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🚥 Towards Zero Traffic Deaths

In 2017, I moved from my beloved birthplace, Rio de Janeiro, to advance my career in the powerhouse that is São Paulo. One of the biggest improvements in my quality of life came from going car-free. While I occasionally used a car to visit in-laws or travel to the countryside, swapping the stress of driving and the costs of maintaining a car for a mix of subway and bike-share cycling was a game changer. This isn't the norm in São Paulo, but it was a newfound privilege that became a key factor in my enjoyment of the city.

Fast-forward a few years to 2023: the urbanist movement around 15-minute cities was growing stronger, the climate crisis was accelerating, active transportation policies and experiments were becoming popular, and I was moving to Vancouver. If my overall experience as city dweller improved in almost every way after moving to São Paulo (except perhaps in the "beach time" axis), these gains repeated tenfold in the "Greenest City". Plus, I got beaches back! Well, with caveats, but I digress.

On one hand, I became more confident than ever that I can live a complete urban life without owning a car due to the decent amount of cycling infrastructure in and near Downtown Vancouver, a transit system punching way above its weight for the metro region size and population (by NA/LATAM standards), and the amount of public-transit-accessible adventures - from turquoise lake hikes to snowboarding mountaintops.

On the other hand, progress is sometimes slow, sometimes non-existent, as waves of car-centrism ebb and flow more or less in synchrony with conservatism majorities on the wheels of the public sphere.

Rio, São Paulo, and Vancouver can and should and do more to make car dependency a thing of the past, so becoming car-free becomes not a privilege of the few, but a feasible choice for anyone. Owning a car should be a matter of personal preference as much as its color. It should not be a necessary condition for getting access to employment or leisure.

Getting Involved

The biggest barrier to more people cycling on big cities has always been safety. This is for good reason: in Vancouver as of 2023, about 100 people die in traffic every year while trying to get from point A to point B. It's no wonder people wish to have as much metal around them as possible while on the road.

Unfortunately this incentive to armor oneself creates a negative feedback loop where more/bigger SUVs dominate the streets and make it even less safe for everyone else - specially for those on any other less protected transportation device: bicycles, skateboards, rollers, or just walking on two legs.

That's where Vision Zero comes in. Conceptually, it's a multi-national effort to zero out traffic related fatalities, started in Sweden in 1997. It's recognized officially as a provincial level program in British Columbia as well as a municipal one in Vancouver. Most importantly, it's a program that local advocacy groups can engage in serious work, like Vision Zero Vancouver which aims to put some momentum towards Vision Zero for the metro region.

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