Another world-class city has proven that Vision Zero isn’t just wishful thinking — and its example puts the pressure on American communities to stop street carnage now.
City leaders in Helsinki, Finland, recently announced that they’ve achieved the seemingly impossible (to car-loving Americans, at least): zero pedestrian and cyclist fatalities on its streets in an entire calendar year. That makes them the second Scandinavian capital to eliminate walking and biking deaths lately — Oslo, Norway, announced last month that no one died on its roads in 2019 either, save a single driver who crashed into a fence (three motorists died in Helsinki, according to the city’s urban environment division, which is what forward-thinking cities call their “traffic department.”)
It’s a remarkable achievement, given that Helsinki is home to 631,695 people. Meanwhile, back in auto-centric America, the U.S, city with the most closely comparable number of residents, Louisville, was a scene of typical U.S. carnage: 63 non-interstate roadway deaths in 2018, the last year for which fatality totals are available. Pedestrians accounted for 23 of those deaths, and six were cyclists. And for all three data points, that’s a five-year low.
We got a curious about what we could learn from Helsinki’s success. Here are several takeaways:
Slow down cars
Of all the steps Helsinki leaders have taken to curb roadway deaths, the most impactful one has also been the most obvious: they slowed cars way, way down.
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