Vision Zero – Moving Toward Zero Transportation Fatalities

Casey Ellingson


Started in Sweden in the late 1990s, Vision Zero is a traffic-safety policy that takes an ethical approach toward achieving safety for all road users, setting the goal of zero traffic fatalities or severe injuries. Through its commitment to Vision Zero, Sweden has halved its traffic deaths nationally and is, today, one of the safest places to move about. Currently, more than 20 U.S. cities have set Vision Zero goals of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries within their communities. A year or two after implementing Vision Zero action plans, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco are already seeing dramatic improvements in bike and pedestrian safety. Mayors, police chiefs, transportation professionals, and community leaders across the nation are beginning to acknowledge that the right to move about safely is a fundamental human right.

Federal policy makers are also recognizing the need to make our nation’s rights-of-way safer for all users. Recently, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR) introduced H.R. 1266, the Vision Zero Act, which would allow the Secretary of Transportation to create grants to assist local governments in developing Vision Zero action plans. About $5 million in funding would be set aside to help communities draft a Vision Zero plan. The bill’s intent was to help communities of all sizes develop and implement innovative, effective methods to make cities and towns safer for everyone. Under the bill, Vision Zero plans must include: description of projects; data-driven evaluation of the plan; demonstration of broad community support; government coordination; and consideration of lower income communities and communities of color. 

Similar to the Complete Streets movement, Vision Zero policies encourage designing streets with pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and others in mind. However, Vision Zero policies go further by acknowledging that there are many factors that contribute to safe mobility, including roadway design, road speeds, enforcement, behaviors, technology, and policies, and setting clear goals to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries. Vision Zero strategies may also bring together a broader array of stakeholders, including transportation planning and design professionals like landscape architects, local law enforcement, public health professionals, and human behavior professionals. 

ASLA, along with many other allied organizations, including the American Planning Association, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Complete Streets Coalition, Transportation for America, and others, supports Vision Zero policies and federal legislation. Because of their unique transportation planning and design skills that address the safe movement of many users, landscape architects will surely be leaders in the Vision Zero movement, similar to their successes in the Complete Streets movement.


Kevin Fry
Director, PR and

JR Taylor
PR Coordinator