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Fire departments are adopting Vision Zero, so why shouldn’t you?

It’s no secret that narrowing a road can make it safer for people walking and biking, but that smaller road can be problematic when you add large, quick-moving fire trucks to the mix. That’s why fire officials are typically some of the first to push back on narrowing car lanes for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. We get it – when it comes to fighting fires, it’s life or death – but how can we save lives on our roads and ensure that our first responders get where they need to go?

San Francisco is making it happen.

According to StreetsblogUSA, firefighters in San Francisco are thinking outside of the box to do their part for safer street design. They recently purchased eight smaller “Vision Zero” fire vehicles that are slimmer and can maneuver more easily on the safer street designs.

Photo: Streetsblog/Roger Rudick

By taking the “big truck” concern out of the equation, Portland and San Francisco have been able to readily adopt new Vision Zero street designs without argument. The National Association of City Transportation Officials recently hosted a webinar featuring Portland’s Fire Chief, Mike Myers, that discussed how changes to fire truck design, street design, and operational policies can improve how we fight and prevent fires. They also discussed how changes to the design of large vehicles could reduce their lethality to those biking and walking.

These two examples are happening on the other side of the country, but this may soon become a conversation topic in the City Beautiful as well. Vision Zero, “a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all,” is picking up speed everywhere, including here. The City of Orlando recently joined the movement by adopting a resolution committing to the goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2040.

The good news is that, even without smaller fire vehicles, city planners and fire officials can work together in this conscious effort to improve safety, not only for people walking, but for all road users. Let San Franciso and Portland stand as examples of what can happen when groups work together (hint: everyone wins).

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