Earlier this month, Alexandria's City Council adopted the proposed Vision Zero Action Plan, "a guidance document that will help the City achieve its goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028." In so doing, Alexandria joins DC in putting together a plan to achieve an important, yet admittedly ambitious, goal.
As the first Vision Zero community in Northern Virginia, Alexandria recognizes that traffic injuries and fatalities are preventable through proper engineering, enforcement, evaluation and education.
The adopted plan highlights priority action items that will be a major focus during the first two years of Vision Zero implementation. These items include the creation of a public crash and safety data dashboard that will allow community members to track progress, an accelerated timeline for Safe Routes to School engineering recommendations, and significantly increased traffic safety enforcement on city roadways with higher speeds.
The plan itself has a lot of good stuff, including graduated fines (which was something we had trouble getting through in DC), senior driving education programs and a push for lower speeds and higher fines for distracted driving. On the downside it looks like they've labelled every existing bike and ped project as a Vision Zero project instead of identifying additional projects to fund.
People hoping that we'll see rapid city-wide changes that result in significant cuts in injurious or fatal crashes we'll probably be disappointed in the seemingly modest pace of changes
Year One Priority Engineering Improvements: The plan outlines the following engineering improvements, in addition to the action items, that the City will undertake in the first year of implementation
- Install Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) at ten high crash intersections
- Install No Right on Red turn restrictions at ten intersections
- Install pedestrian count-down signals at five intersections
- Install two major pedestrian intersection improvements
- Install 20 low-cost safety improvements, including new road markings, signs and minor signal modifications
- Develop concept design for funding application for at least one high crash location
- Install intersection improvements at ten high crash locations
- Upgrade three uncontrolled crossing locations with safety improvements
- Implement Safe Routes to School improvements at six schools
- Reduce the speed limit from 35mph to 25mph on one high crash corridor
- Upgrade curb ramps to improve accessibility at fifteen locations
But I think this is a reasonable set of goals for the first year, I'd expect the pace to pick up over time and for retrofits to be replaced by standard practice.
Alexandria has also approved a separate Alexandria Police Department Traffic Safety Plan, which includes the strategy to "Advocate for Idaho Stop Legislation." That would be a welcome change compared to MPD being the only organization who really advocated against it in DC. One can only hope that will mean fewer sting operations wherein they ticket cyclists at empty intersections.
While some have become frustrated with Vision Zero, labeling it "lip service" or calling on cities to "move beyond zero", WABA is still deeply committed to it. They're hiring (have already hired?) a new VZ Coordinator and is hosting a Vision Zero Summit in March. Encouragingly Muriel Bowser will be the keynote speaker. Anytime the issue of road safety comes before the Mayor I think that's a good thing (because I get that she's got a lot more on her plate than just that). Interestingly, DC doesn't have to wait for some far off state legislature to pass tougher distracted driving laws or the Idaho Stop, they can do that right now. But they haven't.
I get, and share, the frustration that Vision Zero seems to moving slowly, but I do think it is moving and I do think there have been gains. I just worry that they're being overwhelmed, and made undetectable, by America's growing smart phone addiction. Until we're willing to take that on, Zero will be hard to reach. There's only so much that painted crosswalks and better lighting can fix.