A pedestrian crosses the street. by Mike Maguire licensed under Creative Commons.

A version of this article was first published on the WashCycle.

In 2019, Oslo and Helsinki each had zero pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, while DC had 14. The three cities are roughly the same size in terms of population—so what accounts for the difference?

For one thing, Oslo had a head start. In 1975, the Norwegian capital had 41 traffic deaths, while DC had 74. By 2010, Olso got down to one fatality, while DC had 27.

Curbed’s Alissa Walker reports on the steps Oslo has taken to tackle Vision Zero:

Over the last five years, the city has taken dramatic steps to reduce vehicular traffic in its downtown, including replacing nearly all on-street parking with bike lanes and sidewalks. Major streets have been closed to cars, and congestion pricing raised the fee to drive into the city center, with the goal of making most of downtown car-free by 2019.

Oslo has not only reduced the number of places where it is possible to drive, the city has also lowered the speed limit, which significantly contributes to a reduction in deaths, said Christoffer Solstad Steen of Trygg Trafikk, a national road safety organization, in an interview with Aftenposten.

One effort cited by Steen that may have contributed to the drop in child deaths are the new “heart zones” drawn around Oslo’s schools, where officials are making physical changes to streets to protect students walking and biking to school, including closing streets to cars during school hours.

So there’s nothing magical about it. Having fewer drivers, going slower while creating more space for cyclists and pedestrians is what it takes. I don’t think anyone is surprised by that. Which leads one to ask? If we already know how to get to zero deaths, why haven’t we done it?

But there is hope for DC still, based on Oslo’s example.

“Progress was also uneven for Oslo in the early years after setting its own Vision Zero goal,” Curbed reports. “But it’s Oslo’s car-free zones that have made the difference, Steen told Aftenposten, because overall roadway deaths haven’t reduced across Norway in recent years the way Oslo’s have plummeted.”

Similarly, Helsinki’s path to zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 relied on reducing speed limits, increasing traffic control, and developing rescue services.

As SmartCitiesWorld reports:

Helsinki decided to lower speed limits in 2018, and the new limits took force last year. Currently, the speed limit on streets in residential areas and the city centre is primarily 30 km/h. The speed limit on main streets is 50 km/h in suburban areas and 40 km/h in the inner city.

The City will start installing 70 new traffic control cameras and making alterations aimed at improving the safety of pedestrian crossings in the most dangerous locations this year.