Vision Zero Growing in the South

by Veronica Vanterpool | August 1, 2019 | in News, U.S. Vision Zero Cities

If you look at our map of Vision Zero communities, you’ll notice a lot clustered around the east and west coasts in mostly urban communities. This has fostered a misimpression that Vision Zero is a big-city-only approach limited to the “usual suspects.”

But, increasingly, more and more communities in southern states including Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia are making Vision Zero commitments. This is especially encouraging given the strong need in the region. In fact, three of these states are in the top ten list of states with a high pedestrian danger index, according to the Dangerous by Design report.

The high risks of injury and death, especially to those walking and biking in these southern states, as well as interest in creating sustainable, green and economically strong communities, has spurred places such as Macon, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia, Orlando, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina to commit to Vision Zero. This is how some of these communities are bucking the impression that Vision Zero is only for dense, urbanized cities and showing how Vision Zero is an approach that can fit any size or style of community.

Macon-Bibb County (aka Macon), Georgia: When Georgia’s percentage rise in pedestrian fatalities surpassed the country’s, Vision Zero Network Advisory Committee member, Bob Dallas, spurred to action calling for the adoption of a Vision Zero approach. Dallas, a former director of the state’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, was the right person to call attention to the measures that could save lives. His advocacy helped create the state’s first Pedestrian Safety Review Board in 2015, charged with evaluating pedestrian fatalities in Macon-Bibb County and recommending safety solutions to prevent future crashes.

Image: Online map of Bibb County traffic fatalities 2016

In November 2018, the board committed to Vision Zero to make the transportation network safer for all. Since then, Vision Zero has been endorsed by the Bibb County Board of Health and the Macon-Bibb County Commission and is recognized by the Vision Zero Network as a Vision Zero City.

An early mandate for the Pedestrian Safety Review Board was that it include representatives from the mayor’s office, sheriff’s office, facilities management, traffic engineering, administrator of the health department and two “citizens from the community” – exactly the sectors and representation encouraged to lead strong Vision Zero efforts. Since its creation, the board has grown to 23 members (from a required minimum of nine) and meets monthly.

What they’ve accomplished so far in Macon:

  • Held two Pedestrian Safety Summits in 2016 and 2017
  • Improved data collection and mapping of dangerous hot spots
  • Hired a Vision Zero consultant, using a federal grant, to advise on strategies
  • Launched “On the Move” and “Cross the Walk” education campaigns
  • Conducted road safety audits
  • Led Open Streets events, opening streets to people on foot and wheels and closing them to cars
  • Created an interactive website to solicit public input for the development of its Vision Zero Action Plan, estimated to be ready at the end of 2019

Richmond, Virginia: An average of a dozen deaths and 2,700 injuries occur on the streets of Richmond, VA each year. To address this public health epidemic, Mayor Levar Stoney signed a pledge in October 2017 to make Richmond a Vision Zero City. The pledge is a component of the Mayor’s Safe and Healthy Streets Challenge which emphasizes seat belt use, avoidance of distracted and drunk driving, sharing the road and obeying posted speed limits. The Challenge is codified in Richmond’s Safe and Healthy Streets Resolution. Richmond has also been recognized by the Vision Zero Network as a Vision Zero City.

In just under two years since Richmond committed to Vision Zero, it has embarked on an ambitious schedule of speed management initiatives. In this short time, the City has been recognized and awarded for its holistic and actionable Vision Zero Action Plan.

What they’ve accomplished so far in Richmond:

  • Reduced speed limits from 35 to 25 mph in three major corridors and from 35 to 30 mph on another
  • Helped advance automated speed enforcement in state legislature; will be considered again in 2020
  • Vision Zero street improvement project to reduce traffic speeds and improve safety on key corridor with roundabouts, road redesign and connected greenways for those walking and biking
  • Created New ARCGIS Dashboard Tool that geolocates speed data on the High Injury Street Network

Orlando, Florida: The Orlando region, along with the entire state of Florida, has the unfortunate distinction of being the most dangerous to walk in all of the U.S. according to Smart Growth America’s 2019 Dangerous by Design report. Sadly, Florida, and many of its cities and metro regions, have topped the list of most dangerous places for pedestrians for several consecutive years.

According to the city of Orlando, a pedestrian or bicycle crash has occurred an average of once every three days between 2012-2016. In response to these tragedies, the city of Orlando passed a Vision Zero Resolution in December 2017 to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2040 and committed to develop a Vision Zero Action Plan, which is due out any day. The city is also recognized by the Vision Zero Network as a Vision Zero City.

What they’ve accomplished so far in Orlando:

  • Convened multi sector Vision Zero task force including health, law enforcement, schools, universities and advocates; the task force has held six meetings over the year
  • Over the past year, hosted three public meetings and focus group meetings in each of the six city commissioner districts to inform Vision Zero Action Plan
  • Developed a public, online data dashboard showing citywide crash injury and fatality statistics
  • Creation of interactive, online map for public input on transportation safety issues and downloadable local district crash maps including where bicycle, pedestrian and motorcycle crashes occurred
  • Drafted Vision Zero Action Plan (to be released 2019)
Source: Charlotte Vision Zero Action Plan

Charlotte, North Carolina: In 2017, despite drivers in Charlotte driving one million miles more than the previous year, traffic crashes had decreased by four percent. Sadly, those crashes resulted in a 35% increase in fatalities that same year. According to Charlotte’s recently released Vision Zero Action Plan, people walking and bicycling were involved in less than three percent of all crashes, but accounted for 44 percent of fatalities.

Charlotte also analyzed its crash data and determined that of the 10% of streets in the HIN, 66% of them are arterial streets and 25% are local streets.

What they’ve accomplished so far in Charlotte:

  • Convened a multi-sector Vision Zero task force holding monthly, public meetings
  • Analyzed crash data over the past five years to identify the city’s High Injury Network (HIN) and Communities of Concern
  • Evaluation of four corridors on the HIN within the next year to produce list of Vision Zero infrastructure projects
  • Created an online Public Comment map for community members to identify problem for the Action Plan
  • Lowered speed limits on neighborhood streets from 35mph to 25mph
  • Simplified process for speed humps and stop signs via community requests
  • Studied the impact of reduced speed limits and piloting new speed setting methods
  • Released a Vision Zero Action Plan June 2019
  • Created an online Enforcement Focus Areas Map pointing to areas where law enforcement is expected to help curb speeding and other unsafe driving behaviors

Other southern cities have launched their Vision Zero programs, including Arlington, VA, Durham and Greensboro, NC and West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Hillsborough County (Tampa area) Metropolitan Planning Organization. More are showing interest – Prince George’s County, Maryland just announced their recent commitment. The Vision Zero movement is clearly diversifying and moving beyond the big cities where it started, and we look forward to celebrating more success nationwide.

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