04 Jan Signs You Don’t Live in an 8 80 City
I pass by these signs daily. They are stark reminders of how I do not live in an 8 80 City.
As many of the readers of this blog know, our organization is based on a simple yet powerful concept: if everything we did in our cities was great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old, then it will be great for all people.
These signs, while they may be well-meaning, demonstrate a lack of understanding of the scale of the problem we face when it comes to road safety.
Our cities’ pedestrian fatality rate is of urgent concern. In 2016 the City of Toronto had 43 fatalities, 37 of these victims were over the age of 55. Worldwide, in cities of all sizes, the victims of traffic fatalities are disproportionately children, older adults and the poor.
We know what works when it comes to saving lives. The data shows, and the city knows, that slowing down traffic works.
The faster the driver is going, the more likely he or she is to kill or seriously injure a pedestrian. A study by the UK DOT found that at 20mph (32kph) the risk of death from being struck was approximately 5%. At 30mph (48kph) that risk rises to 45%, and at 40mph (64kph), it soars to 95%.
I have seen no research to support the idea that traffic calming signs have any effect when it comes to reducing fatalities. Even if they did help, why do we only want “safe zones” in front of the schools or in front of areas with high numbers of seniors? The last time I checked, children and seniors live in all areas of our city.
What is needed is significant investment in road re-design; that reduces speed and accepts that humans make mistakes when driving. This is one of the core components of Vision Zero, which was initiated in Sweden.
Swedish, German and Danish cities have made tremendous progress on creating streets that are safer for people to walk on. Stockholm, for instance, has cut traffic deaths by 45% over the last 15 years.
If we just built our cities and our streets with people in mind, we wouldn’t need these silly signs. Our whole city would be a “safety zone” for children and older adults and everyone else.