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Congress looks at Vision Zero

Vision Zero is the concept that it is possible to drop the fatalities within the road transportation community to zero and that it should be done at all cost. Vision Zero plans are lofty and admirable, but the approach is just not plausible.

At the core of Vision Zeros philosophy, life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society, rather than the more conventional comparison between costs and benefits, where a monetary value is placed on life and health, and then that value is used to decide how much money to spend on a road network towards the benefit of decreasing how much risk.

The plan also places human life and health as a priority over mobility and other objectives of the traffic system. It also describes how we should build roads with no possibility of a side or frontal impact, and prohibition to use those roads on more vulnerable road users.

Another part of plan is speed limits; should the plan be adopted in full American speed limits would plummet to 19 miles per hour in areas where there is contact between pedestrians and cars, and 43 mph for all other roads. The creators envisioned a slow moving, padded fantasyland right at home in a Disney movie, not the real world.

Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997 and has since been adopted in some part at least by Netherlands and United Kingdom. In the United States some major cities are also adopting the concept; so far New York, Portland, and San Francisco are all on board. A lawyer in Boston gives out a law school scholarship in the attempt to get the city to take look at considering the idea.

Last week Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 1274, a bill that would make money available to local governments to develop and implement Vision Zero plans. A mandatory national helmet law would just be the jumping off point. Make no mistake that the full implementation of Vision Zero in America would eliminate motorcycling as its known now.

Of course it is everyone’s wish that no one would become injured or killed on our roads. Every life is precious and every American should do all in their power to reduce bloodshed on the roads. But simply slowing every vehicle and prohibiting other “vulnerable” vehicles from the traffic mix, all while padding the roadways and interior of vehicles and installing cameras everywhere to find the scofflaws, is the stuff of science fiction, not the real world. Vision Zero has a blind spot; it does not take into account any budget, financing or the effects on the economy by slowing traffic. Zero fatalities is always the goal, however when you have moving parts operated by human beings traffic safety will always have a component that will never be a control for: human behavior.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation will keep you informed on this issue.