A "Vision Zero" agenda for DC
GGW has a piece "Vision Zero won't be easy," about traffic safety initiatives proposed by DC's mayoral candidates. Vision Zero is a traffic safety initiative pioneered in Sweden, although I first heard of it through promotional initiatives by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, which has developed a "Towards Zero Deaths" initiative in Minnesota.
The Plight of Pedestrians").
More recently, Mayor De Blasio made traffic safety an issue, although the focus at first was more on blaming pedestrians for jaywalking.
Since then a more formal Vision Zero initiative has been created, and the State Legislature approved the city's proposal for reducing the prevailing speed limit on city streets from 30 mph to 25 mph. The city did not have the authority to change the speed limit unilaterally. This will go into effect next month, on November 7th ("Bill de Blasio signs law to lower speed limit to 25 mph during emotional ceremony," New York Daily News).
As Councilmember, Muriel Bowser did push an initiative a couple years ago that I thought was a bit too cute, to institute a speed limit of 15 mph on residential streets, in association with CM Tommy Wells ("Pedestrian safety and the proposed 15mph residential speed limit in DC: Part One").
I think a 20 mph speed limit makes more sense, and is in line with various urban speed limit reduction initiatives elsewhere such as in Graz, Austria and Montreal ("One more thing about Montreal as a bike city").
According to the UMN CTS report Evaluating the Effectiveness of State Toward Zero Deaths Program
Successful TZD programs have five characteristics: 1) an ambitious goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries; 2) high levels of inter-agency cooperation in pursuit of the TZD goal among state departments of transportation, public safety, health, and other relevant agencies; 3) a comprehensive strategy addressing all 4 E’s – engineering, enforcement, education, and EMS elements of traffic safety; 4) a performance-based, data-driven system of targeting resources and strategies where they will have the greatest impact in reducing traffic fatalities; and 5) policy leadership from relevant entities, including the Governor, the state legislature, and the heads of state agencies.According to the report, programs in Minnesota, Idaho, Utah and Washington have been in place long enough to have enough data to evaluate program impacts, and they found a positive impact on fatality reduction.
My proposed Vision Zero Agenda
In the comments on the GGW piece, I sketched out a pretty complete Vision Zero agenda for DC, which I don't think is hard to do programmatically, but is difficult politically.
1. Put signage up at the major entry points into the city, stating that the prevailing speed limit is 25 mph, unless signed otherwise. (A big problem on city streets concerns suburbanites driving fast, and their lack of familiarity of driving in places where there are more pedestrians than cars.)
20 mph speed limit sign on Stanford Ave. at East Ave in the Town of Chevy Chase, Maryland.
2. Make residential street speed limits 20 mph. And prioritize pedestrian rights on residential streets. (This would be comparable to the "Neighborhood Slow Zones" in NYC; note that Chevy Chase and Kensington sign neighborhood streets with a 20mph speed limit.)
3. Change the roadway materials (like Belgian Block, etc.) for the streets around pedestrian predominated places e.g., commercial districts, parks, squares and circles, libraries, and Metrorail stations.
This will provide visual, aural, and physical cues for motor vehicle operators to drive at speeds congruent with the land use context and the presence of large numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists.
4. Change the speed limit around Metrorail stations to 25 mph (or 20 mph). (In the outer city, the Gray Administration upped speed limits on arterials to 30mph, from 25mph, although this was also done on 13th St. within the L'Enfant City.
5. Change winter snow clearance practices to support walking, biking, and transit use.
6. When possible separate through traffic from arterials that are also neighborhood serving. See the past blog entry "Tunnelized road projects for DC."
While it would be expensive, for example, the commuter-through traffic elements of North Capitol Street-Blair Road should be put underground. There are other streets with similar conditions, e.g., 16th Street, where commuting traffic has a deleterious impact on the quality of residential life (ie. see the argument in Appleyard's _Livable Streets_ about how community interaction decreases with the increase in traffic).
7. Collect, maintain and present detailed data on all traffic accidents of all types (comparable to the recent Washcycle/GGW piece on biking), and put it in real-time on the DDOT Dashboard. The traffic safety "data" presented on the DDOT dashboard is not actionable or useful.
8. Analyze all traffic accidents and incorporate the PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection Systems AND OTHER TRAFFIC SAFETY ANALYSIS PROTOCOLS to shape physical and programmatic changes as necessary, when structural-design problems have been elucidated.
9. Retrain police officers with regard to bike and pedestrian accident analysis. Currently, officers are likely to presume that the motor vehicle operator is not at fault, unless the driver is impaired.
10. Legalize the Idaho Stop for bicycling ("Davis, California needs to legalize the Idaho Stop"). In return, require a bicycle endorsement on local drivers licenses. Consider license plates for bicycles. (If only to get motor vehicle operators to shut up.) Add refresher tests to drivers license renewals with specific questions on pedestrian and bicycle safety.
11. Develop and deliver a curriculum for traffic safety (bike, walk, transit, drive) for K-12 schools: elementary; junior high; and senior high schools.
12. Change the legal framework with regard to motor vehicle operation to require that automobiles--as the heaviest and most powerful mobility device--have the most legal responsibility with regard to accidents, comparable to the relatively new (20 years or so) Dutch policies. See "Traffic safety and Stage 4 of moral development theory."
13. Up the penalties for motor vehicle accidents that injure, maim, or kill
14. Except for the fact that they probably have their hands full already, bring back the traffic enforcement division of the police department as a special unit, and move the unit to DDOT. (DC's traffic safety unit was subsumed into "Special Operations.) a few years ago.)
15. Give parking enforcement officers the training and legal authority to ticket for driving infractions. For a variety of reasons, busy police officers in cities don't spend a lot of time enforcing traffic safety even though many cities have dedicated traffic safety units. Parking enforcement officers are on the streets all day. Giving them the training and authority to ticket traffic violations would increase the "eyes on the street" focused on traffic safety. More enforcement would reduce the number of infractions over time.
In comments on my original list at the GGW entry, charlie made the point that Vision Zero is about all deaths, not just pedestrian and bicyclists. That's true, so I added point 16 and modified point 13. For the most part, these changes will improve traffic safety generally.
The PEDSAFE and BIKESAFE "countermeasure" systems will identify general design and engineering problems. But point 8 should be modified to include "AND OTHER TRAFFIC SAFETY ANALYSIS PROTOCOLS". Note though that most of the countermeasures in such analysis programs are more for suburban settings. DC's street design has safety built into its foundations. The problem is that it was designed for the most part when the prevailing speeds for cars were 15 to 20 mph.
16. Require specialized training for heavy vehicle operators (e.g., concrete trucks, dump trucks, etc.) with regard to driving in urban conditions, and with pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Note that DC government does this for heavy vehicle operators, as does the Metrobus system. This training needs to be extended to private sector operators.