On December 7th, Alameda City Council adopted the Vision Zero Action Plan (Plan), which aims to eliminate fatal and severe injury traffic crashes by 2035. Council also committed to significant safety improvements to Alameda roads in 2022 and beyond.
Vision Zero is an international movement to eliminate severe traffic crashes. This systems approach strives to create an environment where human error does not cause death or significant injury.
From 2009-2018, an average of two people per year died, and ten suffered serious injuries from crashes on Alameda streets. Since then, one person died in 2019, four in 2020, and four so far in 2021.
Following the adoption of a Vision Zero Policy in 2019, a City task force developed the Plan, which includes:
- The Vision Zero approach
- Analysis of ten years of Alameda crash data
- High Injury Corridor maps
- Over 50 actions aimed at increasing traffic safety
- Performance metrics to measure success
The Plan reports that the top two behaviors most associated with severe injury and fatal crashes were unsafe speeds and failure to yield to a pedestrian. Younger and older victims were over-represented in severe and fatal crashes compared to other age groups.
To improve safety, the Plan prioritizes actions that rely on street design changes, followed by education. Police enforcement is also essential, but the Plan strives for an environment where it feels natural to comply with traffic safety laws, both due to street design and the behavior of other road users.
Examples of street design changes could include roundabouts and signal improvements. Enforcement will focus on moving violations associated with severe and fatal crashes and in areas of high injuries, in school zones, and near concentrations of restaurants and bars.
The City will update the Plan every five years. Notably, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will soon require municipalities to have Local Road Safety Plans to apply for the next cycle of Highway Safety Improvement Program grants. Adopting the Vision Zero Action Plan will fulfill this requirement.
Council Member Tony Daysog praised the Plan as “well balanced between engineering, education, and enforcement.” He was especially pleased by the discussion on enforcement, noting that the number of traffic enforcement officers has declined since 2007. In the meantime, the fatality rate has increased. He hoped that video enforcement would be part of future efforts.
Council Member John Knox-White noted that the Plan points to “where harm is coming from” and how the City should communicate. He added that communication alone doesn’t change behavior. Still, it would help people understand why police will do more enforcement around speeding and why the City is redesigning streets to slow traffic.
Council Member Trish Herrera-Spencer said, “I appreciate slowing down, but I don’t appreciate stopping. Currently, if you go anywhere between Bay Farm to Shoreline, multiple times a day, you’re going to see a long line of cars that are stopped.” She asked, “By approving this plan, does that mean that I would be voting for reduction of lanes?”
Planning, Building, and Transportation Director Andrew Thomas answered, “Yes, you are voting to reduce speeds because when we reduce speeds, we reduce the probability of death.” He added that introducing “road diets,” where an existing four-lane road is converted to three lanes, has been proven to reduce collisions. A road diet consists of two through lanes and a center, two-way left-turn lane while allowing space for bike lanes on either side.
Vice Mayor Malia Vella brought up the recent death of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan in a traffic accident. Vella said that, when starting as a Council Member, she didn’t think she would be voting on the kind of policies where, if the Council failed to act, someone she knew might not be here anymore. She expressed her support.
Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft said, “We need to reduce speeds and the numbers of cars on our roadways, which means getting parents to let their kids ride and walk and scoot to school. But they have to feel safe to do so. This is an opportunity.”
The motion to adopt the Vision Zero Action Plan and commit to significant safety improvements to Alameda roads in 2022 and beyond passed by a 4-1 vote. Mayor Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Vella, and Council Members Daysog and Knox-White voted in favor. Council Member Herrera-Spencer voted against it.