Dr. Belin is senior policy adviser at the Swedish Transport Administration and responsible for the development of the Vision Zero Academy. Belin has worked in the field of transport safety for over a quarter of a decade.
Returning to Sweden after visiting India for a presentation at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Dr. Matts-Åke Belin observes that his work is increasingly international. The Vision Zero approach and methods are receiving more and more attention around the globe. In New Delhi, the topic of his presentation was 'The Swedish Vision Zero: An advance Safety Culture Phenomena'.
Dr. Belin has witnessed – and worked with – the birth of Vision Zero in Sweden. He has seen it established, flourish and, at the present in Sweden, reach a plateau.
– There is nothing wrong with the strategy or with that which we have accomplished to date, says Dr. Belin. Nevertheless, we need to do more and broaden the perspective to include other problem areas, such as the safety of the cyclists.
Dr Matts-Åke Belin continues:
– Now the deal is to kick-start innovations and expand our activities.
Internationally, what are today's opportunities and challenges regarding transport safety? Matts-Åke Belin: – It is very positive that traffic injuries now are included on the global agenda. There is an international awareness that this is a serious issue that we must address.
Today we do have knowledge and experience; in Sweden alone, we have worked with the Vision Zero approach for twenty years. Now we can clearly say that it is possible to construct safe systems to support people in the traffic. To ensure safe mobility for all road users, a few innovations have been implemented, such as safe pedestrian, cycle and moped crossings in urban areas, and 2+1-lane roads.
One challenge that all countries face, is to ensure that their road safety strategies are updated and reflect their existing knowledge. Do not follow the same time-consuming path that Sweden has taken. Instead, look at what is possible based on the experience from other countries that have worked on traffic safety for a long time. In Sweden, the process has taken a long time, and we have made many mistakes that other countries do not have to repeat.
– Dr. Belin illustrates this with an example we find in countries around the world: A smaller community has a road that runs straight through the village. The villagers' homes are located on one side of the road, while a school is located on the other side. When the community is modernised, it is decided to pave over the road with asphalt. Consequently, as people can drive faster on this road there will be more fatalities. Most frequently, the solution will be to teach the children how and when to cross the road. This is also how we did it in Sweden in the past, says Belin.
But this is not a long-term solution. If a road is to run straight through a community, start by building and designing the road with traffic safety as a central focus. In other words, build a footbridge over the road or lower the speed where the children will cross the road.
– This is how we improve traffic safety and save lives, says Belin.
What is your message to anyone contemplating on visiting the Vision Zero Conference in Stockholm? – The issue of how to improve traffic safety is an international concern. The Vision Zero approach and methods offer something for every country and situation - even though some interventions fit better in Sweden than, for example, India.