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Columbus Signs on to Vision Zero Initiative

Brent Warren Brent Warren Columbus Signs on to Vision Zero InitiativePhoto by Brent Warren.
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The City of Columbus announced today that it would be taking steps to become a Vision Zero community.

Established in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero is a pedestrian-safety movement that calls for cities to enact plans to reduce the number of annual serious or fatal traffic crashes to zero. Over 40 cities nationwide are listed as Vision Zero Communities – none are from Ohio, although both Cincinnati and Cleveland have started the process to become one.

Mayor Andrew Ginther made the announcement outside of the Barnett Library Branch, surrounded by city staff from the Department of Public Service – which will be leading the effort – along with representatives of other departments, including the Divisions of Fire and Police.

A press release announcing today’s event described it as the “launch [of] a holistic safety initiative that makes protecting human lives the single highest priority of our transportation system.”

The Vision Zero Network website describes it this way – “Vision Zero is not a slogan, nor a tagline, not even just a program; instead, Vision Zero is a fundamental shift in how your community approaches the issue of safe mobility.”

Debbie Briner, Public Relations Specialist for the Department of Public Service, told Columbus Underground that the city will be working with partners like the MId-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Central Ohio Transit Authority, and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) on the initiative.

“By the end of this year, Columbus will have an action plan in place that lays out attainable goals for getting to zero traffic deaths here,” she said, adding that the plan will include a close look at crash data for city streets, as well as an online map where members of the public can “identify locations where they have had a close call or noticed traffic safety concerns they want the city to know about.”

According to ODOT, Ohio saw a 60 percent increase in pedestrian-related fatalities between 2009-2018, with bicycle fatalities up 22 percent over the same time frame. In 2018, 135 pedestrians and 22 bicyclists were killed in Ohio.

Many have pushed for a more coordinated effort on this issue from the city, particularly after 11-year-old Elizabeth Robertson-Rutland was killed after being hit by two drivers on McNaughton Road last September.

Transit Columbus included Vision Zero in the policy agenda it published last spring, and the idea has long had the support of other transit and pedestrian advocates.

“More and more pedestrians and cyclists are being maimed and killed on our streets despite the drop in driver fatalities and injuries,” said Dr. Harvey Miller, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis. “In short, while our streets are safer for drivers, they are becoming more deadly for vulnerable road users…this is a major social equity issue since low income people and people of color are dying at higher rates.”

The city has set up a website with more information about its Vision Zero efforts.

A graph from the city’s Vision Zero website showing pedestrian-involved crashes in Columbus.
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