Vision Zero: With love from Sweden to New York City

What were the main barriers that had to be overcome in initially adopting Sweden’s Vision Zero strategy?

vision zero nyc logoMatts-Åke Belin, Swedish traffic safety strategist: I would say that the main problems that we had in the beginning were not really political, they were more on the expert side. The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into “zero.” Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.

The problem is the whole transport sector is quite influenced by the whole utilitarianist mindset. Now we’re bringing in the idea that it’s not acceptable to be killed or seriously injured when you’re transporting. It’s more a civil-rights thing that you bring into the policy.

The other group that had trouble with Vision Zero was our friends, our expert friends. Because most of the people in the safety community had invested in the idea that safety work is about changing human behavior. Vision Zero says instead that people make mistakes, they have a certain tolerance for external violence, let’s create a system for the humans instead of trying to adjust the humans to the system.

vision zero accident scene sweden

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Op-Ed. The Old Transport Appraisal Shell Game: Who wins, who loses and what to do about it

scratching-headWhy is it that virtually every major transport project built in the last decades in just about any part of the world has cost a great deal more than the original engagement, and served far fewer people than originally forecast?  And since this pattern repeats itself time and again, and since in the process the one who ends up holding the bag every time is the hard-working and apparently infinitely gullible taxpayer, it is possible to come to a conclusion.  And that has to be that, up to now at least, we are terminally stupid, we fall for the same old trick every time. Why is that, and what are its implications for the quality of mobility services in your city and metro area?  We invited Dr. Colin Black who is currently working to get a handle on these issues from an overall European perspective to share his thoughts with us.

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The Psychopathology of the Everyday Driver

speeding car pedestrian crossingSometimes life is simple:

Question: How fast will car drivers speed on any given stretch of road or street, in or out of the city?

Answer: As fast as they can.

Qualification: And if that is not true for every driver on the road (for example you or maybe me), it is true for enough of them such that if road safety is the goal, then this brutal, uncompromising reality must be taken into serious consideration.

Question 2: Now if this is indeed the case (and it most definitely  is!) what if anything can we do about it?
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Op-ed: Political behaviour is largely non-rational

When one considers how things have gone in the last decades or thereabouts, it is not easy to believe in the survival of civilization.

brain surgeryI do not argue from this that the only thing to do is to adjure practical politics, retire to some remote place and concentrate either on individual salvation or on building up self-supporting communities against the day when the atom bombs have done their work. I think one must continue the political struggle, just as a doctor must try to save the life of a patient who is probably going to die.

But I do suggest that we shall get nowhere unless we start by recognizing that political behaviour is largely non-rational, that the world is suffering from some kind of mental disease which must be diagnosed before it can be cured.

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What is Exernomics?

Exernomics is a concatenation of two words, economics and exergy. Economics is a discipline, with scientific aspirations, concerned with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in human society. It is also concerned with markets, trade and prices. It has been called “the dismal science” (by Thomas Carlyle), because of the Malthusian argument (c. 1799) that human population will always grow faster than food supply, whence the future of mankind was destined to be constrained by poverty and starvation. That didn’t happen during the following two centuries. So, in recent years Malthus has become an object of derision by mainstream economists, who have adopted a contrary doctrine of perpetual growth driven by unending innovation and substitution.

But the mainstream has ignored the fact that one resource has no substitute. It is “useful energy” or – in techno-speak – exergy.

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“Reverse Toll” Paid To Pedestrians & Cyclists In Norwegian Town

“Reverse Toll” Paid To Pedestrians & Cyclists In Norwegian Town

October 1st, 2014 by Travelers with the lightest footprints, pedestrians and bicyclists, recently earned a boost in their pockets for their carbon-free travel in a small city in Norway. In Lillestrøm, around 10,000 NOK (€1,200) was handed out to pedestrians and cyclists. “Reverse toll money” was part of Norway’s ongoing European Mobility Week celebrations. The money reflected savings due to the health benefits of walking and cycling. Pedestrians and bicyclists gained the rewards for increasing clean, efficient transport in the city.

World Streets reports: “Cyclists received around €12, while pedestrians gained €11. Calculations carried out by the Norwegian Directorate of Health shows that active transport provides the state with a saving of 52 NOK (€6) per kilometer for pedestrians and 26 NOK (€3) per kilometer for cyclists. An average bike trip in Norway is 4 kilometers, providing a health benefit of 100 NOK (€12), while an average walking trip is 1.7 km, worth almost 90 NOK (€11).” Continue reading