Vision Zero: A Road Safety Revolution for B&NES

30 November 2023

Saskia Heijltjes

The Department for Transport statistics indicate that between 2017 and 2021, 15 lives were lost, and 133 individuals were seriously injured due to vehicle collisions within Bath and North East Somerset. The Green group emphasises the need for urgent action in response to these challenges, hence, is spearheading the 'Vision Zero' motion, aiming to eliminate avoidable road deaths on locally managed roads by 2030. Green councillor Saskia Heijltjes highlighted the inclusive nature of road danger and stressed the need for a collective refusal to accept road deaths, drawing parallels with other industries where such losses are not tolerated.

Lucy Taylor, a B&NES resident notes: “I have fewer and fewer friends who will cycle with me for fear of being involved in an accident, however they will happily drive a car. The vulnerabilities of pedestrians, cyclists and those with disabilities has to be taken seriously.”

Likewise, Kate Uzell, South-West Area Coordinator for Road Peace, shared her personal and distressing experience of the ripple effect of road deaths on families. She called for engagement with those directly affected by road danger: “Those in charge need to engage with people that have been directly affected by road danger, this means statistics become real and that's critical in having conviction to make difficult or unpopular decisions that put road safety first.

Vision zero approaches road danger with the view that no death or serious injury on the roads is acceptable, a world where road danger is not tolerated. Challenging society's complacency towards risk on our roads, highlights the devastating toll of road death.” Callum Clafferty, a local student, also shone a light on the issues of safety and accessibility for young people - who contribute as a large demographic within the B&NES community. Callum highlighted that the concerns about road safety has led to the overreliance and pressure on public transport services.

Vision Zero advocates for safe speeds, street design improvements, behaviour modifications, and enhanced post-collision response. Similar provisions elsewhere have eliminated traffic fatalities and severe injuries. The Green group highlights the leadership in this area in other regions across the UK and internationally, citing examples from Kent, Devon, Cornwall, Blackpool, Leeds, and Bristol. Likewise, they underscore Vision Zero’s principles have been endorsed by various councils and organisations, including Bristol, Kent, the World Health Organization, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Vision Zero enjoys global recognition.

Councillor Heijltjes adds: “As a Council, we have agreed to be bold in what we do, and to improve people’s lives. We don’t have to tolerate people being killed or left with life-changing injuries on our roads - there are things we can and must do about it.

We now have an opportunity to make a decision that can save lives. The only acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads is zero. By voting for this motion tonight, you can take an important step towards achieving that.”

The Green group leader, Councillor Joanna Wright, states additionally: “Data reveals that those in the highest household income group travel over twice the distance by car compared to the lowest income group. Addressing speeding and implementing measures like school streets and safe routes offers real opportunities for the most economically disadvantaged in our communities. The rising number of licensed vehicles contributes to declining children’s independence and walking mobility, especially among the young and vulnerable. Urban road designs often favour vehicles over pedestrians, leading to time-consuming and challenging journeys. Vision Zero advocates for social justice in our public realm and strives for equitable mobility for all.”

The Green group calls for a Vision Zero target for road deaths and serious injuries by 2030, urging the West of England Combined Authority to support this goal. The group believes that adopting a Vision Zero approach is crucial for safeguarding lives, promoting a sustainable future, and creating equitable mobility in Bath and North East Somerset.

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