Vision Zero Cities Op-Ed: Cheap, Rapid, and in Our Control

How cities are making streets safe more quickly and easily than ever before.

A vibrant street created with low-cost and quick materials in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Doug Coombe
A vibrant street created with low-cost and quick materials in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Doug Coombe
Families use the street to wait for their children to be released from school in Hoboken, N.J. Photo: Juan Melli
Families use the street to wait for their children to be released from school in Hoboken, N.J. Photo: Juan Melli

In Durham, N.C., community-rooted partner SpiritHouse collaborated with city staff to engage residents of East Durham about what makes a shared street feel safe and inclusive to them. A longstanding fixture in the neighborhood, SpiritHouse crafted a thoughtful, multi-stage engagement process to gather input from community members about their experience using their streets. The process revealed that for those in East Durham, longstanding traffic safety concerns were a higher priority than basic Shared Streets installations. Together, the City, community members, local artists, and SpiritHouse ultimately created Shared Streets with little more than paint on the ground, incorporating safety improvements like traffic circles, chicanes, and corner bulb-outs to slow traffic, with space for residents to walk and bike.

The Essential Places program in Oakland, Calif., adapted to provide safe crossing and gathering space for residents. Photo: City of Oakland
The Essential Places program in Oakland, Calif., adapted to provide safe crossing and gathering space for residents. Photo: City of Oakland
Lowering speed limits has reduced fatality and injury rates in New York City. Photo: NYC DOT
Lowering speed limits has reduced fatality and injury rates in New York City. Photo: NYC DOT

One notable example was in NACTO member city Atlanta. There, following the formation of a new DOT with a significantly more multimodal focus than the previous Department of Public Works, the City Council approved an ordinance to reduce the default citywide speed limit to 25 mph on most city streets in April 2020. The changes went into effect one year later, and on at least one high-priority street, Marietta Boulevard, the City will be applying NACTO’s recommended methodology to bring speed limits down over time.

In Oakland, Berkeley, and beyond, cities are taking steps to reform their approach to policing, acknowledging the systemic racism that is baked into traffic-enforcement programs.

Jenny O’Connell is a Senior Program Manager at the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Peatónito: Protecting Pedestrians in the Crosswalk

|
Peatónito (“little pedestrian”) might be the most beloved figure in the world of street safety. How can you not love a superhero who protects pedestrians from cars?! Since donning the cape and luchador mask three years ago, he’s become a media sensation in Mexico. This week he’s in New York City for Transportation Alternatives’ Vision Zero for Cities 2016 conference, […]

Two Visions for a Closed DC Freeway, But Only One Shows Any Vision

|
David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington reports that city traffic engineers and city planners have very different ideas on what to do with a closed freeway segment in southeast DC. The District Department of Transportation came up with a range of proposals for the Southeast Freeway between the 11th Street Bridge and the Barney Circle neighborhood. […]