\New York's mayor Bill de Blasio continues to look to Sweden when it comes to saving lives in traffic. According to the New York Times, the reason for him to turn his eyes to the land in the north is that Stockholm is the one city in which the number ”zero” stands out among bikers, pedestrians and cars. Zero meaning the number of people permitted to die in Swedish traffic, according to national law. For years now, Sweden has raised barriers and reduced speed limits to meet this seemingly impossible goal, and though roadway deaths have not been entirely eliminated, Sweden’s rate of fatalities has reached an international low. No wonder de Blasio is impressed! And he wants to use Sweden as a model for New York. His strategy, known as Vision Zero, targets 2024 as the first year with no traffic deaths. But is it possible to translate Stockholm to New York City, which is after all a city of 800 languages, nearly 14,000 taxis, and, as the Times calls it, ”8.4 million potential traffic rants”?

How New York is implementing the Swedish vision: Vision Zero in New York City


The real trouble seems to be the structure of the traffic; the secret to the Swedish success seems to be the roundabout (the ever-important Swedish "rondell”), potted vegetation (which in Sweden actually serves as traffic tools), and the sort of social contract between the Swedish state and the citizens when the Swedish Parliament adopted their Vision Zero in 1997: If the Swedish residents follow the most basic traffic laws, engineers can design roads to guard against all fatalities. Says senior official with the Swedish Transport Administration Lars Darin to the New York Times: ”You should be able to make mistakes without being punished by death.” The fatality rate in Stockholm is 1.1 deaths per 100,000, which is less than a third of New York City’s rate, and Sweden’s national rate of 2.7 deaths per 100,000 is the lowest in the world. However, de Blasio has not always followed what worked in Sweden: Swedish authorities, for instance, were critical of the many jaywalking tickets de Blasio handed out during his first months in office. Claes Tingvall, the director of traffic safety at the Swedish Transport Administration says, ”Design around the human as we are.” However, Polly Trottenberg, NYC’s transportation commissioner, emphasized that while her international peers were a useful resource, New York was ”definitely not going to be Stockholm. You want to think carefully about culture change,” she said. ”New York is one of the more remarkable pedestrian cultures in the world.”

The Vision Zero road traffic safety project started in Sweden in 1997 with the aim to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. The ethics of the vision is that human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system. The vision has since been implemented for every road and traffic situation in Sweden.