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Mayor Muriel Bowser has committed D.C. to “Vision Zero,” a Swedish transportation concept where jurisdictions are asked to create a timeline to end traffic fatalities and pledge to implement the changes necessary to reach that goal.
The commitment was announced earlier this month as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx‘s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets initiative. The proposed date for release of D.C’s Vision Zero plan is March 6, according to a Bowser spokeswoman. Eleven District agencies are involved in the planning process, according to spokeswoman LaToya Foster, including the Metropolitan Police Department, Office of Planning, Office of the Attorney General, and Department of Public Works.
Greg Billing, advocacy coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, says the first step in the Vision Zero process is setting a deadline for ending pedestrian, cyclist, and driver deaths. (New York and San Francisco share a goal of 2024.) Coordination and cooperation across city departments and agencies will be key to ensuring the right policy changes are made.
“Vision Zero takes commitment from the top leadership all the way down to implement and to actually see through that vision,” says Billing.
While traffic fatalities are on a downward trend both locally and nationwide, pedestrians and cyclists are disproportionally injured compared to drivers. In 2014, at least 515 pedestrians and cyclists were struck in D.C., and that number is already more than 60 this year. And as the District continues to make improvements (protected bike facilities, better walk signals), it’s still not succeeding in simple areas, like clearing sidewalks and bike lanes of snow.
“Cold weather doesn’t deter people from riding the bus or walking to the Metro or riding a bike; it’s the fact that the sidewalks are uncleared or the bike lanes are full of ice,” Billing says. “[That sends] a signal to the community of what we value. Those are going to be questions that should be asked.”
This is a bike lane. pic.twitter.com/YKrVpYryQi
— Sarah Anne Hughes (@wcpsarah) February 21, 2015
Then there’s the D.C. Department of Transportation’s recently released plan for new bike lanes in 2015, which Billing calls “underwhelming.” (Last year, D.C. added a record nine miles of bike lanes; this year’s plan lists nearly seven miles of “possible” additions.) “That’s not ambitious,” Billing says of the plan.
While only time will tell if the Vision Zero commitment leads to action, publicly embracing the philosophy is a positive development. “This is a recommitment to changing our streets, our system so that it’s safe for everybody,” Billing says. “You shouldn’t have to die going to work or going to the grocery store.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery