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Vision Zero: No one should lose a friend to a traffic crash

Every time I read about a traffic fatality in the District, I breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t recognize the name. On Friday April 19, 2019, that all changed. That morning, I saw on twitter that a cyclist had been struck and killed. I said a silent prayer, raged a little on the inside, and then moved on with my day. Later that evening, I open twitter and I saw a name I recognize, Dave Salovesh. In the middle of the movie theater, I burst into tears.Bicycle locked to a light post. The bike is painted white as a symbol of a ghost bike.

There’s not much I can more say about Dave that hasn’t already been said here, here, here, here, and countless other places. Dave and I had known each other for nearly a decade. He and I rode the Fort Circle Trail in Ward 7 a few times, including the one time he, Brian McEntee, and I wiped out on the hill between Branch Avenue and Naylor Road SE. When I would get discouraged about the challenges I faced in my projects, Dave was always there to support and encourage me. My friend is no longer here because he was struck and killed by someone driving 70mph on Florida Avenue NE. The most upsetting part of Dave’s passing is that it was preventable, as are most other traffic-related deaths.

Last year, over 40,000 people died in a traffic-related incident. While not a significant percentage of the total U.S. population, each person, like Dave, left behind family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and other loved ones. Not to mention the residual trauma experienced by bystanders who witness the crash and emergency responders. In addition to the social loss, there is the cost of each death via lost wages for the family, property damage, city resources, and others. For example, the CDC estimates the cost of crash-related deaths for the District of Columbia was $34 Million in 2013.

Nspiregreen developed the Vision Zero Action Plans for the District of Columbia and the City of Alexandria. As Chanceé Lundy mentioned in our last blog post about Vision Zero: “Without swift action and accountability, DC Vision Zero is just a plan with pretty graphics. We developed it with policies and enforcement mechanisms that should be implemented. It is a tool to address what has become all too common behavior in the District. There should be less talk about Vision Zero and its possibilities and more actions that prioritize the District’s most vulnerable users.”

To the political leaders, fellow planners and engineers, advocates, and residents: Vision Zero requires more of us than platitudes, dreams deferred, and delay by unnecessary studies. It requires us to take immediate actions to prevent people from dying on our roadways. It requires us to be okay with removing parking, reducing the number of vehicle travel lanes and lane widths, removing highway infrastructure to reconnect the street grid, and changing the signal timing to ensure safety, as well as reallocating the public right-of-way for public transportation, bicycle facilities, and sidewalks. As a region (and frankly as a nation) a paradigm shift needs to occur. We have to begin prioritizing safety over urgency, traffic flow, or speed. If we are willing to accept a few minutes delay in our drives, we can guarantee that all will reach our destinations safely.

The DC region has the tools, knowledge, and plans to make our streets safer. All we need now is bold, brave, and steadfast leadership to make the tough (but right) decisions to advance those plans from paper to reality. No one else should lose a friend to a preventable traffic crash.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

Image from Teamster.org of a horse and buggy and a motorized jitney bus

What will it Take to Change one’s Commute?

With the convenience of driving alone, what will it take to change one’s commuting pattern. Well, it may take some good old-fashioned marketing, and lots of it.

You like the convenience of driving your own car, right. Being able to get in your car and drive to anywhere you want to go, whenever you want to go.

You are not tied to anyone else’s schedule. You don’t have to wait for anyone. If you are running late, who cares. No one is waiting for you.

The same is true on your daily commute. You don’t want to be tied to someone else’s schedule. If you have to work late, there is no problem. Your car is there and no one is waiting for you or relying on you to leave at a certain time.If you feel sick, you can leave whenever you want.

The one draw-back in this type of thinking is the resulting congestion and bottlenecks on our nation’s highways when most of the people in a region drive to work alone. Unless you live pretty close to where you work, there is a good chance you sit in traffic a good part of your day. Since employers  rely on the productivity of their employees, sitting in traffic congestion inhibits one’s ability to be productive. And this is costly to employers, whether they are in the private or public sector.

To bear this out, I did a little research. From the Auto Insurance Center, statistics showed that approximately 86% of the U.S. Population drive to work. That is no surprise there, but I am surprised it is that high. Of those commuters, 75% drive alone and they lose approximately 42 hours a year stuck in traffic jams.

Traffic

If you want to understand the true costs of this phenomenon, each commuter wastes an average of 19 gallons of gas while sitting, and fuming, in traffic. That takes about 163 million barrels of crude oil to produce, almost two months of Texas’ total annual oil output, which is hard on the environment as well as the pocketbook. In fact, based on both the cost of time and the price of fuel, traffic jams cost a commuter approximately $960 per year. Think about how many bags of groceries that could buy.

With the expense of more highway or mass transit infrastructure, the logical approach is to address the demand of our roads and highways instead of scrambling to keep-up the supply. But again, that means changing one’s habit which is very difficult. And the convenience of driving alone is tough to compete against, even if driving alone leads to worsening congestion.

It certainly is much cheaper to encourage carpooling, vanpooling, telework, or flextime than to build another road. The problem is how to sell other commuting modes. Well, it takes good marketing. Though it is a transportation problem, it takes a marketing approach to sell the advantages of other commuting options over the convenience of driving alone?

Take for instance the recent ad campaign by the DC based Commuter Connections, a network of transportation management organizations based throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Commuter Connections began airing a short radio commercial that spells out how carpooling makes people happier and saves them time and money. Since many people listen to the radio in their cars, they are bound to hear the ad during rush-hour while sitting motionless in traffic. I have heard the ad myself and remembered thinking, “what a good ad campaign.” And good timing too. Who says radio is dead?
van

Also, check out the promotional youtube video from Carpool.CA. It is entitled “Do Your Bit… Share It”! It’s always good to market to one’s pocketbook.

It is clear that to promote other commuting options, you need to work continuously at changing commuters’ habits and behaviors. And this takes time. If commuters receive repeated messages in the media about the benefits of transportation options, eventually they will start to consider carpooling or vanpooling over driving alone.

And it doesn’t hurt if companies or transportation agencies offer conveniences and incentives to help encourage other commuting options. Another strong program Commuter Connections offers, among others, is their Guaranteed Ride Home. If a commuter registers with the Commuter Connections database, and uses an alternative mode for commuting to work at lease twice a week or more, that commuter is guaranteed a ride home, four times per year, in case of emergency or unforeseen need to stay late at the office.

The America Marketing Association defined marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Seems to me that the promotion of carpooling, vanpooling and other commuter options to drivers on congested roads fits well with the principles of marketing, at least in this context. This is the case especially with the reference, delivering something of value to “society at large.” What could be more of value to society than reducing the number of cars on the highway and at minimal cost?

James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.

Thailand Crash

Thailand’s Deadly Roads and the Global Pandemic of Traffic Crashes

A total of 463 people died in 3,791 traffic crashes in Thailand between December 27, 2018 and January 2 of 2019. Yes, you read correctly. In the span of seven days, 463 people lost their lives during the country’s “seven dangerous days” over the New Year holiday when Thais were traveling to visit friends and family for the one week festival. This was an increase to 2017’s 423 deaths during the “seven dangerous days”.

Thailand’s roads are the deadliest roads in Southeast Asia. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 22,941 people die each year in traffic crashes in Thailand. That’s an average of 62 deaths per day. 73% of those deaths are people riding motorcycles, which have become the most popular form of transportation for many households. Thailand is also ranked 2nd in the world for most lethal roads after Libya by the World Health Organization. Their road collision-related death rate is 32.7 out of every 100,000 people. In Libya, in 2015 their reported rate was 73.4 deaths out of every 100,000 people. In United States an estimated 40,100 people were killed in 2017 with a current death rate of 12.4 out of every 100,000 people. But understand that even though United States has a higher total of traffic crashes per year than Thailand it has a lesser rate because United States has an overall population of 325.7 million whereas Thailand has a population of 69.04 million.

Why is Thailand’s traffic fatality rate so high? One of the noted obstacles to safer roads is lack of enforcement of traffic rules. Drunk driving and speeding are the most reported causes of crashes. In addition to drunk driving and speeding, the failure to wear helmets and seatbelts and the lack of restraints for children are among the biggest risks for road safety that is embedded in the culture. Cultural habits can be difficult to change. The number of police traffic stops have increased in certain areas and there have been more signs mandating motorcyclists to wear helmets, but are those the only factors when it comes to tackling this problem, especially if they have proven to not be efficient enough?

Road safety is a worldwide issue that is not addressed enough. Road crashes have been labeled a global pandemic by the Pulitzer Center and are the eighth leading cause of death for people of all ages, with 1.35 million people dying on the road in 2016. These crashes and untimely deaths are preventable.  Globally, there are proper measures to approach this great issue that requires a collaboration of disciplines:

  • Policies and enforcement in regards to proper speed limits, alcohol impairment, seat-belt use, child restraints, and safety helmets.
  • Adequate road design and transportation facilities (bicycle, pedestrian, motorcycles, and transit). When possible separate motor vehicles from more vulnerable modes such as people walking and biking. Promoting safer and more efficient travel for all users: motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. Placing traffic calming and proper signage.
  • Encouraging and implementing the use of safe and flexible modes of public transportation.
  • Powerful public awareness campaigns
  • Making vehicles more protective and visible for occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists. Using high-mounted brake lights and reflective materials on cycles, carts, rickshaws and other non-motorized forms of transport.

For something so preventable, traffic crashes in Thailand and around the world really need a bigger outcry.

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer  from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Architectural Design, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.





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