Pellerin: If Oslo can make

The redesigned Elgin Street does not fully meet the ‘Vision Zero’ standard.

Julie Oliver / Postmedia

Do you know how many cyclists and pedestrians died last year in road accidents in Ottawa? The official numbers are not yet out (in 2018 they were respectively one and eight). But we know there were too many, because it was more than zero.

I talk about Vision Zero every chance I get. You know why? Because it works.

Last year in Oslo, the capital of Norway with 673,000 inhabitants, one person died in a traffic accident – after driving a vehicle against a fence.

That is it. Throughout the year, no pedestrian, cyclist, passenger, transit user or driver has lost his life in traffic throughout the city, except for the unfortunate person in the fence incident.

Read it as often as necessary to absorb the extent of what it means. Oh, and across the country of 5.3 million, 100 traffic-related deaths occurred in 2019, compared to 482 in 1985.

Last year in Oslo, the capital of Norway with 673,000 inhabitants, one person died in a traffic accident – after driving a vehicle against a fence.

Norway adopted the Vision Zero philosophy in 1999. It is a principle according to which any traffic-related death or serious injury is considered too much. It is about designing roads, pedestrian crossing, bus lanes, etc. in the knowledge that people make mistakes and then integrate that knowledge into the design. This means, for example, lower speed limits, because we know that speed has a major impact on how seriously injured a person is in a collision. Vision Zero also forbids turning on red lights on the right wherever people are, because we know that too often they result in cyclists or pedestrians being injured by a motorist looking only to the left.

Vision Zero was born in Sweden in 1997 and works wherever it is tried. Provided it has been tried correctly, I mean. Toronto has formally adopted the idea, but instead of building more pedestrian crossings, it is giving reflective strips to pedestrians. Montreal also adopted Vision Zero, but it meant more than Toronto: there were no bicycle deaths in Montreal last year.

But back to Oslo. The success, on which it does not rest, comes after years of work on redesigning the city for people instead of private boxes of metal. Oslo lowered the speed limits, created car-free zones in sensitive areas such as around schools and invested massively in transit.

Then in 2019 the city began removing most of the parking spaces from the city center, an area of ​​approximately 2.6 km². There were places left for electric charging stations and for people with disabilities who need their accessible vehicles. It is.

Oslo officials do not prohibit cars. They just made it difficult for them to park in the city center. The pavement space thus released was converted into mini or micro parks, cycle paths and more pedestrian streets.

Entrepreneurs were afraid that parking would become expensive and many fought against the proposal. They discovered that making people street friendly made them popular with, yes, people, and that more pedestrian traffic is good for business.

When we stopped Elgin Street last year for vehicles for necessary repairs, this did not result in better results for those companies, quite the contrary. That is because the street was enormously unpleasant for anyone to navigate on foot. It was a terrible mess. Now it is reopened as a “complete” street with more space for bicycles, larger sidewalks, slightly fewer parking spaces on the street and a speed limit of 30 km / h.

I went on a recent Sunday afternoon to test it and was very disappointed. Bicycles do not have their own lanes; they rather share the space with cars and we know how badly cars play with others. Larger sidewalks are good, although leaving this time of the year. The cars parked on the side felt no different than in recent years (i.e., they clogged the space as usual) and no one respected the speed limit.

Oslo also has winter. It is actually closer to the North Pole than we are. But it doesn’t only work without cars in the city center, it is also good. Stay alive too. Did I mention that we should embrace Vision Zero? Because it works.

Brigitte Pellerin is a writer from Ottawa who wants our streets to be as human-friendly as possible.

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