A few years ago, Nspiregreen owners Veronica O. Davis and Chanceé Lundy were interviewed by Fast Forward an initiative of the University of Nebraska- Omaha and Federal Highway Administration to introduce young people to career opportunities in transportation. Hopefully, Nspiregreen’s story inspires you.
It may be cliché, but hindsight is 20/20. At the end of every project, you know so much more than you did when you started the project. Nspiregreen had the privilege of leading the efforts to deliver Mayor Muriel Bower’s Vision Zero Action Plan.
Here are five things we learned from the project:
- Meetings can happen over the summer; they just need to be different. Unlike some other Vision Zero plans, the District included public and stakeholder engagement as part of developing the plan. Throughout the summer months we visited all eight wards and hosted a youth summit. The public awareness events were outside of heavy pedestrian areas and included free promotional events. The sunglasses, water bottles, and fans were popular. For the youth summit, we used the interns from the Summer Youth Employment Program. We were able to use the insights of the summer interns to help build and shape our vision zero program.
- Public Engagement should be earlier in the process. The feedback from almost 3,000 survey responses was used to shape the strategies for the plan. If this was earlier in the process, the feedback from residents would have provided a framework for the agency partners to build upon when developing strategies.
- Involve other agencies in public engagement. The public awareness events were staffed by District Department of Transportation (DDOT) staff and the consultant team. Looking back, it might have been better to include staff and relevant promotional materials from other agencies. Some staff from other agencies did attend the youth summit with their interns from the Summer Youth Employment Program.
- Brainstorming does not work. While safety should be an all hands on deck approach, it was challenging for some agency representatives to understand the purpose of Vision Zero and why their agency should be involved. Too many agencies saw Vision Zero as a DDOT program that they would help publicize. Once there were draft strategies, agency representatives were more engaged, because they had something for reading and reacting. A different approach would be to categorize agencies as lead, support, and information sharing. Lead and support agencies would be involved in the brainstorm. The information sharing agencies could be engaged after there are draft strategies.
- Continuing the process. After the momentum of the plan, there should be continued events. Since the release of the Vision Zero, there has been a safety data hackathon, which allowed people to “play” with the data. DDOT is still engaging people on social media. In addition, Vision Zero bus shelter PSAs, Capital Bikeshare station PSAs, and Vision Zero Capital Bikeshare bikes are still in circulation.
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.
In December 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser rolled out the plan for zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024. What you may not realize is the effort behind the scenes to put a plan of this magnitude together. Here’s a little insider’s scoop on how the Vision Zero came to be.
It all began with a call to action by Anthony Foxx, the United States Secretary of Transportation. The Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets, which charged city officials to take a proactive stance for pedestrian and bicycle safety. In response, the District of Columbia’s Mayor Muriel Bowser launched DC’s Vision Zero campaign, modeled after the Swedish version, to reduce the number of transportation related fatalities and serious injuries to zero. The development of strategies to support the mission of Vision Zero was multi-pronged, in that it consisted of agency, public, and advocate support.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) was responsible for facilitating the development of the Vision Zero Strategies, but by no means is Vision Zero a DDOT plan. This was an all hands on deck approach, where every agency that influences transportation safety was involved and responsible the development and implementation of the strategies. Eventually this effort included 30 city agencies.
Four workgroups (data, engineering, education, and enforcement), met at least four times throughout the spring and summer to brainstorm and collaborate on initiatives and solutions for public safety. Agencies worked together to identify needs and offer each other support for developing strategies. All strategies went through several layers of approval from individual agency directors to the Mayor’s office.
Throughout the summer DDOT led an aggressive public outreach campaign to promote Vision Zero. This campaign consisted of a crowdsourcing map that the public used to identify areas of the District perceived to be hazardous to moving safely, ten public awareness events near busy transit hubs and areas of high pedestrian traffic, roll-out of thirty Vision Zero branded Capital Bikeshare bikes, bus shelter PSAs, and a youth summit where nearly 300 youth took part in the survey and participated in activities that promoted moving safely throughout the District. Nearly 2,700 people participated in the survey to poll the top safety concerns to moving safely throughout the District. The public response to the crowdsourcing map and awareness events helped to determine strategies that were important to the public. Across all age groups and all eight wards, the top safety concerns the public identified were drivers speeding, distracted drivers, and travelers of all kinds ignoring traffic signals.
The public input was used to refine agency strategies. These strategies were later vetted through stakeholder groups, which consisted of pedestrian and bicycle advocate groups, who will later champion some strategies. Vetting the strategies through stakeholders was the last piece of the puzzle, even before making the strategies look pretty.
Robyn Jackson is a mid-level civil engineer. After beginning her career as a project manager in the vertical construction business, she took a leap of faith and moved cross-country from California to Washington, DC landing at Nspiregreen LLC where she is able to pursue her interests in transportation and act on her sense of responsibility to the environment.