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Road To Zero Meetings Give Safety Advocates Insight Into Policy

Updated on: 11/20/2019

Washington state is currently in the midst of a Target Zero initiative aimed at eliminating fatalities on our state’s roadways. In 2015, Seattle also launched a Vision Zero initiative spearheaded by Mayor Ed Murray. Both plans aim to reduce fatalities by improving infrastructure and educating drivers, bikers, pedestrians, and truckers on how to share the road safely.

(Image: Safety-conscious street design photographed in Salt Lake City, urging pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the street. Signs designed to improve safety by modifying pedestrian behavior are one of the many design options that can reduce traffic fatalities.)

What Is A Target Zero Program?

Cities and states around the world have designed Target Zero programs to work with their unique safety needs. The goal of the Target Zero movement is to work aggressively towards eliminating fatalities from traffic accidents, with the goal of zero traffic-related deaths in the targeted area.

What Goes Into Reaching Target Zero?

Different municipalities have prioritized different things to reach their Target Zero goals. A focus on building and maintaining safe infrastructure is vital to every program. Some common improvements in Target Zero plans include expanding sidewalk networks, expanding bike lane networks, preventing cars from driving or parking in bus lanes, building pedestrian bridges and tunnels, reducing speed limits in high-risk areas, improving signs and lights at intersections, educating drivers and pedestrians about safe practices, and passing laws that encourage people passing through an area to make safe choices.

What Is Seattle Doing For Its Vision Zero Plan?

Seattle’s Vision Zero plan included dozens of potential improvements spread out over years. Early projects tackled included:

  • Reducing the speed limit in the downtown core
  • Reducing the speed limit on residential streets with collision histories near parks and schools
  • Adding protected bike lanes, new sidewalks, and crossing improvements to high-risk areas
  • Reducing the speed limit, enhancing street designs, and adding radar speed signs on high-risk arterial streets
  • Adding safety cameras in school zones
  • Improving the safety of high-risk intersections by changing walk signals, eliminating right turns on red lights, and getting rid of dual turn lanes
  • Deploying officers with the Seattle Police Department for targeted enforcement and DUI patrols in high-risk areas

Is Seattle’s Vision Zero Program Working?

Seattle’s safety improvements haven’t been an overnight fix. Since Mayor Murray announced the Vision Zero initiative in 2015, over 40 people have died on Seattle’s streets and 350 have suffered series injuries. However, researchers have found that in the first few years of the Vision Zero initiative, speeding was reduced on high-risk streets and collision types such as sideswipes and left turn crashes have been almost completely eliminated in the improved intersections.

What’s Next For Vision Zero?

In 2017, the Seattle Department of Transit plans to complete these projects:

  • Installing safer pedestrian walk signals in 40 intersections
  • Extending the protected bike lane on 2nd Avenue
  • Completing the design of the missing link on the Burke Gilman Trail
  • Eliminated right turns on red in locations where pedestrians are at risk of being hit by turning cars
  • Building 50 blocks of new sidewalks
  • Building new protected bike lanes, greenways, and trails

With Mayor Murray planning to leave at the end of his term, it’s not yet clear which mayoral candidate’s infrastructure plan will be put into place in the coming years.

How To Join The Conversation

On June 13th, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health located at 700 Second Street, N.E. in Washington, D.C. will be hosting a Road to Zero Coalition meeting. Safety advocates from all over the country will be attending in person and via webcast to learn more about the latest innovations in design. The topic of Tuesday’s event is “Saving Lives on our Roadways at the Merging Intersection of People & Technology.”

If you’re interested in this event, you can register here.

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