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Helsinki and Oslo cut child pedestrian deaths to ZERO

Children walking in Oslo

Not a single child was killed on the roads of two Scandinavian capital cities, Oslo and Helsinki, in 2019.

Such welcome news is the culmination of steady decline in road-related deaths in recent years, thanks not only to the efforts of city planners’ infrastructure developments, but also a strong societal ‘movement’ towards making cities a haven for pedestrians and cyclists.

‘Jubilant’ local authorities in the Finnish capital say that multiple measures have helped bring about this breakthrough figure, including the cutting of speed limits in designated urban areas, new traffic cameras, and upgrades to pedestrian crossings.

‘Reducing speed limits..a key factor’

Jussi Yli-Seppälä, traffic engineer for the City of Helsinki, said: “The improvement in traffic safety is the sum of several factors. Traffic safety has improved due to betterments to the street environment, increasing traffic control, the development of vehicle safety measures and technology, and the development of rescue services. Reducing speed limits has also been a key factor.

The city has recorded statistics on road-related pedestrian deaths since 1960, and this is the first time there have been zero recorded deaths.

Across the Baltic Sea it is a very similar situation in Oslo. With a population of around 673,000, the Norwegian capital is well on its way to achieving its Vision Zero aim of no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. Its only recorded road death in 2019 was a motorist who hit a fence.

A beacon of hope?

As part of Oslo Car Free City, the city council says its primary focus is to ‘improve city life’, with reducing traffic from private cars ‘a means to achieve this’. Playgrounds and bicycle lanes are among just some of the main ‘freed areas’ previously occupied by cars which can, and are being, used by children, families, organisations and businesses.

In 2016 we reported how a new app in Oslo was gathering feedback on pedestrian safety from a demographic not often asked for their urban planning thoughts – children. The free Traffic Agent app allows children to send reports on safety hazards they encounter while walking to and from school. Their location is tracked using GPS, so when children input something that makes them feel less safe, such as a difficult crosswalk, researchers can pinpoint exactly where those hazards are.

Achievable planning infrastructure

Both cities’ announcements shine out as a beacon of hope for what can be achieved with cities which put in place robust, ambitious and, ultimately, achievable planning infrastructure which put the safety of children and adults ahead of traffic.

Click here for more information about Finlands road traffic accidents statistics, and in particular the road deaths in Helsinki since 1960. You can also find out more about Norway’s Vision Zero project here.

Author: Simon Weedy

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