What’s next for Vision Zero?
We hope that communities look to San Francisco for inspiration as the nation’s second-longest running Vision Zero program releases its updated Action Strategy. At the Vision Zero Network, we see a lot to like in its approach.
San Francisco’s Vision Zero Action Strategy (its third version since making the VZ commitment in 2014) thinks big by promoting a transformative policy agenda that prioritizes the strategies that make the biggest difference in safety. And we all know that making real progress toward Vision Zero will take transformative change.
Here are our top 7 takeaways from San Francisco’s new VZ Action Strategy:
• Don’t shy away from transformative change. San Francisco calls out the need for “political will and public support for ambitious and transformative policies.” The city prioritizes change in four policy areas, including: Securing state approval and implementing safety cameras (or automated speed enforcement) and lower, safer speed limits, as well as for pricing strategies such as congestion pricing and local regulation of Transportation Network Companies, TNCs, (such as Lyft and Uber).
• Acknowledge & act on Vision Zero’s intersection with other priorities. San Francisco lays out the ways that Vision Zero goals align with (and should be better coordinated with) other top city goals and policies “that prioritize walking, biking and improved transit, while reducing driving and vehicle miles.” These related policy goals include: Shifting modes, advancing transit-first, acting on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building more housing for all, closer to jobs, schools and services.
• Advance the goal of shifting modes, or trips from driving to walking, biking, and transit as a core Vision Zero strategy. Vehicle miles travelled is a major predictor of crashes, and Vision Zero communities need to step up their acknowledgement and measurable action toward reducing VMT and encouraging mode shift. For instance, San Francisco aims to shift 80% of trips to sustainable travel choices by 2030 as a way to improve safety, healthy activity and air quality, while also lessening traffic noise.
• Centers Vision Zero work in equity. As San Francisco’s new Action Strategy states: “Only by advancing equity and focusing on communities and road users disproportionately impacted by traffic deaths will we be able to reach our Vision Zero goal.” It then goes on to define which communities are most impacted, including people of color, seniors and people with disabilities. And the Strategy aims to address historic differences in resource allocation that have led to these disparities and commits to ensure Vision Zero policies do not exacerbate existing inequities and address equity impacts (for example, making sure low-income populations are not disproportionately impacted by fines and fees).
• Focus on managing speed for safety. San Francisco’s new Strategy recognizes that Vision Zero’s data-driven approach must focus on actions that are “proven to reduce instances of vehicle speeding — the most critical factor in predicting a traffic fatality.” This is also an example of SF’s understanding of the Safe Systems approach, which recognizes that human error is inevitable, and we should design the transportation system to anticipate error so that consequences are not severe.
• Call on the state for leadership. San Francisco recognizes that, like other cities, it cannot meet its Vision Zero goal without commitment and support at the state level, including effectively managing speed for safety. Instead of keeping that language vague, as many plans do, SF calls out the specific areas where CA leadership is essential to make meaningful change, including in the policy areas of automated enforcement, urban speed limit setting, pricing to reduce vehicle miles travelled, and local regulations of TNCs.
• Make Vision Zero work measurable and accountable. This should be a no-brainer, right? Yet still, we know that certain elements of Vision Zero’s core principles have been more challenging than others to measure. An example in SF’s Strategy is a commitment to issue an annual research brief to address injury inequities related to homelessness, race/ethnicity, income, immigration status and other areas of concern. Another example is a measurement of the percentage of safety treatments installed in Communities of Concern, as well as the Focus on the Five violation citations directed at the most dangerous traffic behaviors.
San Francisco deserves credit for taking Vision Zero to the next level in their new Action Strategy. And there’s a lot here that other Vision Zero communities can be inspired by and hopefully emulate in their own work. Of course, it’s still a plan that can either sit on the shelf and gather dust or truly live up to the transformation it promises while also delivering on the Core Elements of Vision Zero. We are cheering for the latter!