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Shortcut: Only 1 person died in Oslo traffic last year, a city comparable in size to Seattle

People sometimes argue that Vision Zero is unrealistic. That getting to zero deaths and serious injuries due to traffic collisions will never happen.

Tell that to Oslo. The Norwegian capital (population: 680,000) had just one person die in traffic in 2019 when a person crashed their car into a fence, according to Aftenposten (translated). This is down from more than 40 in 1970 and an average of 10 to 15 per year in the early 2000s.

Seattle’s traffic death count in the past decade is similar to Oslo’s in the 90s and early 2000s. But in 2019, our city took a big step in the wrong direction while Oslo went the other way. Early counts put Seattle’s 2019 at 20 or more people, though the official count won’t be in for a while.

Chart of Saettle traffic fatalities by year.
From an SDOT Vision Zero presentation (PDF) to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards.

Seattle is a leader in safe streets among large U.S. cities, but that’s an unfortunately low bar. In order to approach zero traffic deaths by 2030, one piece of the city’s Vision Zero goal, Seattle needs to do in 10 years what Oslo did in 20. This is not impossible, and it doesn’t require any magic. Instead, it requires a dedication to safety as the city’s true top transportation priority, significant investment in safe streets infrastructure and efforts to significantly limit the number and speed of cars, especially in our busy business districts.

But that’s not all. Oslo has also been pushing hard to reduce car use to near zero in its city center. Like in Seattle, cars are Oslo’s most stubborn source of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent plan to ban cars entirely from the city center was scaled back following backlash, so the city instead banned on-street parking and has been working to pedestrianize downtown streets.

And it’s working.

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