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miércoles, 28 de octubre 2020
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Vision Zero, Cultural and Educational Project to Save Lives on Roads

by Juan Diego Restrepo Toro


Traffic accidents are not random events. They are the result of individual and collective knowledge and social management. Image credit: Medellín’s Secretariat of Mobility (Secretaria de Movilidad de Medellín).

After 2020’s lockdown, cities around the world are “returning to a new normality”. That paradoxical expression means that we will return to familiar ways to inhabit and move around cities, but we won’t do it the way we used to.

During the quarantine, people teleworked, avoided crowds and didn’t leave their homes unless necessary. They opted to walk or use a bicycle or motorcycle. However, the return to a normal economy and the lifting of mobility restrictions pose a challenge to road safety.

“The quarantine gave us a painful sample of our system’s weakness in the control of speed and fatal accidents”, Carlos Cadena Gaitán pointed out. “In the absence of the usual traffic congestion,” explained Medellín’s secretary of mobility, “speeding, wrong-way driving and red-light skipping became common.”

Despite the measures that restricted mobility in the city up to 90%, cyclists’ deaths have increased in 2020. Deaths of motorcycle passengers and pedestrians decreased by 64% and 54% respectively, but deaths of motorcycle drivers —the highest number of road deaths— decreased just by 2%. Motorcyclists are the most exposed to risk and suffer the worst consequences. Pedestrians, cyclists and skaters are the most vulnerable.

This is such as complex problem around the world that goals are set with a 10-year deadline. In Colombia, this is a challenge. The goal to reduce road deaths by half by 2020, set 10 years ago, wasn’t reached. The same was true of low- and middle-income countries, according to the conclusions reached at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, held in 2020. The same death reduction goal was confirmed for 2030 at that event.

Even though there has been a decreasing trend in Medellín in the past 15 years, road deaths have remained above 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is a high number compared to international standards.

“Our goal is to reduce our road death rate to 5 per 100,000 inhabitants by 2023”, Cadena explained. To achieve it, the city will implement the approach Vision Zero in its 2020-2023 Development Plan, Future Medellín. This strategy has been successful in other cities for over 20 years. The pioneers in its implementation were northern European cities, whose road death rates range from 1 to 3 per 100,000 inhabitants. It was also implemented in Boston, New York, Portland, Madrid and Bogota, whose rates ranged from 3 to 6.

“Vision Zero is the most important and up-to-date global strategy to address safe mobility”, highlighted Gustavo Cabrera, professor at Universidad de Antioquia’s National Faculty of Public Health. The university will support the Secretariat of Mobility in the implementation of the Zero Vision approach by strengthening the management of communications, education, behavior, society and research for sustainable and safe mobility.

It will be a cultural and educational paradigm shift. “No road death is acceptable. There is no such thing as an accident. They are preventable events”, stated Cabrera, who holds a PhD in Public Health and has led the research line Antioquia’s Road Safety (Seguridad Vial de Antioquia—Sevida).

People’s lives must be given precedence over traffic to guarantee biosafety conditions on roads. This includes safe infrastructure, coherent education, technology implementation and, above all, speed management, which, in turn, has a positive effect on traffic reduction, air quality and climate change.

#VisiónCeroMED aims at a comprehensive development that improves the quality of life of citizens in terms of mobility, public space and the environment for sustainable development.

In 2019

  • The world: 1.4 million road deaths and, at least, 50 million moderate to severe injuries.
  • Colombia: 7,000 deaths and 700,000 minor to severe injuries.
  • Antioquia: 850 deaths and 85,000 injuries of all kinds of severity.

Every 50 hours, a person is killed in a traffic accident in Medellin, and someone is injured every 24 minutes. Since 2018, 16,000 people have been disabled by a traffic accident.

Between January 1 and August 20, 2020, there were 111 deaths in Medellin, 40 less than in 2019. About 14,000 people were injured.

Figures from Medellín’s Mobility Observatory (Observatorio de Movilidad de Medellín) and the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.

Sistema Único de Información de Trámites - SUIT
Fundación Universidad de Antioquia
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