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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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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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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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‘Vision Zero,’ a paradigm shift in traffic safety, coming to Portland Friday

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
Peter Jacobsen

Noted “Safety in Numbers” researcher and public health consultant Peter Jacobsen will bring the “Vision Zero” traffic safety concept to Portland on Friday. Jacobsen will speak about the topic as part of a seminar at Portland State University’s Center for Transportation Studies.

Jacobsen is currently in Salem where he’s taking part in the Oregon Traffic Safety Conference. Tomorrow, he’ll give a presentation on the links between transportation and health that will be followed by a Vision Zero workshop with ODOT State Traffic Engineer Ed Fischer.

Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997 as a program with the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2020. (more…)

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