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Vision Zero in London: interview with Lilli Matson
Vision Zero in London: interview with Lilli Matson

Vision Zero in London: interview with Lilli Matson

Deaths and serious injuries are a major problem for those who are responsible for ensuring the safety of road networks in cities – but through the introduction of Vision Zero, TfL is committed to eradicating fatalities caused by traffic collisions.

The assumption that death and injury associated with road usage has been challenged by the policy that aims to eradicate all deaths and serious injuries on London’s transport network by 2041.

Lilli Matson, Director of Transport Strategy at Transport for London (TfL), is heavily involved in the implementation of Vision Zero thinking into all areas of London’s transport strategy. She explains what Vision Zero has done to make using roads in London safer.

This is an excerpt of an interview which appears in its entirety in Transport Britain

What is the history of Vision Zero and how did TfL get involved?

There is a growing emphasis on Vision Zero at TfL, but our work on tackling collisions is nothing new. We have always had a position where we say that road deaths and people being injured in London is not acceptable.

When Sadiq Khan was elected as the Mayor of London in 2015, reducing deaths and collisions was within his manifesto and his Deputy Mayor Val Shawcross was personally very committed to this agenda and actually campaigned on it when she was in the assembly prior to the election. She brought a real energy and drive to us, focusing on it and looking at what we’re going to do in terms of an action plan to drive this forward.

What were the reasons for throwing your weight behind this scheme?

Vision Zero is a fundamental change to the approach to safety. A traditional approach to road safety would look at the road network, find out where people are getting hurt and try to put measurements in place to reduce the risks – it might include things like keeping people away from the road, improving safety that way.

But cities have grown and changed – and this is not just London. Many European cities are people-centred, with people walking and cycling. As a result, there’s now a process of trying to reduce the danger that road users face.

By looking at the design, education and the way we run the network, we can remove risk.

Risk can be removed in a number of ways, including by designing roads differently; we can also remove risk by lowering speed limits; we can train people – drivers and road users – to increase awareness.

It is a systematic approach which has looked at all evidence of how the road is used, whether it’s the vehicles, people or the road itself. We use data evidence to say what we know about road danger, what you can use to reduce that risk level, and by that you are creating a safer environment.

We have already seen a difference in the number of casualties.

What has been the biggest success for you, and why?

I think the approach of reducing road danger, which is something we’ve been producing in London for four years, and the fact we have been able to grow the use of the road for what you might call ‘vulnerable road users’ – walking and cycling – while also reducing the risk of these being involved in a collision.

That is really key evidence in showing that this approach in reducing road danger works.

The plan is more about looking at changing the energy around stakeholder groups; that is the ambition and it releases a lot of new thinking, whether this is in using new data sources that we could be using, or people from other organisations coming forward and working together to see how we can address the problems.

By mobilising the energy around the groups, is this how you feel improvements can be made, or are there any other ways you’re seeking to achieve this?

Within the plan there is a call to action which is quite clearly detailed. It includes substantial investment in making the road network safer by targeting locations where we know road danger exists, while also spending on our scheme designs.

We have a large investment programme aimed at London’s road network, under the banner of Healthy Streets. That’s achieved action through the Vision Zero Action Plan.

But we’re also looking to improve the safety of vehicles themselves; we are working to develop what we call a new Direct Vision Standard. It basically means if you’re sitting in a large HGV, you have a chance to design the vehicle so that it ensures maximum visibility of people around you on the road network. It is something that we’re pursuing through European legislation.

That’s the standard that will ensure only the safest lorries are entering London. It won’t just be one measure that will improve conditions; it will be a combination that are important and aimed at taking data out of the system and using it to make the network safer.

The full interview is in Issue 7 of Transport Britain.

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