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The Long Road to Vision Zero

This is a guest blog post by Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives’ mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and advocate for better bicycling, walking, and public transit for all New Yorkers. With 100,000 active supporters and a committee of activists working locally in every borough, Transportation Alternatives fights for the installation of infrastructure improvements that reduce speeding and traffic crashes, save lives and improve everyday transportation for all New Yorkers.


In most US cities, the journey has only just begun.

That’s why it’s so critical at this early juncture — most cities that have committed to Vision Zero have done so within the last five years — for advocates and city leaders to have a forum to share ideas, to learn what’s working (and what’s not), and to meet fellow advocates, practitioners and decision-makers who are trying to achieve similar goals.

Four people at Vision Zero Cities ConferenceThat forum is the Vision Zero Cities conference, hosted by New York City-based advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, taking place October 10 and 11 in Manhattan.

The fifth annual Vision Zero Cities conference will feature keynotes from New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, whose department has built over 82 miles of protected bike lanes since Vision Zero was adopted in New York, as well as New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is leading the charge to “break the car culture” in the five boroughs.

Day one of the conference, which is being held at Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall, features breakout sessions which will address some of the most important questions that planners, advocates and elected officials are grappling with today:

  • Are SUVs and cellphones to blame for the uptick in traffic deaths in the United States?
  • How can smaller and more suburban cities learn from the success of Vision Zero strategies deployed in large urban centers like New York and San Francisco?
  • What systemic inequities in our transportation networks can we address through our Vision Zero policies and programs?
  • How should New York City invest the spatial dividend expected to accompany the city’s forthcoming congestion pricing program?
  • How should cities go about accommodating e-bikes and e-scooters, and can these “micromobility” companies be a partner in the fight to eliminate traffic deaths?
  • Is it possible to have a justice system that imposes effective legal sanctions to deter dangerous driving, while also balancing the need for a humane, fair, and equitable response?

Panelists include physician and drunk driving historian Dr. Barron Lerner, Emiko Atherton of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Gary Toth of Project for Public Spaces, Peter Stidham of Transport for London, Willa Ng of Sidewalk Labs, Aaron Gordon of Jalopnik, economist Charles Komanoff, and Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen.

Day two of Vision Zero Cities is filled with hands-on workshops and tours where attendees can gain a better understanding of the work of Vision Zero. Workshops will include an exploration of how journalists approach reporting on traffic crashes, as well as a crash course on grassroots activism for winning local safe streets campaigns. There will also be biking and walking tours where some of Transportation Alternatives’ on-the-ground advocacy wins will be on display.

In conjunction with the conference, Transportation Alternatives will be publishing the fourth edition of the Vision Zero Cities Journal, which features articles by Jessica Cicchino on America’s SUV problem, Kosuke Miyata on safety culture in Japan, and Peter Norton on the impact of baby carriage brigades.

Registration for Vision Zero Cities is now open. For government, non-profit and student rates, email Amy Klein at amy.klein@transalt.org.