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Safety chair questions commitment to Vision Zero

Friday, April 10, 2015 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

A city planner Monday gave the Public Safety Commission an update on the Vision Zero Task Force work toward devising a traffic safety plan for the city. The task force’s name reflects the blueprint it’s tasked with drafting: a Vision Zero plan aimed at reducing the number of traffic deaths to zero.

However, at least one member of the commission is skeptical of the city’s support for following through with the plan.

Sweden adopted the first Vision Zero plan in 1997. The country has since cut its number of traffic fatalities in half. Cities in the U.S. started adopting their own versions more than a decade later. Portland announced its Vision Zero plan earlier this year, joining San Francisco, New York City and the state of Utah.

Partway through Monday’s presentation, Chair Kim Rossmo said he was leery of the city’s commitment. Plans like Vision Zero, he said, require rebuilding roads and paying police officers for longer patrol hours because of upped enforcement.

“Policy is cheap,” said Rossmo. “Engineering changes (and) increased law enforcement officers doing traffic duties are not.”

Rossmo talked about his own neighborhood, where drunken drivers have hit pedestrians walking in the street because the area has no sidewalks.

“There’s no interest in putting the sidewalks in,” Rossmo said. “That costs money.”

Last spring, the Pedestrian Advisory Council recommended that City Council create the Vision Zero Task Force. Council approved the group in November, and the task force convened for the first time at the end of January. According to Council’s resolution, the task force will give Council members its recommendations in November.

The city said it acknowledges the costs inherent in making engineering changes to its roadways, and because of that, Austin’s Vision Zero plan will focus on enforcement and education at the outset.


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