Set a city goal of zero traffic deaths, and create a data-driven approach in which multiple city departments collaborate to reduce roadway crashes and fatalities to zero, because no one should die trying to get where they are going.
Atlanta should aspire to make streets safer for everyone regardless of their choice of travel modes. The unfortunate reality is that the number of roadway crashes increased from 2011-2014 across Metro Atlanta. The numbers are highest in Fulton County (55,833 roadway crashes in 2014). In 2014 alone, 77 people died on streets in Fulton County; 25 of whom were pedestrians. None of them should have died while trying to get to where they were going.
Image Credit: Atlanta’s Transportation Plan
In making Atlanta streets safer for everyone, it is imperative to set a city goal of zero traffic deaths by adopting a “Vision Zero” strategy for the City of Atlanta. Vision Zero starts with a simple premise: traffic fatalities and severe injuries are preventable. The Vision Zero approach requires rigorous collaboration across city departments and stakeholders to devise data-driven and measurable strategies to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities. Originally started in Sweden, Vision Zero has been adopted by 27 American cities, including San Francisco, Portland, New York, and Seattle.
Image Credit: Credit: City of San Diego & Circulate San Diego
Vision Zero emphasizes engineering streets for safety and educating the public. By acknowledging that people will make mistakes, we must thoughtfully design streets that provide clear visibility for streets users, discourage speeding, provide separation between modes, and protected pedestrian crossings that would dramatically reduce the conditions that lead to fatalities and injuries.
Another fundamental key to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries is public awareness. Vision Zero Action Plan should incorporate efforts to educate travelers of all modes to allow them to travel safely and respectfully together.
While some U.S. cities include enforcement of traffic laws using traffic stops in their Vision Zero strategies, we do not support that strategy for Atlanta. Traffic stops has not been proven to have a lasting impact on risk of collisions and create the potential for dangerous interactions between the public and the police. Traffic stops would not get us to a safe transportation system that we aspire. Over-reliance on police enforcement could hinder street design and policies that truly prioritize safety for people using all modes of transportation. From an equity perspective, there has been growing interest in limiting law enforcement actions in Vision Zero in order to reduce the possibility of disparate impacts on minority and low-income travelers. Traffic stops also significantly hinder the flow of traffic creating obstacles and unsafe conditions for all modes.
The City of Portland (city population of 639,863, metro population of 2,389,228) has explicitly limited enforcement and pledged to no racial profiling in its Vision Zero that was adopted in 2015. Portland also implemented policies to give safety education to people who have broken traffic laws instead of giving them punishment through fines or jail time. In California, San Francisco (city population of 870,887) has also added equity platform to its Vision Zero and specifically narrowed enforcement role to focus on the top five offenses that lead to the greatest traffic violences. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles (city population of 3,976, 322), there has been a growing movement to revise Vision Zero to address racial profiling and disproportionate enforcement issues.
In lieu of increased enforcement, we recommend that the city ask the state legislature to authorize use of automated speed cameras to reduce high-speed traffic crashes. Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that states that prohibit or restrict automated speed cameras “remove barriers to the use of automated speed enforcement—are based on the findings that it is an effective but underused countermeasure.”
A 2010 study found that automated enforcement using speed cameras significantly reduced speeding and serious injury crashes. The report states that the “consistency of reported positive reductions in speed and crash results across all studies show that speed cameras are a worthwhile intervention for reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths.”
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition recommends that elected officials:
Immediately create a Vision Zero Task Force to create and oversee the implementation of an Action Plan. This task force should draw stakeholders from city departments, transportation-related fields, and community organizations. Ideally, the Task Force would be chaired by the Director of the Department of Transportation.
Support and standardize the collection and creation of comprehensive data that reveals significant factors contributing to fatalities and severe injuries as well as where most crashes occur (to designate the High Crash Network). The Action Plan should be built upon this data and should lay out specific actions that are measurable against performance indicators.
Collaborate with GDOT to revise data collection practices to ensure bike and pedestrian crashes are properly accounted for. Standardize a count program to understand how exposure affects the crash rate.
Ensure that the Action Plan address inequity concerns that would disparately affect people of color and low income communities.
Ensure coordination between the ATL Vision Zero Action Plan and the Street Design Policy.
The police enforcement should be limited to focus on the High Crash Network area and on the most influential behaviors contributing to fatal crashes.
Secure adequate and sustainable funding for the implementation of the ATL Vision Zero Action Plan.
Support the provision of speed cameras across the city, with priority along the High Crash Network, including any state legislation needed.
Set aside money in an annual budget specifically for the purpose of Vision Zero and link lives saved to these dollars.