Vision Zero for Youth: safer streets starting where youth walk and bike

Vision Zero for Youth: safer streets starting where youth walk and bike

Around the world, communities are committing to eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, with an approach called Vision Zero. A growing group of these cities is focused on improving safety in school zones and other places where children and youth walk and bicycle. Vision Zero for Youth recognizes that starting with youth can be the catalyst to build community support for Vision Zero, and that Vision Zero should include a focus on youth.

Children deserve safe places to walk and bike—starting with the trip to school. The ability of people to safely walk and bicycle is a vital part of what makes communities thrive.

Safe walking and biking is important for children’s safety and health and how Vision Zero for Youth can impact far beyond the trip to school.

vision zero

Everyone needs to be active and everyone needs to be safe

Pedestrian crashes rising as inactivity takes an even greater toll

  • Every day, approximately 15 pedestrians die on our streets. (1)
  • Though total traffic deaths in the US fell by nearly 18 percent from 2006 to 2015, pedestrian deaths rose by 12 percent during the same ten year period. (1)
  • Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. (2)

(1) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (NHTSA). (2017). Traffic Safety Facts. Retrieved from (2) Kohl, Harold W et al. (2012). The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health. The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9838, 294 – 305.

why it matters

With Vision Zero for Youth, cities create safe places for everyone to be active

Vision Zero for Youth is an important opportunity to accelerate getting to zero traffic deaths, starting with children. Today, cities and communities across the U.S. are committing to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, often as part of Vision Zero initiatives. A growing group of these places are including a focus on improving safe walking and bicycling in school zones and other places where youth are present. There are many reasons why focusing on safety for youth can be an important component. Children and youth need and deserve special protection, and starting with youth can be the spark that builds community support for a broader Vision Zero program.

Starting near schools: why it works

ntsbStarting safety initiatives near schools and in places where youth often walk and bike, first and foremost creates a safer environment for children. In addition, prioritizing the needs of child pedestrians and bicyclists can form an integral piece of a plan to meet larger safety goals. Safety measures targeted at protecting youth, whether in controlling speed, creating safer, improved walking and biking facilities, or in changing behaviors, have broader effects that benefit entire communities. Based on our experience serving as the SRTS clearinghouse for the Federal SRTS Program for eleven years, we have learned that starting where youth walk and bike offers five ways to integrate into broader safety initiatives such as Vision Zero plans.

  • Areas around schools provide a logical starting point to employ innovative infrastructure to improve driver behavior and pedestrian safety at crossings.
  • Programs for youth create opportunities to try behaviors that inspire community-wide change.
  • School-zone focused efforts serve as starting points for using strategies to tackle speed that may require more political traction.
  • Improving safety where youth walk and bike supports safer walking and biking networks in general.
  • Programs that aim to protect children encourage broad support from the community.

Read more about Vision Zero for Youth