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How Philly’s Vision Zero Action Plan aims to make city streets safer

Protected bike paths, slower speed limits, and more data are just some of the action items

After signing an executive order to create a Vision Zero Task Force last November, yesterday Mayor Jim Kenney released the city’s first draft of a three-year action plan to make Philly’s streets less deadly.

“In this city, 100 people are killed each year in traffic crashes,” the mayor said in a statement. “Philadelphians deserve better. There is no excuse not to act to prevent future tragedies.”

The first Vision Zero policy was adopted by Sweden 20 years ago with the purpose of eliminating traffic-related deaths and severe injuries. Since then, cities across the world have adopted their own versions of Vision Zero. In Philly, Mayor Kenney’s executive order signed on November 7, 2016 aimed to bring the number of traffic-related deaths down to zero by 2030.

In comparison to other major U.S. cities that have enacted Vision Zero policies (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and NYC, to name a few), Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of traffic-related deaths per 100,000 residents; it’s more than two times higher than New York’s. More so, most of the traffic-related deaths occur in Philly’s poorest neighborhoods.

Courtesy of the Vision Zero Action Plan

The task force, a mix of government officials and community advocates, spent the past 120 days putting together its first draft of a three-year action plan, which includes everything from creating more protected bike paths to adding red light cameras. Below are just some of the proposed ways that the Vision Zero policy aims to make Philly’s streets safer.

1. Redesign corridors and intersections to improve safety

There are 19 action items within this category, some of which include installing the first two bicycle traffic signals in the city that will grant the right of way to cyclists, more protected bike lanes, and enacting “slow zones” in neighborhoods that lower speed limits. By 2020, the plan calls for installing Philly’s first protected intersection.

2. Analyze and report crash data

A task force’s “Crash Analysis Team” aims identify the most dangerous behaviors and identify “high-crash” zones in the city to come up with Vision Zero policy’s highest priorities. This information and other transportation-related data will also be available online for the public.

3. Increase community engagement and education

In 2018 and beyond, the action plans calls for creating more public awareness campaigns for both drivers and pedestrians, as well as increased community feedback on the VIsion Zero action plan.

4. Increase and emphasize better traffic enforcement

One of the action items call for allowing L&I to issue violations “for failure to adhere to the Streets Department Right-of Way Code” and increasing penalties for illegal sidewalk closures and enforcement for blocking bike lanes.

So far, the drafted action plan has received a mix of positive and negative feedback. The Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia said that it was a good start, while one critic told the Inquirer that the plan failed to address that pedestrians may also be at fault when it comes to car crashes due to jay-walking.

The draft action plan is available here, and the city wants community feedback. After receiving public input, the final action plan will be released this fall.