Vision Zero Challenge launched to support safer cities

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Zoleka Mandela discussing Vision Zero on a new podcast.
Zoleka Mandela discussing Vision Zero on a new podcast.
Zoleka Mandela discussing the Challenge with FGR Chief Executive Nani Rodríguez.
Zoleka Mandela discussing the Challenge with FGR Chief Executive Nani Rodríguez.

A new road safety challenge, supported by the FIA Foundation and coordinated by the World Resources Institute, has been launched at Transforming Transportation in Washington DC, with the aim to help cities in Latin America and the Caribbean create systemic change to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries.

The Vision Zero Challenge will train city leaders on how to make streets safer for children, how to improve infrastructure and speeds, how to set policies and attract financing, and more; and five participating cities will be selected as #Vision2Action Champion Cities.

Vision Zero is the philosophy that no deaths or serious injuries should be acceptable in the mobility system. It is underpinned by the ‘Safe System’, a systemic, evidence-based approach to road safety, which looks beyond individual behaviour to address the underlying safety issues in how streets and vehicles are regulated, designed and managed. Faced with clear evidence that this holistic approach reduces traffic deaths faster and to lower levels, many cities, states and countries are adopting the Vision Zero strategy at an increasingly rapid rate. But the substantive action that must accompany Vision Zero commitments is often neglected, which is why the Challenge is being launched.

The Challenge has four core objectives:

  • Disseminate knowledge so cities can implement Vision Zero correctly and swiftly;
  • Build momentum so that cities and residents understand the importance of bridging the gap between commitment and implementation;
  • Collaborate across a network of influential practitioners and funders to push for a paradigm change; and
  • Spur action on the ground locally, while raising awareness globally.

The first year of the Vision Zero Challenge will target Latin America and the Caribbean – a region where rapid motorization has led to increased traffic fatality rates but where innovative cities such as Bogotá, São Paulo and Fortaleza are already emerging as pioneers for their Vision Zero approaches. The cities invited to participate include Arequipa, Peru; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Bogotá, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cali, Colombia; Curitiba and Fortaleza, Brazil; Guadalajara, México; Kingston, Jamaica; La Paz, Bolivia; Lima, Peru; Medellín, Colombia; Mendoza, Argentina; México City, México; Montevideo, Uruguay; Quito, Ecuador; Rosario, Argentina; São Paulo, Brazil; Salvador, Brazil; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Salvador, El Salvador; Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Santiago, Chile; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

“Vision Zero is a powerful approach to road safety that has become a global phenomenon,” said Claudia Adriazola-Steil, Director of Health and Road Safety and Deputy Director of Urban Mobility at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “But too often, we are finding that strong political commitments to Vision Zero are not followed by equally strong action and implementation based on Safe System principles, which recognize the importance of system design and policy in making roads safer.”

Seeing cities grapple with the challenge of moving from rhetoric to actually implement innovative road safety solutions was the inspiration for the Challenge. It has been designed to inspire and empower city mobility directors and planners to take a systemic approach to road safety and make strategic changes based on their local context. The Challenge pairs cities in the region with the expertise of 10 partner organizations at the vanguard of global road safety, celebrating the cities taking action on road safety while providing the targeted support they need to go even further.

The jury for the Challenge includes a range of road safety spokespeople and advocates including the Child Health Initiative’s Zoleka Mandela.

The partnership network includes World Resources Institute, responsible for coordination, as well as the FIA Foundation, Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), Inter-American Development Bank, International Transport Forum, Latin New Car Assessment Programme (Latin NCAP), Towards Zero Foundation and Vision Zero Academy.

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation, said: “This is an important initiative, and one which the FIA Foundation is proud to support. As our research with WRI and the Overseas Development Institute has shown, adopting the Safe System approach is the best way to drive down casualties and to tackle the political barriers to action. This challenge will help cities share knowledge, best practice and build on the political will and action already growing across the region.”

The inaugural Challenge will pilot a model where invited cities participate in six months of knowledge exchange, during which partner organizations will offer training on key areas: managing speeds, safety for children and young people, data and innovation, policy and finance, and safe infrastructure. At the end of the training process, cities can submit a project or policy they have developed in response to what they have learned. The five most outstanding applications will be selected as #Vision2Action Champion Cities and receive further prestigious and in-depth training opportunities, including travel to represent their city in Sweden at the Vision Zero Academy.

The Safe System approach works and is already showing strong results in Latin America. In Bogotá, lowering speeds on arterial roads where the most deaths occurred is estimated to have saved over 60 lives in only six months, compared to the average number of fatalities from the previous four years. With the Vision Zero Challenge, WRI Ross Center and partners hope to build on the momentum of these innovative cities, inspiring city leaders to implement this paradigm change and, ultimately, to act on it.

Learn more about the challenge here.