Week in review: November 13, 2017

How the Region isn’t pursuing Vision Zero, ION trains on the move, new trails, and more in this week’s review.

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Consultations, feedback, and events

“Zero vision” isn’t Vision Zero

Regional staff have prepared a Council-requested report on implementing Vision Zero, a road safety initiative developed in Sweden to eliminate all traffic deaths. In this report, transportation staff pat themselves on the back, claiming the Region’s Road Safety Program “is based on the same philosophy to reduce serious injuries and deaths and the same breadth of perspective” as Vision Zero. However, their conception of what “Vision Zero” means diverges in fundamental ways from the original. The Swedish government’s Vision Zero Initiative website defines it as,

“the Swedish approach to road safety thinking. It can be summarized in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.”

However, Regional staff, looking primarily to other North American cities, seem to think it means,

“At the heart of any Vision Zero philosophy lies the underlying understanding that road safety is the responsibility of everyone, including road designers, legislative and enforcement bodies, public health organizations and all road users.”

Someone has lost their Allen wrenches attempting to assemble a Vision Zerö. While Regional staff aren’t wrong in that responsibility is shared between road designers and users in Vision Zero, emphasis on a shared responsibility narrative misses the point. The responsibilities of road users should not diminish the need to build a transportation system that keeps all road users safe, even when mistakes are made. While enforcement and education are necessary tools in maintaining traffic safety, responsibility begins with engineering. Too many North American cities have mistaken Vision Zero to mean merely stepping up enforcement and victim-blaming education campaigns.

Notably absent from the Region’s report is any target date for achieving the goal of zero traffic fatalities. Further, it only pursues a philosophy of “reducing serious injuries and deaths,” when the goal should be their elimination. We can’t have “Vision Zero” if there’s no actual targets or vision of how to get there.

(The report also tries to pat the Region on the back for having a lower per capita traffic fatality rate than Sweden, however, national averages almost always perform worse than urban areas. Stockholm’s fatality rate is only 2/3 that of Waterloo Region’s.)

To the Region’s credit, the collision countermeasures report shares a number of longer-term plans for protecting vulnerable road users at intersections, including dedicated cycling facilities and signals, and leading pedestrian intervals that would help separate people from turning traffic. However, much of the work to protect vulnerable road users around collision hot spots in the short term amount to public education or warning signs, instead of a “safe systems” approach.

Most cycling-related collisions take place in crosswalks, where by law, people shouldn’t be cycling. A Vision Zero approach would look at why people feel the need to ride in the sidewalk, and redesign the streets to give them a place where they can feel and be safe. Unfortunately, the Region continues to put up “cyclists dismount” signs that the MTO says don’t work. Worse, it even invites riding through crosswalks by maintaining dozens of intersections with multi-use trails that spill out into crosswalks with no designated cycling crossings.

  • The trouble with those “cyclists dismount” signs (Sean Marshall)
  • All those pedestrian deaths? It’s the cars, stupid (Globe and Mail)

    “If you want to save pedestrian lives, slow down the vehicles. Install more crosswalks. Add speed bumps. Lower speed limits. Widen sidewalks. Narrow roads.”

  • 18 year old man with serious injuries after crash in Waterloo (570 News)
  • Man, 63, in motorized wheelchair killed in crash on Gordon St. (CBC)
  • As Toronto police write fewer tickets, they’re finding fewer drunk drivers (Global News)
  • Safe mobility is a human right (Alta Planning + Design)

ION light rail and transit

The first on-track testing of a Flexity light rail vehicle took place successfully last week! Expect more testing (and more trains) in the weeks to come.

  • As light rail approaches, buses must also change (The Record)
  • Construction of a new bus facility on Northfield Drive will begin next fall (P&W)
  • What it will take to make Metrolinx transit plan a reality? (The Star)
  • Transport regulator rejects Via Rail’s efforts to limit wheelchair, mobility access on trains (CBC)
  • How Seattle avoided the transit death spiral to turn around its bus system (Streetsblog)
  • Why the #MeToo movement is a public transportation issues (Washington Post)
  • “Micro Transit”: is it really a city thing? (TransitCenter)


Three major developments are taking place with respect to trails:

  • The Region and the City of Waterloo are looking at realigning the Trans Canada Trail to follow the ION/Elmira rail corridor from R&T Park to the St Jacobs Farmer’s Market. Public consultations take place November 30.
  • Regional Council is being asked to approve a design for Ottawa Street between Bleams Road and Fischer-Hallman that includes multi-use pathways on both sides. We hope the design doesn’t exclude safe crossings at intersections and driveways.
  • Widening of the 401 through Cambridge will result in the reconstruction or replacement of the Hespeler Road and Franklin Boulevard bridges. Both will be getting multi-use pathways on one side, providing long-overdue active transportation crossings.


Land use

  • Central transit corridor change monitoring report finds more people, more restaurants, and more arts and culture establishments around ION (P&W)
  • How ION is spurring new development (CTV)
  • Cities look to take parking out of the courts (Kitchener Post)
  • How to pedestrianize a vital urban street (CityLab)
  • Big box stores are costing our cities far more than ever imagined (Strong Towns)
  • A Mayor’s Guide to Public Life! (Gehl Institute)

Road ahead

  • Excellent Uber ad distills the problem with Uber in crowded cities (Streetsblog)
  • Uber’s goal is not to operate alongside transit but to replace it (The Bold Italic)
  • Don’t believe the micro transit hype (CityLab)
  • Waymo announces ‘fully self-driving cars are here,’ taxi service coming (Gizmodo)