Philadelphia Announces Plan to Reduce Traffic Accidents
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
Founded in Sweden in the late 90s, Vision Zero has made its way across the Atlantic, implemented in the US by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio during his first year in office. Since then, it has been taken up by cities throughout the country. One of the more recent mayors to adopt a Vision Zero plan is Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, who announced late last month the Vision Zero Three-Year Action Plan.
About Vision Zero
According to a paper published by the Accident Research Center at Monash University, Vision Zero operates on a few fundamental principles. For one, Vision Zero is a strategy that shifts the perspective from road users (drivers, pedestrians etc.) to both road users and system designers. That is, according to Vision Zero, designers must make themselves responsible for the safety of those using the road, while at the same time, those using the road must follow the rules implemented by the designers. However, if drivers or bikers fail to follow the rules and end up injuring themselves in collisions, the designers must not throw up their hands. Instead, they should seek to eliminate the conditions that made the accident possible in the first place.
Out of these basic principles have emerged incredible advances in road safety. According to a study by Alex Armlovich, a fellow at the Manhattan-Institute, 4,600 NYC intersections treated by Vision Zero saw a 34 percent decrease in pedestrian and bike-related deaths. That’s significant compared to those intersections without Vision Zero features – these saw a three percent increase in the same type of fatality.
And according to a report released earlier this year by Mayor De Blasio’s Office, the city has made great strides in its road safety initiative. Since the project’s commencement in January 2014, NYC has finished nearly 240 projects, laying 30 miles of “protected bike lanes.” And at 1,248 intersections, pedestrians now have more time to cross the street, thanks to “pedestrian head-starts.” That’s not to mention the addition of streetlights illuminating nearly 1,000 crosswalks.
The Future of Philadelphia
With the recently announced plan, Philadelphia expects to see similar improvements to its road safety. Only 12 percent of Philadelphia’s streets will be treated under the three-year plan, according to a detailed map of the city’s roadways. But that 12 percent contributes to half of all traffic-related injuries and deaths. Those roadways include Market Street, Broad Street and Roosevelt Boulevard, three of the major thoroughfares that cut through the city.
The Vision Zero strategy involves a number of varied tactics, ranging from encouraging pedestrianism to slowing down traffic. When there are fewer drivers on the road, fewer accidents will occur, according to Vision Zero. And when people are driving at a slower pace, the possibility of injury is reduced. Slower speeds also mitigate the severity of injuries, should they occur.
But the Vision Zero report does not stop at speed reduction. It suggests nearly 100 actionable changes to road design and policy. Engineering changes include bicycle light signals, pedestrian bump outs and protected bike-lanes. Additionally, the plan suggests the improvement of data collection and analysis with regard to traffic collisions.
These measures have some local representatives worried. Mike Carroll, the deputy managing director for transportation and infrastructure systems, expressed some concern over the reduction in traffic speed. “Some streets are going to be slower,” Carroll told the Philadelphia Inquirer. He continued, “Driving around is going to take a little more time.”
By contrast, Sarah Clark Stuart of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia was more positive. “These kind of changes to city's public streets take time, but they will happen”, she told PlanPhilly.
The report highlights the fact that Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of traffic-related deaths, at 6 per 100,000 people. That’s high compared to New York City’s current rate of 2.87 per 100,000 residents. And every year in Philadelphia, nearly 100 people die in car accidents, while over 250 city denizens are injured. Additionally, 10,000 crashes occur yearly in the city. For these reasons, Philadelphia has allotted more than $3 million to the Vision Zero initiative.
The Vision Zero Three-Year Action Plan is imperative if the city wishes to make its streets safer.