Vision Zero for planners

A safe road system starts with good planning

The responsibility of the transport and planning sectors is to take New Zealand toward Vision Zero, a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads.  

Good planning and design set the foundation for a Safe System that protects people from death and serious injury when mistakes occur. 

This means taking a long-term view and looking at solutions that focus on integrating the Safe System principles into urban design, land use development and transport planning on a daily basis.

What role can planners play?

Planning has the potential to influence how the transport network is used and what safety investments are required in the future. 

Roads and streets that are safe and attractive for walking and cycling, have lower speeds, include good public transport options, provide the foundation for safe movement on our roads and reduce the need for vehicle travel. Transport planning, grounded in the Safe System approach, is an important part of this. 

Safe System is the gold standard in road safety and underpins Road to Zero

The Safe System principles are:  

  • We promote good choices but plan for mistakes.
  • We design for human vulnerability.
  • We strengthen all parts of the road transport system.
  • We have a shared responsibility.

Waka Kotahi is making changes to planning guidance to embed Safe System principles  

This includes the following guides: 

  • developing One Network Framework updates to the Pedestrian planning and design guide
  • embedding the new Austroads guide Integrating safe system with movement and place for vulnerable road users
  • updating our road safety audit guidance
  • publishing a good practice guide to integrating land use and transport
  • publishing new public transport design guidelines
  • developing and launching an urban street design guide. 

Examples of how planners can apply Safe System principles

Strategic planning

  • Promote efficient land use by providing for mixed-use communities that reduce travelling distances and the safety risks people incur when they travel to access services, facilities and social networks. 

  • Encourage safe mobility by establishing and communicating a network hierarchy of functional transport routes for all users. 

  • Aim for consistent treatments within each level of the hierarchy to help users understand different kinds of road environment, what speeds are appropriate for different kinds of roads, and which modes have priority within each route. Long-term benefits include better compliance with speed limits, and more liveable communities. 

  • Plan for walking and cycling facilities to be separated from heavy vehicles and high-speed traffic environments wherever possible, and especially when traffic volumes are high. 

  • Provide for safe and secure public environments that encourage walking and the use of public transport.  

  • Adopt into practice the outcomes sought by NZS 4404:2010 Land development and infrastructure, including principles that are integral to self-explaining roads. Promote subdivisions and development patterns that contribute to a safe road system (for example, avoid reverse manoeuvrings onto the street, where possible). 

Operational policy and practice 

  • Develop Safe System objectives and policies so safe road environments are provided for pedestrians, cyclists, and light and heavy vehicles, and for an ageing and more vulnerable population.  

  • Encourage plan provisions requiring Safe System assessments for development proposals. Ensure that the assessments and audits considers all elements of the Safe System and think beyond the site boundaries. 

  • Collect development and financial contributions to fund road safety projects that mitigate adverse safety effects. 

  • Develop appropriate design guidance for our transport system that are consistent with the capabilities, limitations and expectations of the people using the spaces. Design leads to expectations around behaviour, especially where the road space is expected to be shared and provide room for emergency service access, and safe stopping and pull-over areas. 

  • Encourage the provision of underground services alongside transport routes. If poles must be used, consider their location carefully and investigate how they can be made more forgiving when a crash occurs. 

  • Ensure speed management and speed limit decisions reflect the function and use of spaces. Advocate for lower speed in built-up environments to encourage and improve the safety of active modes. 

  • Develop and include Safe System criteria in the procurement processes associated with the design and construction of new developments. 

Tips for creating safe spaces

Public spaces 

  • Provide attractive and pleasant public spaces to encourage people to spend more time in these spaces (for example, using rest areas reduces driver fatigue). 


  • Ensure carriageways are not shaded where this could create ice or other hazardous conditions. 

  • Ensure trees do not become hazards. Choose appropriate species by considering the mature height in relation to sightlines and trunks that are flexible on impact (no greater than 100mm at full maturity) or behind a safety barrier. 


  • Adapt our spaces to recognise that people are becoming more distracted.

  • Understand and plan ahead for new safety technologies and road/vehicle communication systems. 


  • Have adequate directional lighting (if illumination is acceptable). 

  • Avoid visual clutter. 

  • Ensure the message is an appropriate length and the font size is adequate. 

  • Use frangible structural supports. 

  • Use static displays, where possible. 

  • Consider using pavement markings to create self-explaining speed environments.