Updating Vision Zero approaches
The booth is a visual indicator of how much the agency has moved forward as for many years the agency had been focused primarily on facilitating automobile movement.
I had a long conversation with one of the staffers, which led me to write and share with them a memo on a more systematic approach to implementation of Safe Routes to School.
Plus, we discussed my reservations about the local traffic safety marketing program, Street Smarts (see "Safe Driving: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month"), which I find somewhat indirect in its messaging and more focused on bicyclists and pedestrians, and less on motor vehicle operators.
Also see "Why transit, biking, and walking as transportation is so hard for most Americans to understand? Because most people drive" and "It's time to take action on road safety: Recent pedestrian and cyclist deaths show drivers are becoming a menace," Toronto Star.
A week or two later I was thinking about that conversation in the context of the "Vision Zero" approach to traffic safety generally and in the city, and I realized that I could add a couple items to the previous framework I had developed (updated here, "DC and Vision Zero Revisited," and originally discussed here, "A "Vision Zero" agenda for DC").
Plus I realized it would be better to reorganize it along the lines of the 5 E's of active transportation planning: Engineering; Education; Encouragement; Enforcement; Evaluation, but reordered and with a 6th E added for Equity ("Revisiting bicycle (and pedestrian) planning and the 6th 'E': equity").
This element is called "Evaluation" in the traditional 5 E's framework, and typically this is listed last while it should be listed first, as it is here.
1. Engage citizens in the Vision Zero process from the outset. Focus on capacity building.
2. Develop a systematic planning approach at the sub-city scale for addressing traffic safety matters, including requiring school districts to incorporate mobility planning for pedestrians and bicyclists. Traffic calming programs need to be rolled into such initiatives.
(DC DOT has a program called "Livability Planning" but in my estimation, it's not at the level of a standardized program, and the results are only as good as the project manager and participants, so it's a crapshoot.)
WalkDenver is a community organization we need to pay more attention to as an example of national best practice examples. Check out this infographic on the West Colfax neighborhood, calling attention to gaps in sidewalk network there
-- West Colfax Walk Audit final report
4. Ensure that neighborhood planning protocols address night-time safety and lighting issues in a systematic fashion ("Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community").
5. Create Ward-specific traffic safety committees (walking, biking, neighborhood) that would function as ward-specific subcommittees of the city's standing Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committees, to develop and focus on implementing a ward-wide improvement agenda.
6. Collect, maintain and present detailed data on all traffic accidents of all types and put it in real-time on the DDOT Dashboard.
Note that while the execution isn't fully successful, the Metro newspaper in Toronto is doing this as part of a traffic safety campaign ("Which roads are deadliest? Metro maps pedestrian and cyclist deaths") and I think that all cities, including DC, ought to move towards that kind of approach to data presentation, for all crashes/accidents, not just deaths.
7. My "Signature Streets" approach is a way to reorganize planning around sustainable mobility and traffic safety. See "Minneapolis North Side Greenway project as a quantum leap in transportation-placemaking-greenway-trail-parks planning" and "Complete Places are more than Complete Streets" for discussion of this concept.
Engineering and Maintenance (physical infrastructure and improvements)
Note that most traditional road safety infrastructure treatments for motor vehicle traffic tend to be standard practice in the Walking City (L'Enfant) urban design that typifies Washington, DC. With regard to roundabouts, I'd argue that they are designed to facilitate automobile throughput, not to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.
8. Prioritize design treatments that preference pedestrians and bicyclists and transit users in the context of the Walking and Transit City ("Transportation and Urban Form" by Peter Muller). This means more pedestrian scrambles and bike boulevards. Also see "Barnes Dance Intersections as possible "solutions" to Wisconsin & M, 14th and U intersections."
And implement them.
9. Formalize the development of a "Safe Routes to Transit" planning protocol.
LA Great Streets program website.
As part of the integration of the Expo Line into Downtown Santa Monica, they installed pedestrian scramble intersections at transit stations ("Santa Monica Is Getting 11 Pedestrian-Friendly Crosswalks That Stop All Cars At Once," LAist).
That's the kind of approach that needs to be taken in terms of rebalancing mobility towards pedestrians in high use pedestrian areas.
10. Change roadway materials (from asphalt to Belgian Block, etc.) for the streets around pedestrian predominated places e.g., commercial districts, parks, squares and circles, libraries, and Metrorail stations to make clear that these are pedestrian prioritized places.
11. When possible, separate through traffic from arterials that are also neighborhood serving. See "London Mayor proposes roadway tunnels to divert surface motor vehicle traffic and congestion."
12. Support the (re)development of dedicated transitways for surface bus service.
13. 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 identified.
14. Install more pedestrian-focused lighting in pedestrian areas to address night-time safety.
15. Change winter snow clearance practices to support walking, biking, and transit use ("Planning for winter weather").
16. This isn't an issue in DC, but in those communities where residents are financially responsible for paying for and building sidewalks, local governments need to take the lead to ensure the creation of complete sidewalk networks ("A walking (or sustainable mobility prioritized) city should take responsibility for constructing sidewalks").
17. Develop and deliver a curriculum for traffic safety (bike, walk, transit, drive) for K-12 schools: elementary; junior high; and senior high schools. Note the inclusion of high schools.
Typically SRTS programs focus on elementary schools and maybe middle schools, while high schools are not addressed. Yet the number of adolescent injuries and deaths related to traffic safety remain persistently high. Therefore, SRTS and traffic safety programs need to be provided to high school aged populations.
-- The Yolo campaign -- You Only Live Once -- developed by MCDOT and the StreetSmart program is a developing best practice.
-- Rosemount High School in Minnesota has a SRTS plan
-- Seattle's SRTS mapping includes junior and senior high schools
-- Montgomery County and Pennsylvania have mini-grant programs for traffic safety education targeting high school demographics and groups.
18. Work with colleges, recreation centers, senior organizations, etc., to provide programming as needed for adult populations. Most recreation and community centers could offer such programming but don't. Space ought to be provided to bicycle co-op programs in community/recreation centers so that they can deliver their programs without having to spend most of their time fundraising for rental space.
19, Develop a Vision Zero related set of questions that must be taken as part of the drivers license renewal process. Generally, after a person receives a drivers license, they are not re-tested. Re-tests could be given at license renewal in order to reinforce public policy goals concerning traffic safety.
Note that Idaho has added two such questions to their driver's license test, effective this year ("Idaho driver's test now asks you about bikes, pedestrians," Idaho Statesman).
20. Develop better traffic safety social marketing.programs. The NYC Vision Zero program is particularly direct ("Lessons from New York on how to eliminate traffic deaths," Metro Toronto) in their marketing program. From the article:
New York’s graphic Vision Zero ads — on television, radio, YouTube, bus shelters and billboards — don’t settle for a broad safety warning to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Instead, they single out drivers in a blunt tone unthinkable from Toronto’s government. One typical ad on bus shelters shows a woman’s bloody arm on the pavement. The text: “She waited for the signal. The driver didn’t.”According to NYC, 70% of pedestrian deaths there are the fault of "driver's choices."
I also like the idea of using buses and railcars as big rolling billboards, with very direct messages.
bus wrap, Pedestrian safety campaign, New Mexico
Heads up Watch for Trains banner on Expo Line light rail train, Los Angeles. LA Times photo.
Many of the ads in the NYC Vision Zero campaign use micro-targeting, providing very specific localized information about crashes and deaths in the area.
21. 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. Most transit agencies do this. In DC, heavy vehicle operators (DPW, DDOT, DC Water) go through this training.
22. Extend driver education "refreshment" training through partnerships with large employers. Minnesota is doing this ("Minnesota law enforcement turns to employers in curbing distracted driving," Minneapolis Star-Tribune). From the article:
Major employers such as General Mills, Ecolab and CHS ban employees from using mobile phones and texting while driving company-owned vehicles and have comprehensive safety programs to promote safe driving. They’re using e-mail blasts, articles in company newsletters and videos and articles on internal websites.Encouragement
At Cargill, where safety messages come in the form of posters in parking ramps and lots that carry messages such as “Hang Up, We Want to See You Again Tomorrow,” employees are required to complete e-learning courses and sign a commitment pledging safe driving. That means no use of cellphones while driving on campus, no texting while driving anywhere while on company business, even in personal vehicles, and 13 other behaviors deemed detrimental to driving safety. Violations bring consequences.
“It’s expected behavior” while on the clock, and the hope is that it continues when employees are on their own time, said Melanie Burke, Cargill’s director of health and safety. “It’s a goal to make it part of the culture.”
Fryklund said Cargill’s safe driving push has led to a behavior change. Fryklund, who works in the company’s animal nutrition division, said he always wears his seat belt and now tucks his cellphone in the seat behind him so he can’t get to it when it vibrates.
23. Develop city-wide/county-wide "Open Streets" events like the CicLAvia in Los Angeles, which is probably the nation's most successful (and is modeled after the Ciclovia program in Bogota, Colombia). CicLAvia regular gets 100,000+ participants at their seasonally-scheduled events. And Park(ing) Day is another example, another good way to educate people on these issues.
Photo of a New York City Summer Streets program by BeyondDC.
24. Develop and deliver ward/neighborhood walk and bike events on a seasonal basis in association with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation, and other agencies and civic groups.
25. Provide financial support to walking, bicycling, and transit advocacy groups. Best practice groups as models include Feet First in Seattle, WalkDenver, WalkBoston, Transportation Alternatives in NYC, Starkville in Motion in Mississippi, City Repair in Portland, the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago, and the Better Block model.
In this section I've added traffic engineering as an element slightly different from the kinds of infrastructure facilities typically covered under the "Engineering" E.
26. Put signage up at the major entry points into the city, stating that the prevailing speed limit is 25 mph, unless posted otherwise.
27, Make residential street speed limits 20 mph.
28, Change the speed limit around transit stations to 25 mph (or 20 mph).
Image from Streetsblog.
30. Change the legal framework with regard to motor vehicle operation to require that automobiles--as the heaviest and most powerful mobility device--should be accorded the greatest amount of legal responsibility with regard to traffic accidents.
31. Up the penalties for vehicle accidents that injure, maim, or kill, regardless of intent.
32.. Retrain police officers with regard to bike and pedestrian accident analysis so that their default position is not "the pedestrian/the bicyclist is automatically at fault."
33. Legalize the Idaho Stop for bicycling
34. Consider the development of a bicycle operators endorsement for drivers licenses.
35. Bring back the traffic enforcement division of the police department as a special unit. (Note that the Motor Carrier Safety Unit still exists, although it's probably a federal requirement.)
36. Give parking enforcement officers the training and legal authority to ticket driving infractions.
37. Advocate to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the inclusion as original equipment front and back lighting, and left and right turn signals on bicycles intended for urban transportation use
38. Invest extra time and money in developing and delivering programming targeting lower income demographics, people of color, and immigrant communities. This post, "Urg: bad studies don't push the discourse or policy forward | biking in low income communities," has many examples of better practice programming. This article from Canadian Immigrant discusses a program focused in Canada ("A Toronto program uses two wheels to connect newcomers to the city").
39. Develop a mini-grant program for capacity building and traffic safety programs for community groups working with these populations. Besides the Montgomery County and Pennsylvania programs mentioned above, Toronto's small grants program for "Bicycle User Groups" is another example.