Mayor Valerie Plante unveils Vision Zero – A plan for safety on the road
Numerous accidents resulting in the death of many pedestrians in the last few years have finally motivated the City of Montreal to take a valid action. At least this is what was promised when Mayor Valerie Plante unveiled the adoption of a plan called Vision Zero. This initiative was first adopted by Sweden in 1997. The Vision Zero approach, which has been implemented in many large cities around the world, is based on the principle that “it is unacceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when they are travelling on the road network.”
The plan calls for a multifaceted approach to road safety, basically meaning that it will involve more education designed to make all users of public roads more aware of their own responsibilities and rights, a process that should be done at all levels of users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, of all ages and conditions.
The Vision Zero plan consists of twelve basic points, of which we would highlight some of the most important. Point 5, for instance, is quite urgent: Work on the 3 major themes: street crossing; heavy-duty vehicles, speed management. Montrealers are known to be very dismissive of rules regarding street crossing, a criticism that applies to both, pedestrians who tend to cross everywhere without much regard for traffic lights, as well as many drivers. The focus on heavy-duty vehicles can’t come at a more appropriate time since in some of the recent tragic accidents it has been snow-removal vehicles and trucks moving materials from construction sites which have been involved. Point 7 of Vision Zero calls precisely for a plan to “improve training for professional drivers.” Regarding speed management, the City is considering to lower the speed limit to 30 km/h in residential neighbourhoods.
Cyclists also get some good news: point 8 aims at “improving existing bike paths and develop the réseau express vélo.” Although once more, one should point out that cyclists also need to be more educated about road safety, both concerning their own –some bikers put their safety at risk when moving dangerously close to cars or making unpredictable moves on the road– and regarding the safety of others, especially pedestrians.
Point 11 makes an interesting proposal: Add more digital-timer pedestrian traffic lights. Traffic lights in Montreal are not very pedestrian-friendly, there are only a few crossings where pedestrians can cross in all directions while all traffic is stopped (something that instead we find in various intersections in Westmount). Streets with significant pedestrian circulation like Ste. Catherine, De Maisonneuve, Sherbrooke, have only a few crossings with dedicated timing for pedestrians, and De Maisonneuve despite its well-equipped bike path, has only one dedicated traffic light for cyclists (at the corner of Fort), while at least four others would be necessary, at the angles of Peel, Guy, St. Mathieu, and Atwater.
Another significant proposal is contained in point 12: Improve lighting for walkways under bridges and overpasses. That’s an essential requisite for the safety of both, cyclists and pedestrians; however, I should add that lighting on sidewalks (for pedestrians) has generally been neglected. A couple of years ago De Maisonneuve Blvd. was equipped with excellent and beautifully-designed LED lamps for the section between Peel and St. Mathieu, but to the disappointment of many residents, for the remaining of the street the city only changed the obsolete yellowish sodium lights, but it installed LED lamps of less luminosity. Moreover, the city didn’t put lights for the sidewalks.
Of course, we should see as the Vision Zero plan is implemented, how it should impact on safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. At least the city now knows that something has to be done in this respect.