A more radical approach to "Vision Zero" is needed: reconstructing streets out of different materials to reduce speeds
GGW has a piece, "Abdul Seck, the pedestrian hit in a crash in Anacostia on Sunday, has died," about the death of a pedestrian as a result of a crash caused by a vehicle driven (1) at a high rate of speed; (2) running a red light; (3) hitting another vehicle; (4) and careening vehicles ended up on the sidewalk, where Mr. Seck was walking.
(Ironically, a not dissimilar situation resulted in the death of a cyclist a few days before: "At vigil for fallen DC bicyclist, activists call for safer streets for bikers," WTOP-radio). A cyclist waiting at an intersection for the light to change was hit by a careening vehicle hit by a speeding van.)
The GGW article embeds lots of tweets from people writing about how they've asked for painting of crosswalks etc. which would have had zero preventative impact on the situation described above.
And as a contrast, just yesterday the Arizona Daily Star ran a column entitled "As pedestrians die, Tucson accommodates bad drivers," about the pro-motor vehicle operator planning paradigm there, where because aggressive driving is so rampant, transportation departments remove crosswalks so as to not give the impression that it is safe to walk across the street. From the article:
This is what we’ve come to in Tucson: Crosswalks are so dangerous that city officials consider it safer to remove some of them than to leave them in place. Otherwise, the officials conclude, pedestrians think they may actually be safe crossing the street at a crosswalk, which is obviously not the case.Vision Zero. For all the talk of Vision Zero, which aims to:
As Kylie Walzak of the Living Streets Alliance told me, “We’re giving people fewer options because it’s unsafe. Well, make it safe!”
achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road trafficand I've put forward various frameworks for implementing it here:
-- "A reminder about how the entitlement of automobility is embedded into law and democratizes death by accident," 2014
-- "A "Vision Zero" agenda for DC," 2014
-- "DC and Vision Zero Revisited," 2015
-- "Updating Vision Zero approaches," 2016
-- "First global benchmark for road safety in cities published by International Transport Forum," 2018
we are doing road redesigns in terms of adding various safety treatments, including narrowing lane widths, but the mobility paradigm still favors the automobile primacy.
Towards radical practice. I suggest we change roadway materials in cities and towns in order to make driving slower.
It happens I wrote about this last month. "Pedestrian fatalities and street design," responds to reporting on last year's pedestrian death statistics, which are on the rise. (Also see "First global benchmark for road safety in cities published by International Transport Forum.")
The (re-ordered from the entry) argument is pretty basic:
1. On neighborhood streets, compared to automobiles, why are the rights of pedestrians subservient to cars?
2. Every community has "Boulevards of Death" which are particularly problematic.
3. We need to "dumb down" roads to make them better fit their context--freeways should allow for high speeds, neighborhoods streets and community serving arterials shouldn't enable high speeds.
4. Therefore, why aren't we re/designing streets in terms of the land use context? The transportation planning system develops all roads, to allow cars to be driven at high speeds, regardless of land use context.
5. The next step is to change the way we construct streets, so that desired operating speed of motor vehicles matches actual behavior.
Matrix of Design Values based on land use context: Walking cities need slower vehicle traffic. While it needs some serious updating and extension of the concepts presented, the Smart Transportation Guidebook does a good job in laying out a framework for considering "street design values" in terms of (1) land use context; (2) the purpose of the road (community vs. regional serving); (3) desired operating speed of motor vehicles; (4) roadway characteristics; and (5) roadside characteristics.
Although even the STG doesn't make the conceptual leap and consider the materials composition of roadways as part of this framework.
Note that besides adding bike lanes and cycletracks to streets and other treatments, DC is pretty liberal about creating curb bulbouts at intersections and has created a handful of pedestrian scramble intersections.
4th and C Streets SE, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Signage and other treatments. I've seen a "Neighborhood Slow Zone" sign on Capitol Hill, but it's the only one I've ever seen in the city, so I wonder if someone swiped it from somewhere else and put it up. Except that it is with a 20mph posted speed limit sign, which is also out of the ordinary--I've never seen a posted 20mph speed limit on a DC neighborhood street--so maybe it's legitimate.
Reconstructing streets. The next step for cities is to reconstruct streets to favor pedestrians(and bicyclists) over motor vehicle traffic.
Bothell, Washington has done a form of this, on regional arterials that are simultaneously city-serving ("An example of using variegated road material treatments in Bothell, Washington").
Looking north along Bothell Way Northeast’s “multiway” boulevard in downtown Bothell. Photo: Steve Ringman, Seattle Times.
And the previous entries include various other examples, including remaining asphalt block street sections on some streets in Capitol Hill.
Asphalt block road pavement, South Carolina Avenue SE
Next Steps: Beyond road diets. Road dieting is a term referring to reducing street and lane width to reduce motor vehicle speeds, because higher speeds are associated with wider lanes and roadways.
-- Road Diet webpage, Federal Highway Administration
-- Road Diet Case Studies, Federal Highway Administration
But road dieting probably isn't enough.
How to convince cities to start reconstructing some streets is the question. Using asphalt block is more expensive to construct, but the streets, if properly constructed last a long time, a lot longer than traditional asphalt paving.
In a city like DC, I recommend that we should start with areas around schools, parks, libraries, commercial districts, and transit stations where a preponderance of riders walk to and from the station.
But lately, I've been thinking it'd be good to reconstruct streets that experience a great deal of excessive speeding with asphalt block as an example too.
Premier Vision Zero Resource. WRT "towards zero deaths" initiatives, recently I came across some resources that are worth reading in order to be able to take a more regularized approach, A Road Map for Implementing the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) National Strategy on Highway Safety (registration required). The materials include:
- A road map guidance document that identifies the essential elements for effectively implementing and sustaining a TZD program, action step checklists, and best practices.
- Two online self-assessment tools focused on program development and implementation and on stakeholder involvement. The tools identify a continuum of tasks to help organizations determine the status of their TZD program and move it forward.
- A how-to guide for implementing the existing TZD Strategic Communications Plan. It identifies elements needed to promote TZD adoption, offers guidance for targeting partners, and discusses how to train and use ambassadors.
- A PowerPoint presentation for use by partners and ambassadors that complements the how-to guide.
- Three online tutorials that address the benefits of partnering, provide tactics for connecting with and engaging different types of partners, and highlight how states and communities are working with partners to promote TZD efforts.
A ten part webinar program is designed to help people implement and market related initiatives.
The materials were created by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, with partners, for the Federal Highway Administration and the the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.