Vision Zero ATX (www.VisionZeroATX.org) is based on an idea that came from Sweden:
Vision zero is the simple idea that every death and serious injury in traffic is preventable. People will make mistakes, but those mistakes should not lead to anyone losing their life or being severely hurt.
Simple, but not easy. So far this year (as of August 1st), 40 people have died on roads in Austin, Texas — the US’s 11th biggest city. Most are vehicles versus other vehicles. More than a few involve pedestrians. Just a few involve bicyclists. Compared to many cities, that’s not alot, but according to Vision Zero ATX, we can do better.
How to Stop the Car-nage?
According to the website, Vision Zero is based on four principles:
- Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility: Providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
- Safety: Road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: Providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.
That all sounds nice on paper. Naturally, as a bicyclist, pedestrian and even occasional borrowed car driver, I’m all for making the streets safer. But it’s never been very clear to me how they aim to achieve this goal. They have these goals, meetings, the website and social media, and partner organizations. When it comes down to ACTUALLY getting the millions of individual drivers to stop drinking, texting, putting on make-up, or otherwise being assholes behind the wheels of 5,000-pound killing machines, that’s another matter. It will take a lot more education and stiffer penalties for violators. In other words, a much broader culture shift.
Remembering Leonel and Andrew
Earlier in the year I wrote about two cyclists who were killed by cars. The first was about Andrew Tilin: Car Hits Truck, Which Kills Austin Cyclist, Racer, Author & Dad on a Group Ride Saturday. I don’t know what charges were filed against the driver in this case, or the status. Vision Zero doesn’t even list him. Why? He’s not on the list of people outside the city or county, either.
The second was about Leonel Hernandez: Another Austin Bicyclist is Killed by a Vehicle. Who Will Stop the Car-nage? It appears no one was ever caught in that hit and run. Or, Vision Zero just never updated their website.
This is a bit unfair because I haven’t contacted them for information. It’s an ongoing story and theme of this blog to report on things pertaining to bicycling as I see them. When there’s not something there, I can’t report on it. As a volunteer effort, this is understandable. But it’s a bit disappointing there’s not more there… there.
As for other bicyclist deaths: I can’t find any, so either there haven’t been any, which would be great! Or they haven’t made it to the website. But as there are only a few each year, let’s hope it’s the former. Of course there are more people driving cars than riding bikes (because the roads are so unsafe, even with some white lines marking bike lanes, which are insufficient in number.)
Great Ideas, But What’s the Plan?
To be fair, VZATX does have a plan to reduce traffic violence, injuries and fatalities:
“Addressing how their neighborhoods and roads are designed; by addressing the cultural habits they have related to traveling around; by addressing their enforcement tools for when people make dangerous decisions; and by addressing the research and data which help focus resources to provide the greatest good.”
That’s great, but seems a little pie in the sky. The Austin Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans are far from being fully funded. Existing neighborhoods can’t be redesigned without major infrastructure funding, which also doesn’t exist in the coffers. Two-thirds of it goes immediately to police, fire and emergency medical. Laws of Texas and the City do not seem to be applied fairly to car drivers killing pedestrians or bicyclists. Often people driving under the influence have had their licenses suspended, but still are not in jail and drive illegally anyway. Research and data sound great, but without political will, funding and enforcement, it’s just that: data.
So what’s the answer? It’s up to each individual road user of all types to remember: Safety First. Leave early, slow down, pay attention, drive defensively, save a life. But we’re going to need more than some slogans, meetings and websites to do it. It’s going to take all levels of government, business and individuals committing to this idea. And getting Texans to drive safely is asking a whole heckuva lot. So alot more people are going to die. Let’s hope you and I aren’t among them.
Until next time (Monday) — stay frosty out there.
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