live / 2014

Vision Zero Los Angeles: safe streets for healthy living

Vision Zero Los Angeles: safe streets for healthy living

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Streetsblog Los Angeles, Los Angeles Walks, Place It!, LongBeachize, Santa Monica Next

Promote introduction of Vision 0 policies in to reduce fatalities and injuries from crashes and unlock the health benefits of safer streets.

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Streetsblog Los Angeles is an award-winning, non-profit news website focusing on transportation, land-use, open space and public health.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Vision Zero Los Angeles will engage residents and policy makers to encourage introduction of Vision Zero policies in the City of Los Angeles and other jurisdictions in Los Angeles County. V0 focuses on reducing fatalities from vehicle crashes as close to zero as possible.

Unsafe streets and crashes in LA kill hundreds and injure tens of thousands annually and harm public health by discouraging walking and biking.

The Vision Zero Los Angeles project will utilize creative community workshops, local walks, media coverage, and policy advocacy to create a campaign for the City of LA and at least two other cities in the County to adopt Vision Zero policies, as models that can inspire more cities to make streets safer for all residents.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Project partners will engage residents and advocates in a campaign to adopt Vision Zero (V0) policies in the City of Los Angeles and at least two other jurisdictions in Los Angeles County with high rates of fatalities from vehicle collisions and/or political leadership on road safety. The campaign will combine outreach, collaborations, media and advocacy to educate the public and policy makers about the need for and benefits of V0. Project partners will kick off the campaign with a ‘shoe in’ event at Los Angeles City Hall displaying 100 pairs of shoes representing the approximately 100 pedestrians killed each year in the City by vehicle drivers. The campaign will involve the public in developing and advocating for V0 through monthly workshops and walks in communities throughout the City of LA and at least two other cities.

Workshops will be creative exercises led by James Rojas in which community residents use model-building through a V0 lens to envision how their local streets can become safe healthy routes and places. Los Angeles Walks will lead walks in these same communities to allow residents to identify conditions that contribute to unsafe streets as well as changes they want to see on their roads and sidewalks.

Feedback from workshops and walks will help project partners develop a V0 platform to guide advocacy. Participants in these workshops/ walks will be organized to advocate for safer streets and adoption of V0 policies. Streetsblog Los Angeles will provide media coverage of V0 campaign activities and road safety issues to generate additional interest in the issue. To strengthen the campaign, partners will also link with other advocacy and community organizations, Neighborhood Councils and environmental groups to collaborate on a V0 platform.

After engaging and mobilizing residents and partners, the project will arrange meetings with policy makers responsible for street safety such as municipal Departments of Transportation, Police Departments, and City Council persons to advocate for introduction and adoption of Vision Zero principles as legislation and/ or packages of administrative actions. We will assist in making contact with the city staff and leaders using our connections, but the most compelling testimony will come from friends and families of victims of vehicle collisions and community members who face dangerous streets on a daily basis. The project will help community residents become the voice of Vision Zero.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Vision Zero will make LA the healthiest place to live by drawing attention to road safety concerns, by saving lives and preventing injuries, and by unlocking the health benefits of increased walking, cycling and social interactions. Our goal is to empower communities and residents to become the voice for Vision Zero to make traffic safety a higher priority for the city.

Road safety is a critical public health challenge facing Los Angeles. Unsafe driving kills and injures tens of thousands of residents. It further harms public health by discouraging residents from walking and cycling. Motor vehicle crashes are the third leading case of preventable death in Los Angeles County for all age groups. In the City of Los Angeles alone, 31,012 people per year -including 2790 pedestrians and 1771 bicyclists - are killed or severely injured in vehicular-related collisions. These deaths and injuries have a ripple effect beyond their immediate tragedies by creating an often-accurate perception that our streets are designed to speed cars along rather than to create good routes and places for people.

Dangers from vehicles therefore discourage active transportation, reducing the extensive health benefits or walking and cycling. Vision Zero for Los Angeles will help make Los Angeles the healthiest place to live today by increasing awareness of the need for safer streets and accelerating transformation of road design and regulation. By 2050, Vision Zero will have been achieved, saving tens of thousands of lives and preventing hundreds of thousands of severe injuries.

Free from the fear of getting killed or injured by vehicles, more residents will walk and bike for transportation and recreation, leading to improved fitness, physical and mental health, a reduction in diseases related to overweight and physical activity, a reduction in exposure to air pollution, and greater levels of social interaction.

Whom will your project benefit?

Vision Zero will benefit all residents since vehicle crashes and unsafe streets harm people from all corners of Los Angeles County, from all walks of life and drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. Some groups will see especially high benefits from safer roads. These include children and young adults since vehicle crashes are the leading overall cause of death for Los Angeles County children ages 5 to 14 and the second overall cause of death for residents 15-44.

Residents who regularly walk and bike will also see tremendous benefits. Pedestrians account for a third of traffic fatalities in Los Angeles City, almost triple the national average, and three percent of those killed by vehicles are cyclists, nearly double the national average. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel with fewer worries and enjoy the benefits of the types of changes brought by Vision Zero: better designed streets, slower vehicle speeds, and better enforcement.

Low income residents who are more likely to not own a car and to live in places with busy roads and higher rates of deaths and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, will also see disproportionate benefits from Vision Zero. Women and the elderly, who currently are less likely to bicycle because of the discomfort of riding in fast and dangerous traffic, can be expected to bicycle at greater rates when Vision Zero is implemented.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Vision Zero Los Angeles is a confirmed collaboration between Streetsblog Los Angeles, Los Angeles Walks, and Place It. The project will also partner with and provide stipends to ten community organizations (to be chosen later) on workshops, walks, and mobilizing members to advocate for Vision Zero. We will partner with Neighborhood Councils, bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations, bicycle co-ops and other community partners serving low income communities such as Pacoima Beautiful or Building Healthy Communities in Boyle Heights, South L.A. and Long Beach. The three main partners have worked together before and bring complementary strengths to a campaign for Vision Zero.

Streetsblog Los Angeles reaches thousands of readers with award-winning journalism on street issues in the Los Angeles region with a strong focus on safety for pedestrians and cyclists, including in-depth coverage of South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Long Beach and Santa Monica.

Los Angeles Walks is a pedestrian advocacy organization working to make walking safe, convenient and fun for all Angelinos. LA Walks has experience advocating for policy change and engaging residents through local walks to evaluate the walkability of the streets in various neighborhoods and to experience the history, culture and architecture of the area.

Place It founder James Rojas has led hundreds of creative planning workshops to allow community residents to envision how their built environment and streets can change for the better. These three organizations have formally and informally collaborated in the past as individuals leaders and/or as organizations.

Factors that are critical to the success of the proposed collaboration include: (1) the ability of community members to learn about road safety and opportunities to help shape and advocate for Vision Zero; (2) the capacity of the project to inspire participants in workshops and walks to advocate for safer streets; and (3) the ability of advocacy to influence decision makers to adopt Vision Zero policies. We believe that the Vision Zero Los Angeles team can provide synergy through community-based journalism and outreach, community-engaged advocacy and community-led visioning for safer streets in order to achieve project goals.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Exposure to air toxins
  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Obesity rates
  • Walk/bike/transit score
  • Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Vision Zero Los Angeles will reduce deaths and injuries from vehicle crashes. Since vehicle crashes are among the leading cause of violent death, reducing these collisions will also reduce the prevalence of childhoods harmed by adverse experience. Safer streets will also encourage more active transportation, leading to increased mode share for walking and biking and increased support for non-car based infrastructure and development.

LA’s walk, bike and transit scores should rise along with safer streets. More and safer walking and biking will also reduce obesity rates. By replacing vehicle trips with walking and cycling trips, Vision Zero Los Angeles will also reduce air pollution from vehicles and exposure to air toxins and make communities more resilient to rise in fuel prices or natural disasters that shut down vehicle transportation.

Many lower income households do not own cars, but many do- and a more walkable, bikeable Los Angeles will allow these lower income households to go car-lite or car-free, reducing transportation costs that tend to be second only to housing costs, resulting in a reduction in households below self-sufficiency.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Vision zero Los Angeles will evaluate our project in the short-term by engagement, awareness and policy change, with a desired longer term impact on rates of death and injury from vehicle crashes. Our metrics for the project period will be:

(1) number of residents engaged via walks, workshops and/or advocacy events to measure participation in the project;

(2) mentions of the term “Vision Zero” (and equivalent phrases in Spanish and other languages) in local press (print, online, radio, television) to measure local awareness of the Vision Zero concept; and

(3) the number of jurisdictions in Los Angeles County with introduced and/or adopted Vision Zero policies to measure policy change.

Over the long term, we would hope that progress in changing policy and awareness would lead to a significant reduction in deaths and serious injuries from vehicle crashes in the jurisdictions adopting Vision Zero policies.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Vision Zero Los Angeles is informed by political and strategy lessons that the project partners have learned from years of working on street safety issues. The first lesson is that, while attention to complete streets and walking and cycling have increased in the Los Angeles area in recent years, a framework is needed to link these improvements together in a coherent program to prioritize safer streets. Even though many local jurisdictions are improving their streets, the unacceptably high rate of deaths from vehicles and lack of priority given to deaths and injuries, especially of pedestrians and cyclists, by law enforcement agencies and elected officials suggests that road safety needs a vision to bring together agencies, efforts and indicators. Vision Zero provides an easy-to-understand, comprehensive framework for reducing deaths and injuries.

Our second lesson is that local residents impacted by unsafe streets will make the most compelling advocates for Vision Zero. This is why we will focus our project on bringing local community residents to workshops and walks designed to organize participants to be advocates for Vision Zero. We will incorporate leadership and advocacy training into the campaign to empower residents.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Many local jurisdictions and the state have adopted and embraced complete street policies, leading to increased pedestrian and bike infrastructure and increased rates of walking and cycling. This development has led to more receptivity by transportation agencies and policy makers to road safety campaigns. Media attention to hit-and-run accidents over the past year has primed the public and press to look favorably on efforts to reduce the carnage of death and injuries from vehicles.

The City of Los Angeles, as our main target jurisdiction, has recently hired a new General Manager of the Department of Transportation who worked on pedestrian safety issues in San Francisco and has committed to be a champion for a Vision Zero approach in the City, as she was in the Bay Area. Los Angeles City is also poised to adopt an updated Mobility Element which has a strong safety emphasis with a goal of cutting vehicle fatalities in half.

Vision Zero can strengthen and build upon this framework. Santa Monica and Long Beach, two of the jurisdictions that we may target, have among the County’s most progressive record on bike and pedestrian infrastructure and so should be willing to consider Vision Zero policies. Both also have organizations, bicycling and walking policy advocates in Santa Monica and public health organizations such as Building Healthy Communities in Long Beach; that are natural partners for such a campaign.

There may be other cities in the county that will step up to seize the mantle as safe and healthy places to live. We believe that given this political environment. it is feasible for the project to reach ten communities with workshops and walks and get Vision Zero policies introduced in three jurisdictions. Our goal is the introduction of policies since it can take multiple months to go from introduction to adoption. We intend to keep working on this issue to ensure than policies introduced are eventually adopted.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One potential barrier is that the attitude of police departments to road safety has not changed as fast as the attitudes of planning and transportation departments. Law enforcement agencies sometimes have what is described as a “windshield” perspective on traffic and safety. From the viewpoint of officers in cars, fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists are often thought to be the responsibility of these vulnerable road users rather than the responsibility of drivers of dangerous motor vehicles.

Crackdowns on ‘jaywalking’ and lack of follow-up on hit-and-run crimes feeds the perception that society is not serious about making streets safe. We hope to overcome this challenge by engaging with law enforcement, by encouraging local residents to engage their local police stations, and by calling on elected officials and oversight boards to set expectations and targets around vehicles deaths and injuries. We also believe that a strong Vision Zero campaign can help elevate the death rate from vehicle crashes in a similar way that the annual rate of murders has become a target that police try to reduce.

Another challenge is that state law makes it difficult for local jurisdictions to lower speed limits based solely on safety considerations. Appropriate speed limits is one of the policies that is typically embraced as part of a Vision Zero approach. American cities that have adopted Vision Zero plans include San Francisco, which is also subject to California law, and New York City, which must rely on state law changes to reduce speed limits. So we believe we can learn from these efforts (and rely on opportunities for speed reductions that California cities can control, such as near schools).

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach