SDOT is set to present its “top to bottom review” of the Vision Zero program to the City Council’s Transportation Committee on March 7, and safe streets advocates are pushing for more specific and hard deadlines to “light a fire under our elected leaders to get Vision Zero back on track,” as the Cascade Bicycle Club put it.
In our previous story on the first draft of the Vision Zero review, we noted that many of the recommendations were internal things like reorganizing internal processes and the departmental hierarchy. This is not necessarily a criticism of the review as this was its stated aim, but it is also difficult for the public to understand the impact of these internal changes.
The review includes many important findings and good statements about what needs to happen, such as the recommendation that the department must “be willing to reduce vehicle travel speed and convenience to improve safety.” But the review was somewhat lacking in detail and timelines for making the necessary changes. Cascade and Greenways also noticed this.
“[T]the public needs to know that concrete action is coming next,” Cascade wrote in its sample letter that people can send to council members. Use their convenient online tool to send your own letter. “Otherwise it’s just another plan being shelved.” Specifically, they ask the council to place a timeline on SDOT to carry out tasks from the review, including a revision of the Vision Zero Action Plan, expanding turn-on-red restrictions, programming lead pedestrian intervals (giving crosswalk signals a head start) and requiring follow-up progress reporting on these the changes.
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways already offered its Vision Zero ideas back in November, which include much more specific interventions the city could take. Many of their proposals may be more appropriate for the Vision Zero Action Plan, and therefore it is important to expedite the delivery of that update. This departmental review document isn’t going to get Vision Zero back on track, but it could help SDOT more effectively deliver the safety-focused actions the mayor and council are tasking them with.
This Vision Zero review was commissioned by Mayor Bruce Harrell. It’s an opportunity for him to take on street safety on his own terms and make safety the centerpiece of his 2024 Seattle Transportation Plan and replacement package. The mayor and SDOT are admitting here that what we’re doing isn’t working, and that’s a big deal. Safe streets advocates have been forced into an adversarial role in our city for some time, and this may be an opening to instead be in an encouraging role. My advice to advocates is of course to push for more, but don’t forget to cheer on this work too. After half a decade of playing desperate defense to try to stop or at least reduce cuts to safe streets projects, this is a chance to build momentum for the next big step forward.
Seattle can reach Vision Zero by 2030. We know how to make our streets safer, and we know which places need these safety changes the most. The beauty of making physical safety changes to a street is that the benefits are repeated annually. So each project builds on the others, and the number of danger points becomes smaller and smaller. Right now the scale of the problem feels overwhelming, but it is manageable with the right resources and political leadership. The people of Seattle are ready for a sharp increase in security efforts. We will certainly vote for a tax that puts safety first and that gives big money to the effort. But it’s going to take a lot of advocacy to make it all happen, so get involved and help as much as you can.
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways released this video about their 2023 Vision Zero goals:
Here is the sample letter from the Cascade action notice:
Thank you for requesting that the Council Transportation Committee be briefed on the Vision Zero Top to Bottom Review. Everyone agrees – Vision Zero is off track.
The big question is, where to go from here? I am pleased that the Department has undertaken this review to understand how it needs to improve internally and to reaffirm its commitment to prioritizing safety over speed in our transport system. However, the public needs to know that tangible action will come next. Otherwise, it’s just another plan that gets shelved.
People who bike and walk can’t wait. Every day people get injured, or worse, just traveling from A to B on the streets of Seattle.
At the March 7 Transportation Committee meeting, please urge SDOT to act quickly and report back to the committee on the following matters:
— Request a timeline for the plan to ban right turns on red and increase lead pedestrian intervals, including where these interventions should be placed, and why the plan is only for downtown when the city’s own data shows that this safety measure will benefit the entire city.
— Request a timeline for the release of the Vision Zero action plan. Please demand aggressive action.
— How will the results of the department’s internal process improvements to “lead with safety” be demonstrated to the public?
— Request a progress report on the department’s internal process changes.
Thank you for ensuring accountability to the city’s plans so that everyone can get around Seattle safely, however we choose to or need to travel.