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The District today released its Vision Zero action plan, a 56-page document designed to set the city on the path to ending traffic fatalities by 2024.
Transportation officials organized the plan across four commitments: creating safe streets, protecting vulnerable users, preventing dangerous driving, and being transparent and responsive. It primarily relies on three Es—engineering, education, and enforcement—and data which are expressed through 68 actions to achieve its ambitious goals in the next few years.
One of the most practical and (seemingly) simple ideas in the plan is the reduction of speed limits on arterial streets, like New York and Eastern avenues. As the plan points out, a pedestrian’s chance of surviving a collision greatly decreases as the speed limit increases:
During that time period, 15 arterial corridors (see below) were the sites of more than half of all pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. By January 2017, the plan calls for two 25-MPH “arterial safe zones” pilots, as well as 20-MPH “safe neighborhood” pilots in two residential neighborhoods.
At a press conference this morning at Maryland Avenue and 10th Street NE, District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo said the city has not yet identified candidate corridors but will do so soon. DDOT needs to look at several criteria to determine whether and where “road diets” would be feasible, he added, including traffic demands, roadway widths, parking, and signal timing.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, who committed D.C. to Vision Zero in March, said “part of Vision Zero is not to take away from planned roadwork” and other projects the District may want to undertake in its effort to grow. She added that DDOT still needs to follow its own internal regulations in addition to those of the Federal Transit Administration for projects that receive U.S. government funding when implementing the plan.
“There are more movements, period” in D.C., Bowser said after listing the multimodal ways that people traverse the city. “We can [complete Vision Zero] by being steadfast in our investments and in implementing our investments.”
The action plan also calls for better data collection, sharing, and analysis to identify problem areas. (City Paper has attempted to do this independently.) Dormsjo and Bowser both noted that specific input from local residents is key to achieving that goal, so that the District can more-efficiently inform people of “hotspots” and decide where to install transit-safety amenities like shorter crosswalks, bike-storage corrals, and automated cameras to enforce speeding statutes. Residents can flag their concerns to D.C. by contributing to a Vision Zero online crowd-sourcing map, for instance.
Another issue addressed in the plan is enforcement, not just by automated speed cameras, but by agencies such as the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Public Works. One measure involves targeting “illegal loading/unloading and unauthorized vehicles in loading zones, erratic behavior, and dangerous interactions with bicycle facilities by drivers of public vehicles for hire” on a weekly basis; that measure has a targeted completion data of October 2017. Dormsjo said DDOT is also studying “off-hour deliveries” in two or three commercial areas with a grant it received from the Federal Highway Adminstration: “We’re trying to strike a better balance and get those commercial deliveries taken care of” when there’s not as much demand for parking.
The Vision Zero strategy also seeks to “reduce distracted driving [by] using regular targeted enforcement and step-out enforcement at high-priority locations” as well as to “collect and analyze data on drowsy driving.” The District will be “stepping up enforcement for people who are chronically violating” traffic and parking laws, Dormsjo explained.
Commenting on the region’s economic and population boom in recent years, Bowser said “growth means everybody can’t drive”: People will have to continue to adopt various transportation modes. Greg Billing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, similarly highlighted the fact that a sizable share of D.C.’s commuters live in Maryland and Virginia; Vision Zero will have to be a regional strategy as much as a local one.
“We talk about numbers but we can never forget that each number represents a person,” Billing said.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery