In 2012, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties had more than 11,000 collisions that resulted in injury or death. Though biking and walking only account for 1-3% of commuter trips, they make up 7-8% of injuries and fatalities. Last Wednesday, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and California Walks debuted a new resource to help reduce these numbers to zero.
The Vision Zero Toolkit [PDF] outlines key steps that city staff and policymakers can take to adopt and implement a Vision Zero policy and plan, in an effort to improve traffic safety in their communities. The toolkit focuses on protecting the most vulnerable users, including people walking, people with disabilities, people riding bicycles, and those using other mobility devices.
In short, Vision Zero policies recognize that every traffic collision is preventable, whether through engineering, education, or enforcement. Sweden launched Vision Zero in 1997 with policies that have reduced the country’s traffic fatalities by nearly 50%. Vision Zero has gained attention over the last year, with the United States Department of Transportation “Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets,” and San Francisco and New York City adopting Vision Zero policies and plans. Locally, the City of San Mateo and the City of San José have adopted Vision Zero policies this year as well.
From launching a public safety messaging campaign, to reducing traffic speed limits and installing red-light running cameras, the recommendations in the Toolkit are grouped into short-, mid-, and long-term steps categorized under five essential “E’s” to help cities use a phased approach to implementation: Evaluation and Planning, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement.
“The safer our streets are, the more people will feel confident to try a bike,” said Shiloh Ballard, Executive Director of SVBC. “When streets are safe for people walking and biking, they are safe for drivers and transit riders as well. We hope this Toolkit will help more cities move towards safer streets.”
The report also emphasizes engaging diverse communities who rely on walking, biking, and transit use and are most affected by traffic violence by incorporating two more E’s – Engagement and Equity – into their Vision Zero program.
“Vision Zero implementation should focus on including communities who are often underrepresented and disempowered in planning and other political processes,” said Jaime Fearer, Planning and Policy Manager for California Walks. “It is a key strategy of this Toolkit, and without their input and involvement, any Vision Zero effort will not be successful.”
“Traffic-related deaths and injuries are avoidable and intolerable,” said Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona. “The Vision Zero Toolkit for local jurisdictions provides a road map for protecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Such efforts are as important as any public health endeavor and must be prioritized as such.”