If you have been paying attention to urban planning or transportation in Los Angeles, you’ve probably heard about Vision Zero. So, we here at the LEAP LA Blog are going to dive into what this all means. In this first segment of a new ongoing series, we will discuss the Vision Zero program and highlight key projects that are already at work in the city.
What is Vision Zero?
Vision Zero is Los Angeles’ commitment to end all traffic deaths by the year 2025. It’s common knowledge that traffic collisions are a big deal in LA, but did you know that they are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 2 and 14 and the second greatest cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 25? In total, more than 200 people die annually from traffic collisions here in the City. One of the main objectives of Vision Zero is to protect the most vulnerable road users such as children, the elderly, and people who walk and bike.
The original concept behind Vision Zero comes from Sweden, where it was adopted as a national strategy back in 1997. Since then, Sweden has seen the number of transportation deaths drop by 30% despite a rise in traffic. Other cities that have adopted with Vision Zero include New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and San Jose.
How Will We Do It?
We, the City of Los Angeles, formalized our commitment to zero traffic deaths in August 2015. Since then, we’ve identified the places where our efforts will produce the most significant decrease in deaths and injuries. This network, known as the High Injury Network (HIN), makes up only 6% of our streets but is responsible for nearly 2/3 of all pedestrian fatalities in the City. While we will not prevent all collisions, we can implement strategic safety programs and improve infrastructure so that mistakes on the road do not lead to loss of life. For instance, the installation of a pedestrian “scramble” at the intersection of Hollywood & Highland (see below) has significantly reduced the number of injuries that have occurred.
The next phases of Vision Zero will include what we like to call the “E’s”. It all starts with Engineering. This involves rethinking how Los Angeles’ streets and sidewalks are designed. Engineers are working on ways to anticipate human error and minimize the consequences of mistakes on the road. One way is by designing traffic calming systems that reduce the chances of a death when a collision occurs.
In addition to engineering, we area also focusing on Education. A large focus of Vision Zero is on raising awareness about street safety for all users of our roads, which we are accomplishing through safety campaigns that reinforce safe driving, biking and walking habits. The City is also partnering with the community, especially at the neighborhood level, for both input and outreach.
We also need Enforcement. Laws against dangerous driving behavior need to be enforced in the areas that have high collision rates to make sure the most vulnerable road users are protected. We are partnering with the Los Angeles Police Department on this effort, who will be targeting high crash locations, DUI’s, distracted driving, not yielding to persons in a crosswalk and other dangerous driving behaviors.
Our last step is Evaluation, which is when we take a look at what has been done, what has worked, what hasn’t, and assess how to improve upon our results. We are continuously evaluating our efforts to make sure that we are reaching our targets. It is through this evaluation that Vision Zero will continue to grow, change, and innovate in the years to come.
And, throughout all of this, the City also strives to ensure that Equity is a key part of each and every one of our discussions and strategies. Currently 49% of the High Impact Network falls within the most vulnerable communities in LA. So, Vision Zero has prioritized those interventions that will improve health conditions and outcomes in these areas of greatest need.
Vision Zero at Work Right Now!
While the year 2025 is a long way off, Vision Zero is already changing the face of Los Angeles right now. Here are some of the ways it has:
Leading Pedestrian Intervals:
Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI’s) give people who walk a head start against turning cars when they are crossing a street. These signals have been shown to reduce pedestrian – car crashes by 60%! Los Angeles has already installed 22 of these new signals in the downtown area, with more to follow. So, next time you are walking around downtown keep an eye out for traffic signals like this one where the pedestrians are allowed to cross, while the cars are still held by a red light.
A Pedestrian Scramble at Hollywood and Highland:
As anyone who has ever ventured to this intersection of Los Angeles can tell you, Hollywood and Highland is extremely busy with both vehicle and foot traffic (not to mention the street performers). This was the perfect place to install a pedestrian scramble. A pedestrian scramble stops traffic in all four ways when pedestrians are walking in the intersection. It also allows people to cross the street diagonally, which saves time! And, the new scramble at Hollywood and Highland is already working. In the first 11 months of 2015 before the scramble was installed, the intersection had 19 collisions, 13 of which resulted in injuries. In the first 6 months after the scramble was installed, there has only been one non-injury collision.
Curb Extensions on Cesar Chavez Ave:
In the initial research phase of Vision Zero, Cesar Chavez Ave was identified as part of the High Injury Network. Wanting to make safety improvements right away, Los Angeles installed curb extensions. These reduce the distance for pedestrians crossing the streets and also make the crossing with its pedestrians much more visible to motorists. The curb extensions also tighten the intersection, which has been shown to reduce the speed of passing vehicles.
So, now that you know the basics of Vision Zero, stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series! We will talk about why LAPD is conducting speed surveys, update you on new projects, and even introduce you to LADOT’s first Creative Catalyst Artist in Residence.
Until next time!