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Vision Zero, the project to reduce traffic-related deaths and severe injuries to zero, is a laudable goal, but achieving it can be daunting. While education campaigns and traffic enforcement can may seem like good options, cities have surprisingly little data on the cause and effect of such measures.

Microsoft teamed up last year with DataKind, a nonprofit that leverages big data to help social-change organizations solve problems, to use deep data analyzation to solve the problem in New York City. Now they’re bringing that project to Seattle, San Jose and New Orleans.


The expansion, announced today, will help cities study how various factors affect accidents, from new traffic-calming measures to existing infrastructure layouts. DataKind will collect the data and provide analysis for cities, while Microsoft will offer support with both expertise and a new fellowship focused on the Vision Zero project.

“At the core, all of these projects aim to empower cities to efficiently invest in measures that save lives,” Microsoft director of civic projects Elizabeth Grossman wrote in a blog post announcing the new initiatives.

Each city will have a different focus for DataKind’s data collection. The City of Seattle, with its focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety, wants to understand how driver behavior and street design lead to collisions between vehicles and bicycles or pedestrians. That data can be used to change traffic lights or learn where new bike lanes would work best, taking advantage of a new levy to fund the changes.

In New Orleans, the focus will be on understanding how the growing number of cyclists and pedestrians are getting around, helping the city better predict future growth for long-term infrastructure planning. DataKind will use the last five years of collision data collected by the city and lessons from its New York study to provide suggestions in San Jose, as well.

While the DataKind projects are either ongoing or have yet to start, they’re already affecting city planning. In New York, the city has implemented traffic calming measures and the DataKind study will look at whether those are effective.

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