Monday, August 26, 2019

Visions Zero: Lessons from Sweden. Building safer roads and intersections.

I just got back from a holiday in Sweden where I visited at handful of mid-sized cities. While taking a holiday was the number one priority of the trip, I also was interested in seeing how Sweden designs safer streets. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cost of deaths and injuries here in BC and in Sweden.

In 1997, the Swedes decided to do something about this and launched Vision Zero. Vision Zero, in short, looks to change the design of roads to make them safer. The data shows that this has been working in Sweden to reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes.

These principles have been adopted in other places either formally or informally. In Langley City, we have a good example of a street that follows the principles of Vision Zero, 203rd Street. It has seen a reduction of crashes since it was redesigned.

I wanted to share a few pictures from my trip which shows Vision Zero in action. Because Langley contains both urban and rural streets, I will show an example of both.

For higher speed roads where there is a high volume of traffic, centre barriers are used in Sweden. Even if it is a two-lane road.

An example of a rural road with a passing section. Note the centre barrier. Select image to enlarge.

If 16th Avenue was in Sweden, it would have a centre barrier like in the preceding picture. Sweden is a rural country, so they rely heavily on road design to keep their roads safe.

There is also a large stationary photoradar network in Sweden. I saw speed cameras everywhere in rural areas at speed transition areas.

In urban areas, the normal speed limit on major roads is either 40km/h or 60km/h in Sweden. In the Langley City context, Fraser Highway between 200th Street and Glover Road would be 40km/h. The Langley Bypass would be 60km/h. Side streets and downtown areas are 30km/h.

While speed bumps are the preferred traffic calming measure in North America, they are not in Sweden. Swedes use road narrowing and pinch points to slow traffic down. Unlike speed bumps which can cause people to slow to a crawl at the bump, and speed up between the bumps, road narrowing and pinch points cause people to drive at a consistent slower speed.

An example of an intersection in Stockholm. Notice there are no stop signs.

An example of a crosswalk. Note the centre island. Select image to enlarge.

Intersections are the most dangerous points of any road. Roundabouts are the safest form of intersection. Whether a four-lane or two-lane road, roundabouts are the preferred form of intersection in Sweden. Traffic signalled intersections are the least preferred form of intersection there. I only saw traffic signals when there were space constraints that prevented the installation of a roundabout such as in historic areas. The 203rd Street roundabout in Langley is typical of roundabout design in Sweden.

An example of an intersection with a roundabout. Select image to enlarge.

In Langley City, we have good examples of how to build roads that follow Vision Zero principles. Today, these are the exceptions and not the default.

Sweden has had a 20-year head start working on creating Vision Zero streets, and they started in the same place we are today. I’m hopefully that we will be able to make Vision Zero the default design in our community, and not the exception over time.

No comments: