Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vision Zero: Just a slogan

From Brian Goebel's KQED News story on Vision Zero in 2015:

San Francisco has been making progress fixing its most dangerous streets, but the number of people killed walking and biking did not decline in 2015, despite the city’s Vision Zero goal to end all traffic deaths by 2024.

In fact the number of people walking and biking killed in SF increased in 2015. In 2014 there were 18 pedestrians and 3 cyclists killed on city streets. Last year:

Twenty-four pedestrians and five bicyclists died in accidents in San Francisco in 2015, according to the San Francisco Medical Examiner (this excludes those ruled suicides and homicides). The number of deaths recorded by the medical examiner was higher than the Vision Zero count kept by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which has a full-time epidemiologist who analyzes collision data.

According to the last---and apparently final---Collisions Report (see pages 5 and 23) from the MTA, 2015 was a typical year for traffic fatalities in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, Vision Zero made no difference in reducing deaths for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Dept. of Public Health gives reporters these numbers but, unlike the Collisions Report (pages 9-16), there's no publicly available analysis of these accidents or exactly where they happen to figure out how and why they happened. Instead, the "high-injury corridor" map is invoked, which really explains nothing. 

Again, not surprisingly, most accidents---I mean "collisions," since there's no such thing as an accident, right?---happen on the busiest city streets. All traffic deaths are only theoretically preventable if everyone behaves themselves on city streets, which won't happen by 2024---or by 2124, for that matter.

Goebel links a self-congratulatory press release from the Mayor's office on all the  MTA projects implemented that were supposed to make city streets safer. Why didn't that work? The answer: most fatal traffic accidents have little to do with street design but, as Commander Ali noted last year, “A lot of it is just really, really bad behavior”:

Ali said all the pieces of Vision Zero are important and that the city is “on the right path.” But in the end, he said, people must be a lot more responsible when it comes to protecting their own lives and well-being. “This is not 'Star Trek,’ where some invisible force field is going to be created around people by the likes of city government,” he said. “The public has to do its part, and that means adhering to the rules of the road.” He said he hears constantly from people who say that they cross streets against the light or commit otherwise seemingly minor infractions. “It’s kind of like playing Russian roulette,” he said. “Eventually something bad does happen.”

"Something bad" happens because of "really bad behavior" by human beings. Gee, what a surprise!

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