diamond interchanges, some with roundabouts which really reduces the conflict with acceleration and deceleration ramps, with a median in the middle of the two directions in general, sometimes with a painted buffer, and they have a good flow of traffic. I would call these expressways and put a 100 km/h speed limit on the ones with the median between the two directions, 70 km/h on the undivided ones, the latter already is a standard limit for undivided provincial highways. Sometimes these also have overtaking lanes, alternating between the two directions every few kilometres, and many rural highways have full shoulders. This removes the possibility of crashing into the oncoming traffic, a particularly dangerous crash with the full force of both crashes colliding, the only saving grace being the fact that there are engines in the front. A side collision is also very bad, as it is likely to spin the vehicles and there is less to protect the occupants of the vehicle being T boned.

Roundabouts also have a very good safety record if well designed. Cyclists got 2 minor injuries in 5 years at 19 Assen roundabouts, I mentioned that before, but drivers too benefit greatly. There were about 35 property damage collisions and 1 minor injury at all 19 roundabouts in 5 years. Given that you have a car to protect you will all sorts of modern equipment, airbags, often side airbags too, seat belts, sturdy frame, collapsible steering wheel, even sensors that can tell you how to avoid a crash in very modern cars, and the low speed of roundabouts and low angles between the crashes, these rarely do damage to the occupants of cars. Multi lane roundabouts, if made turbo roundabouts with grade separation for cyclists and pedestrians, can also have much better safety record, and a better flow of traffic too while you're at it, than traffic lights or regular sign controlled intersections.

I actually support building some freeways and grade separations for high speed high capacity roadways, but my goal would be to link cities and towns, and make the bulk of traffic go around them, not go through them. It removes nearly all conflict. I've seen some of the damage that a freeway through some downtowns can do, and was about to happen to Edmonton in the 1960s and early 70s. So that is not what I like. I support making those safer because of Vision 0.

Railway crossings somehow have managed to attract a lot of people to go through the red lights. Let's take a look at mass and speed. Some freight trains can go 127 km/h (79 mph, and with a mass of 5000 tonnes, you have no way that a car is going to be in good shape with just 1.5 tonnes. So grade separating the railways, and adding fences next to them, both so that wild animals don't cross a train's path either and that humans don't do that is very useful. The Dutch have been building grade separations for their railways like mad, with many mainlines being grade separated for the majority of their lengths. The next best thing is to have the bells, flashing lights, gate arms that cover all lanes for motor traffic, including exits if the road has a way to access the opposite direction, and bicycle paths and sidewalks, with the gates for motor traffic strengthened so that hitting it will not let you go through, the standard for up to 200 km/h and requiring them over 177 km/h speeds over level crossings in the US. It helps to reduce the impact of mistakes.

These are just a few examples, this article could be dozens of times longer if I tried to explain everything now. I would spend weeks making it. I hope I have given you a taste of Vision 0, some of the principles and examples of how they can be applied. These are my principles and if you don't like them, well, I have others, to quote Groucho Marx.

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