‘Vision Zero’ Is Just A ‘Campaign Promise’, Right?

Background Reading


In Sweden, nearly all school buses and government vehicles include built-in Breathalyzers, which prevent a car from starting if a driver is not sober. Credit Jonathan Nackstrand for The New York

In Sweden, nearly all school buses and government vehicles include built-in Breathalyzers, which prevent a car from starting if a driver is not sober. Credit Jonathan Nackstrand for The New York

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.35.41 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.36.10 AM


This all began when the BikePortland site posted a on a woman who was driving against traffic:

This just in from the Portland Police Bureau:

Central Precinct officers received a call of an accident with the driver attempting to leave the scene, driving the wrong way on S.W. Stark Street from S.W. 3rd Avenue. During the attempted flight from the scene the driver struck several parked vehicles, at least one bicyclist and some construction scaffolding.

The driver was stopped and responding officers took custody of her pending an investigation into the incident. The accident is being investigated and it is believed that alcohol is a factor. At this time it appears that there were no serious injuries.

The Portland Police Bureau would like to remind motorists that drinking and driving is both dangerous and illegal.

SW Stark east of 3rd Avenue has two active travel lanes and an auto parking lane on both sides of the street. One of the two travel lanes is a bicycle-only lane that has been treated with green color to designate it as such. The paint is pretty faded these days, but it doesn’t seem like any type of paint or treatment would have prevented what this woman did.

But it was the reactions by the readers  I found most intriguing. It turns out that while cyclists are amongst the most enthusiastic users of alcohol (even while driving their bikes) they take an ‘oddly‘ (considering their love of drinking) stern approach to having the rest of society enjoy their favorite beverage as well.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

This is a bit reminiscent of our long standing use of the Idaho Two-Step to illegally cross intersections on red lights but are famously outraged by motorists who run red lights as well. Why is that?

The Nanny State Is Implicit In ‘Vision Zero’

So in the comments section things got really juicy as the readers began to react to what they dislike about drunk driving. One reader wrote:

9watts June 5, 2015 at 10:22 pm

The Portland Police Bureau would like to remind motorists that drinking and driving is both dangerous and illegal.

What would a police bureau in a city or country that had adopted Vision Zero say or do instead of this finger wag?

Hm. …..
“The legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers in Sweden is one-quarter of the American threshold, and random breath tests, carried out by the police, are common. According to a recent study, 99.76 percent of drivers were found to be legally sober.”

There response of a second was:

pixelgate June 5, 2015 at 11:41 pm

Are you really suggesting police pull over drivers and administer random breath tests?

Followed by another readers response who actually understands the consequences of the ‘Vision Zero‘ hype:

J_R June 6, 2015 at 7:24 am

Either that or require that all motor vehicles be equipped with a device for testing alcohol in the driver’s breath before the car can be started.

On one day in 2001, three thousand people were killed by hijackers. We are now all assumed to be terrorists before we prove otherwise when we board a plane. We spend an extra hour at the airport and pay $5 for the privilege of being screened by TSA.

In contrast, 1500 people are killed every month by drunk drivers and we basically DO NOTHING.

Random sobriety stops would be worth it.

Whoa! Let’s Not Get Too Serious About ‘Cracking Down’ On Ourselves

At the end of the most recent UPAF Ride in Milwaukee guess what they served? I can assure you it was not milk! It was beer! And given that many of the folks drove to this ride start (I have ridden this ride for more than a decade and know what goes on there) they were certainly tired and now ‘lubricated‘ and heading home after the ride in their automobiles.

CBS 58

What this tells me is that our culture is so wedded to the idea of drinking alcohol that despite knowing what it does to the human brain, we close our eyes to the practice where we are personally involved.

As one Chicago wag likes to proclaim, he is a discipline person who knows how to control his inebriation. I doubt that very seriously and the science is behind me on this one.

The very last person to know how drunk or intoxicated you are is you. In fact it is a near impossibility to anticipate just how badly drinking will affect you while you are drinking.

So the reality of it all is that we would be forced (if we took the idea of Vision Zero, literally) to one of two things:

  • Have routine roadside tests where drivers would use a breath-a-lyzer and if they blew anything close to the legal limit they would then be administered a roadside sobriety test.
  • Have the price of bicycles and cars increased to include an on-board breath-a-lyzer unit that prevented your DUI or BUI by not allowing you to operate the vehicle.

Are You Serious?

As a heart attack. You have to either STFU about drunk driving (or drunk bicycling) or stop the whining and do what needs to be done to protect society from what we already know is the single greatest cause of reckless driving and biking behavior.

Otherwise, you are forced to reinstate the idea of a prohibition on alcohol to curb the likelihood that someone can operate a vehicle of any sort while intoxicated. We are not going to ever again prohibit the use of alcohol. So we need to figure out whether we really want Vision Zero as a goal or reign in our rhetoric to match what we are willing to tolerate.

I cannot imagine that anyone who seriously considers the implications of Vision Zero has any alternative in their minds other than to consider a Nanny State. As the one respondent noted that was our approach when it came to dealing with Terrorism.

But I am also aware that nobody seems particularly happy with the TSA and the burden of everyone being checked before boarding an airplane. And as if the situation were not demeaning enough we learn that the TSA screenings are often inept.

So My Cycling Whiners, What Do We Do?

Do we keep up the finger wagging every time a driver of an automobile manages to get behind the wheel drunk, while turning a blind eye to that same behavior when one of us does the exact same thing, or do we soberly consider what Vision Zero really means and act accordingly?

Midnight Marauders Covet This Award Pin

Midnight Marauders Covet This Award Pin

In the meantime all of the bicycle groups organized specially to do pub crawls until they cannot steer their bikes properly will continue to flourish. And we as a group will probably continue to be as hypocritical as ever regarding our own behavior and as harsh as ever when a motorist behaves in a similar fashion.

And there will be deaths. Bicyclists will continue to paralyze themselves in crashes while heading home from an all night drunk fest and motorists will do the same. And everyone will point fingers at the other and nothing will get done.

Seems fine to me!

The Urban Cycling Movement Has A Few Folks Who Love Their Hops

The Wisdom of George

The Wisdom of George