Someone in the media finally paid attention to LA’s failing and forgotten Vision Zero program.
Unfortunately, the story hits about as hard as I do these days. Which is more of a polite tap than a solid gut punch.
KCRW’s Greater LA took a look at the program, using the tragic death of fallen bicyclist Branden Findley — killed a hit-and-run driver in a stolen vehicle while on his way to the Ride for Black Lives — as an entry point.
The station notes that 294 people needless lost their lives on the mean streets of Los Angeles last year, a 20% increase over the year before. And that traffic deaths have gone up nearly every year since Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the program in 2015.
“Every single one of those numbers is a tragedy,” says LA Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds. “If we cannot get people from A to B and guarantee that they are safe, and that when somebody leaves in the morning, they’ll come home safely at night, then we haven’t fulfilled sort of a basic responsibility.”
It’s Reynolds’ responsibility to reduce traffic deaths and injuries in LA, and her most important tool to do that is a program called Vision Zero.
Unfortunately, while the station notes the existence of critics who think the city isn’t moving fast enough, they apparently couldn’t find a single one to put on the air.
I must have been busy that day.
But then they pivot back to marshmallow journalism, allowing LADOT head Seleta Reynolds to wiggle out of the city’s responsibility for the program’s continued failure.
But Seleta Reyolds of LA’s Department of Transportation says Vision Zero is only part of the solution to reducing traffic deaths.
She points to things beyond traffic planners’ control, like America’s continuing love affair with big, heavy vehicles that make it harder for pedestrians and cyclists to survive collisions.
Then there’s the challenge of distracted driving and the development of increasingly sophisticated car infotainment systems that keep motorists’ attention focused on screens instead of the streets.
And that’s the problem.
Despite the pleading of advocates in a series of public meetings, back when public meetings could actually take place in person, the city never really adopted Vision Zero.
Instead, the city launched a toothless facsimile of the program, relying on the Four Es — engineering, education, enforcement, and evaluation — to reduce traffic deaths.
Except Vision Zero is actually predicated on one simple realization — that people will make mistakes, and it is up to government to design our streets so that those mistakes don’t have to become fatal.
Our Guiding Principles
- People will make mistakes on the road.
- The consequences of these mistakes should not be death or severe injury.
- Reducing vehicle speed is fundamental to safer streets.
Nothing there calls for education or enforcement.
That’s because Vision Zero is based on reimagining the physical reality of our streets to protect vulnerable road users, and tame aggressive and careless drivers.
But that costs money, which hasn’t been budgeted — at least not in sufficient amounts to actually make a difference.
And it requires civic leaders who possess the political courage to make the hard choices necessary to save lives. Even if it means inconveniencing drivers by removing traffic lanes or parking spots, which our currant crop of cowards clearly isn’t willing to do.
So we have to be content with excuses, and moving the goal posts.
Of course, these challenges existed when LA launched Vision Zero seven years ago. Although Reynolds acknowledges the city probably won’t meet the program’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2025, she says setting a goal with Vision Zero is still worth it.
“We’ve set a milestone. We’ve set a year. And if we don’t get there, then I hope it will invite a lot of accountability and dialogue and discussion,” says Reynolds.
But once again, Vision Zero isn’t about accountability and dialogue and discussion. It’s about ending traffic deaths.
That, we have failed to do.
And we will continue to fail until Vision Zero finally becomes the city’s one overarching priority for our streets, rather than just one program among many.
Future Indian ambassador Eric Garcetti signs Vision Zero proclamation at his massive outdoor desk. Photo from Streetsblog.
Streets For All is looking for volunteers to circulate a petition to qualify a ballot measure calling for safe streets everywhere in LA.
Click here to volunteer.
Want LA’s mobility plan implemented much faster?
Sick of Councilmembers blocking progress at their whim?
Are you willing to gather 32 signatures per week (~4 hours/week) to change everything?
Volunteer to gather signatures for our ballot measure:https://t.co/3aRgsAKLIL
— Streets For All (@streetsforall) January 22, 2022
Speaking of Streets For All, the safe streets Political Action Committee forwarded a few key findings from a recent poll in support of the ballot measure.
51.8% of people surveyed in Los Angeles would be more likely to ride a bike if there was a network of safe bike lanes
53.5% would consider taking the bus more often if it came more frequently and had its own bus-only lane
75% agree we can and should make changes to how we use street space that would improve our city
And a whopping 84% think it’s the responsibility of LA’s mayor and city council to reduce car traffic, clean the air and make our streets and sidewalks safer.
I would have liked to see more specific questions, like whether people would support removing parking spaces or traffic lanes to improve traffic safety and make room for bike lanes.
But it’s a damn good start.
And we’ll look forward to seeing the ballot measure once its released.
Vision Zero could soon be making its way to El Monte, starting with tomorrow’s online workshop.
Join @MyElMonte for an ONLINE COMMUNITY WORKSHOP on January 27, 2022 from 6-7 PM to give your feedback on the City's #VisionZero Action Plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2027.
Register: https://t.co/hkzQL3VMmw pic.twitter.com/vSUQth7Ge0
— GoHumanSoCal (@GoHumanSoCal) January 13, 2022
This is who we share the road with.
A USC student “did everything right” in crossing the street in a crosswalk, and was run down by a pickup driver anyway, who stepped on the gas and fled like the heartless coward they are.
— LAPDCTD (@LAPDCTD24) January 26, 2022
Just remember that the next time someone tries to tell you bike riders would be safe on the streets if we just obeyed traffic laws.
Because you can clearly obey the letter of the law and do everything right, and still get your ass run over by some jerk.
We’ve seen this New Zealand ad before. But it’s definitely worth watching again.
Speed kills. Watch 👀 this and it will make you a safer driver on the road.
What an incredible ad from New Zealand 👇👇
— Daniel Moser (@_dmoser) January 25, 2022
No news is good news, right?
A homeless parolee has been busted for breaking out a window at a Santa Ana bike shop, and making off with a $2,000 bicycle.
Now this is how Vision Zero is supposed to work. After two people were killed while using the bike lanes on San Diego’s Pershing Drive last year, the city responds by speeding up construction of a two-way buffered bike lane and pedestrian walkway to improve safety.
Oakland announces the coming closure of the city’s Covid-inspired Slow Streets program, even though the pandemic isn’t over. And neither is the need for safe neighborhood streets.
Arch Daily offers a guide to becoming a more bicycle-dependent city.
Singletracks recommends mountain bike tools that pay for themselves in a few uses.
Great idea. Des Moines, Iowa is holding a competition to select artworks to be displayed along the city’s bike paths.
New York’s popular Five Boro Bike Ride is back on this spring as Covid cases decline.
Curbed reports that ebike batteries are catching fire way too often, while Gotham delivery riders need safe places to recharge them so they don’t.
A North Carolina man will face the death penalty for 1st degree murder for fatally shooting a five-year old boy as he rode his bicycle outside his father’s house; the alleged killer still hasn’t said why.
South Carolina belatedly gets around to considering a bill banning handheld cellphone use while driving. Then again, it’s not like bans in other states have actually stopped drivers from using them.
Trek’s holiday fundraising efforts for World Bicycle Relief may become an annual tradition for the company, as its low-maintenance Buffalo Bike built for the nonprofit is named Bike of the Year.
Yanko Design looks forward to the bicycle accessory trends of 2022, from airless bike tires and ebike workstations, to a bike helmet with a built-in air filter. Although I’m not sure “trend” is exactly the right word.
The Week recommends their picks for the best ebikes for “effortless engineering,” ranging from the equivalent of $1,343 to $5,804.
An Indian man became an overnight success after seven years of effort when he received the equivalent of $13,000 for 40% of his company on the country’s version of Shark Tank, for modifying and adult tricycle into a low-fi pesticide sprayer for crops.
Two-time Grand Tour winner Egan Bernal remains in intensive care recovering from leg and spinal surgeries after suffering extensive injuries when he crashed into a bus that was parked partially blocking the roadway, while he was training in his native Colombia.
And the next time it feels like you’re about to be run down by the Apocalypse, you may just be right.
Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.