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Get to Know: Vision Zero Vancouver

Photo via Vision Zero

Calls to ‘Defund the Police’ were amplified during the unprecedented protests that followed the death of George Floyd in 2020. Here in Vancouver, the call comes from community groups reacting to a ballooning police budget and an alarming trend toward the criminalization of poverty. On any front, the term ‘defunding the police’ is still wildly misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that there would be no police. What it does mean is a reallocation of funds to invest in alternatives to policing. It means indigenous, peer-led, mental health outreach teams, and the redistribution of a budget that eats up 21% of our tax dollars (FYI, that’s about $800 per minute). This column explores some of the community groups in Vancouver that could use some of those funds. Today I’d like to introduce you to Vision Zero Vancouver (VZV).

WHO | Started in the summer of 2022 after a young child was struck and injured on Cornwall Avenue in Kitsilano, Vision Zero Vancouver is an advocacy group calling on governments to design transportation systems that put safety first, and to bring the number of fatal car crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, and other vulnerable road users from 100 per year (!) down to zero. With an emphasis on safe street design, active transportation, and prioritization of human life above motorist convenience, the volunteer-run organization has launched several effective campaigns. For example: Those yellow stickers highlighting deadly intersections? VZV. They’ve even published a media style guide for reporters because “language choices can unintentionally distort or reinforce what is rapidly becoming outdated thinking about what cause crashes and why”.

WHY | Anyone who has walked, rolled, or cycled in this city has probably already been met with a close call involving a motorist, and the City’s priorities don’t seem conducive to making the streets safer for non-motorists anytime in the near future. (For example: ripping up the Stanley Park bike-lane; voting against separated active transportation infrastructure on Broadway; refusing to reduce speeds on Cornwall to 30km/hr; axing the well-loved school street program outside Lord Roberts Elementary). VZV volunteer Luke Solvang concurs: “It’s important because, while this council gives much lip service to public safety, they’ve demonstrated in votes that delivering on that in terms of civilian street safety hasn’t been a high priority”. That being said, this Refund Vancouver is a little different, since the group aren’t calling for funding to go toward their organization. “We’re not asking for more funds for our activities, but advocating that funds get directed to building safer roads for all communities in Metro Vancouver. Street safety has been underfunded here for the last century, where all urban space was designed around the needs of mass automobility”.

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