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Vision Zero coming into focus in Portland

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
BTA Annual meeting-2
BTA’s Rob Sadowsky sees a bright future for
Vision Zero in Portland.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Vision Zero (also known as Towards Zero Deaths) is a bold goal that’s also the name of a growing national movement to end the acceptance of fatalities and injuries on our roads as mere “accidents.” Advocates instead want to completely change our approach to street design and policy so that no one is hurt or killed while using them.

We’ve been talking about Vision Zero for years here in Portland, but there seems to finally be some tangible movement forward.

Tomorrow in New York City is the opening day of the Vision Zero for Cities Symposium and there will be several Portlanders making the trip. Rob Sadowsky, the leader of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Aaron Brown, a board member with Oregon Walks will be there. The City will send Gabriel Graff, the operations manager of the Active Transportation Division at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. (We’ve also heard that PPB Traffic Division Capt. Kelli Sheffer will also be at the symposium, but we’ve been unable to confirm her attendance.)
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Vision 0.08: Why any major safe-streets effort must tackle alcohol

Friday, October 31st, 2014
Scene of fatal crash on SW Barbur Blvd-6
SW Barbur Boulevard: a bad street to
be drunk on by any mode.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This is a guest opinion piece by A.J. Zelada, a longtime biking and walking advocate who chaired the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2013.

Intoxicating amounts of alcohol are at the death scene of 36 percent of walking fatalities and 32 percent of biking deaths.

So why does today’s street safety movement seem to trivialize it?

Last year, I listened to Oregon’s Safe Routes to School manager proclaim new safety issues to protect pedestrians. The ideas were great, but one was missing: She did not mention alcohol at death scenes. Vision Zero is being considered by many cities, including Portland and New York City, as a backbone policy for reducing road deaths. New York City’s new Vision Zero policy has one paragraph about alcohol.

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Q&A: How Minnesota saves lives by spreading safety money thinly

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
27-tzd-groth400
Sue Groth, director of traffic, safety and technology
for the Minnesota Department of Transportation,
has been nationally recognized for overseeing rapid
drops in traffic fatalities.
(Photos: MnDOT)

Sue Groth’s job: use math and millions of dollars to stop injuries before they happen.

The team Groth leads at the Minnesota Department of Transportation has probably saved a few hundred lives over the last 10 years. In that time they’ve reinvented “highway safety” spending and seen traffic fatalities fall almost twice as fast as they have in Oregon and the rest of the country.

Groth is the plenary speaker at the Sept. 15 Oregon Transportation Summit hosted by OTREC at Portland State University. I caught her by phone last week to talk about MnDOT’s daring decision to give up some of the “gobs of money” it gets for highway safety and hand it to local agencies instead.

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Recap of PBOT Director Leah Treat’s first major speech

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
PBOT Director Treat
PBOT Director Leah Treat at the Sentinel Hotel today.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat hit mostly familiar notes today during her first major speech since taking over the agency last summer. Treat was hosted by the City Club of Portland and the event was included in the agenda of the annual Oregon Active Transportation Summit.

While she didn’t make any major policy commitments or launch new initiatives that might have sent the crowd of local transportation advocates and insiders abuzz, Treat gave us a glimpse of her perspective and offered clues about where she might take us during her tenure. She laid out her justification for investing in better biking and walking access and touched on big issues like Vision Zero, bike share, Safe Routes to School, getting tougher on speed enforcement, equity and investment in east Portland, the City’s efforts to pass a transportation fee, and more. (more…)

Five ideas from NYC’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan that Portland could steal

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Tomorrow, Portland’s city council is expected to approve a project (item 234) that’s likely to chart the city’s shift to “Vision Zero,” the philosophy that nothing — not vehicle speed, not road capacity, not even economic productivity — is more important to the transportation system than preventing the serious injury or death of a person on the road.

It’s a provocative idea. But what exactly does it mean the city would do that it doesn’t already do today?

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Q&A on ‘Vision Zero’: Three fatalities put city’s new safety promise to the test

Monday, February 17th, 2014
BTA Alice Awards 2010-36
We asked Bicycle Transportation Alliance Director Rob
Sadowsky to discuss Vision Zero in more detail.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

Yan Huang, 78, was crossing Division Street on Valentine’s Day with her 80-year-old husband, walking in an unmarked crosswalk from curb to rounded-off curb across five lanes of auto traffic. She never reached the other side; a man in a left-turning pickup didn’t see the couple and steered into them, killing Huang.

The next day, Saturday, a silver minivan, whose driver remains at large, left the scene of its fatal collision with a person on foot on Southeast Powell at 124th.

On Sunday, a man was killed in a car when the drunken driver he was riding with slammed into a utility pole at Northeast 102nd and Fremont.

Deaths like these make news, but they’re not new. About one in 50 Americans will die an automobile crash. What’s new is that Portland’s transportation director says the city can and will begin to do something systematic to change this.

Safety advocates are urging fast action. Early Monday morning Oregon Walks launched a #PDXVisionZero Twitter hashtag and a petition to urge the city to follow through on Director Leah Treat’s promise to move toward “Vision Zero,” the philosophy that there is no acceptable level of traffic fatality.

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PBOT director says new action plan will include ‘Vision Zero’ commitment

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
PBOT Director Leah Treat
PBOT director Leah Treat.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland will follow in the steps of Chicago and New York City by setting a schedule to completely eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries no matter the cost, the city’s transportation director said in a new interview.

In a two-year action plan a city contractor is about to begin preparing, “Vision Zero will be incorporated for certain,” Portland Bureau of Transportation director Leah Treat said in an interview with the KBOO Bike Show broadcast Feb. 5.

“Vision Zero,” as the philosophy is known, was first introduced in Sweden in 1997 and has spread to several U.S. cities in recent years. In 2012 it was embraced by the man Treat describes as her mentor, former Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein, and it’s the centerpiece of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transportation policy.

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Final weeks to comment on ODOT’s Traffic Safety Action Plan

Monday, August 8th, 2011
Cover of Oregon’s Traffic Safety
Action Plan.

Did you know that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in Oregon for people under 35 years of age? Or that every year, traffic crashes in Oregon result in an estimated $2.58 billion in total economic loss — that’s about $657 dollars per Oregon resident*.

The good news is that the number and rate of injuries and fatalities on Oregon roads have been on the downswing in recent years. However, as we’ve been reminded in the past week or so, there’s a lot more work to do.

So far this year, 181 people have lost their lives while traveling on Oregon roads. (more…)

Guest Editorial: Are we ready for ‘Vision Zero’?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

[Publisher's note: This article was written by transportation activist Alexis Grant and it was originally published on the Active Right of Way blog.]

A (small) part of traffic-1
(Photos © J. Maus)

At the annual Transportation Safety Summit on Tuesday, February 6, 2011, at Marshall High School, Mayor Adams started off the summit by asking “Why is safety our highest priority?” It may be a bit heretical of me, but the first question that came to my mind was “Is it? Really?”

What does it mean for safety to be our highest priority on the roads? Vision Zero argues that optimal safety means no loss of life:

No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.

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“Why do we allow these deaths to occur?” – A Q&A with Peter Jacobsen

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

“1 in 55 Americans will die in a car crash*. My job is to say it out loud. Why do we allow these deaths to occur?”
— Peter Jacobsen, P.E., public health consultant and researcher

As I mentioned yesterday, public health consultant and research Peter Jacobsen, P.E., will be in Portland Friday to spread the word about the “Vision Zero” traffic safety philosophy.

(You might recall Jacobsen as the researcher behind the widely regarded and influential “Safety in Numbers” concept. Learn more about that in a recent column on Grist.com by Portland’s very own Elly Blue.)

In a nutshell, the Vision Zero concept is about a total re-thinking of the way we approach street design and traffic engineering polices and practices. To learn more about it, I interviewed Jacobsen over the phone yesterday. (more…)

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