End road deaths: learning from Helsinki
By Jamie Clarke
Jamie is Vision Zero Campaign Manager for Cyclox
More than 100 people from across Oxfordshire gathered on the evening of Tuesday 25 January to kick start a campaign to put an end to cyclist deaths on our roads. This follows the tragic deaths of four young women cycling in Oxford over the past 2 years. Cyclox organised the event to initiate an ambitious plan to eliminate road deaths.
Death of Ling Felce
Participants listened to an emotional account from James Felce, husband of Dr Ling Felce, whose tragic death was caused by a lorry driver at the Plain roundabout in March 2022. James described the devastation caused by Ling’s unnecessary death for him and their two children. He is determined to ‘stop more families getting broken’ by backing efforts to boost cycling safety in Oxford.
I urge you to take rapid and determined action to ensure a future without any further road deaths. I know it is possible and want to use the tragic experience of Ling’s death to help you all make that future a reality.James Felce
Lessons from Helsinki
Inspiration for creating a city that can eliminate road deaths came from Oskari Kaupinmäki, Helsinki’s Cycling Coordinator. Oskari described how, over recent years, the capital of Finland, a city four times the size of Oxford, has reduced road deaths to zero.
Key to this transformation has been a change of mindset by politicians, planners and the public, to focus on creating a safe and interconnected city. Transport planning prioritises pedestrians, cyclists and public transport while making essential private car journeys easier. A major factor has been reducing speed limits to 30 km/h (20 mph) across the whole city.
Oskari described Helsinki’s investment in high-quality cycle infrastructure, bicycle parking and hire-bike schemes, all of which aim to be integrated with public transport. For every €1 invested the return to the city was €7.8, even though Helsinki is covered in snow for 4 months of the year.
When an audience member said that Oxford cannot be compared to other European cities because of its narrow medieval streets, Oskari replied that Helsinki also had space issues. He said firmly: ‘We don’t compromise, we make choices’. A clear message to our politicians.
Action Vision Zero
Closer to home we heard from Action Vision Zero (AVZ), a UK campaign to end road danger and traffic harm. Amy Aeron-Thomas, Roads Policing Campaign Coordinator at AVZ, guided the audience through ways in which UK cities including London are working to eliminate road deaths. She highlighted:
- the importance of 20 mph urban streets and their enforcement
- world-leading schemes to regulate high-sided vehicles, which are those most often involved in fatal accidents with pedestrians and cyclists
- how measures such as School Streets and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were successfully reducing road danger
- availability of grants to support communities wanting to shift how they move around.
Before breaking into planning groups participants heard from Cllr Dan Levy, Active Travel Champion for Oxfordshire County Council. He reiterated the council’s support for Vision Zero by 2050, and highlighted the need for public support to enable the council to deliver the goal.
Making it happen
In the energetic planning sessions that followed these talks, attendees from all walks of life discussed how to apply the lessons from Helsinki and London to Oxford and Oxfordshire. There was unanimous agreement that the County Council’s target date of 2050 for achieving Vision Zero was much too far away. Topics of discussion ranged from supporting public-transport improvements to making road junctions safer, expanding 20 mph roads and supporting traffic reduction.
Cyclox will be using the ideas and plans generated at this event to develop a Vision Zero strategy for Oxford, If you’d like to be part of making it happen, please contact VisionZero@cyclox.org
We don’t compromise, we make choicesOskari Kaupinmäki, Helsinki’s Cycling Coordinator