ATL edging toward Vision Zero, a policy of no deaths when vehicles strike humans

By David Pendered

The job posting for Atlanta’s first transportation commissioner calls for experience with implementing Vision Zero, a mobility policy that includes reducing vehicular speed on city streets in order to improve safety for folks not in vehicles.

Auburn Avenue, DOT, OFW

Atlanta’s first transportation commissioner is to implement a mobility policy that accommodates the needs inherent in travel by all modes of transportation, including wheelchairs. Credit: David Pendered

Atlanta has not formally adopted Vision Zero. But Vision Zero is cited by name on the job posting and is increasingly relevant as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration grapples with issues including:

  • Deadly crashes involving electric scooters struck by vehicles;
  • Rising tension on the Atlanta BeltLine among those competing for space to safely walk, jog, cycle, skate, ride a scooter;
  • A proposed revision of traffic patterns for pedestrians and vehicles in the central business district, home of the city’s convention industry;
  • “Smart Cities” technology that aims to create a mobility bubble around vehicles and pedestrians along street corridors, including a pilot program on North Avenue;
  • Legacy industrial areas that rely on truck traffic even as they are being retrofitted as places to live, work and play.

Atlanta has stopped accepting applications for the commissioner’s position. The commissioner is to oversee a Department of Transportation the Atlanta City Council voted in June establish. The DOT is to be devised with public input gathered in a community engagement process, and the department is to start work in late 2020, according to the legislation adopted by council

The job posting for Atlanta’s DOT commissioner lists experience with Vision Zero as fifth of 10 items cited on a segment of the wish list titled, Ideal Candidate. The candidate is to have:

Peachtree, Midtown

Midtown is home to a plethora of transportation modes and presents unique challenges to devise a mobility plan that keeps all safe as they move efficiently around the area. Credit: David Pendered

  • “Demonstrated commitment to championing safety in transportation planning with a preference for candidates with experience implementing a Vision Zero Policy.”

About 40 U.S. cities have adopted Vision Zero, including the coastal anchors of New York and Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Smaller cities that support Vision Zero include Austin, Boulder, Charlotte – and Macon.

Macon embraced Vision Zero as part of the effort that started in 2015 to increase pedestrian safety. The website doesn’t make clear any measures that have been implemented beyond the fundamental step of putting pedestrian safety at the center of transportation planning.

Vision Zero is a fairly new concept in the United States and got its start in Sweden in about 1997.

The premise is that no pedestrian should die from injuries after being struck by a vehicle. A common solution is to reduce vehicular velocity to speeds that don’t kill pedestrians on impact – about 19 mph.

Atlanta has not adopted formally a Vision Zero policy. That’s not for a lack of trying by advocacy groups.

vision zero cities

Atlanta’s first transportation commissioner is to have experience implementing the safety concepts of Vision Zero, which has been adopted by more than 40 cities in the United States. Credit: visionzeronetwork.org

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition in 2017 included Vision Zero as a plank in its 2017 policy platform. The proposal regarding Vision Zero recommends Atlanta’s mayor and councilmembers:

  • “Immediately create a Vision Zero Task Force to create and oversee the implementation of an Action Plan. This task force should draw stakeholders from city departments, transportation-related fields, and community organizations. Ideally, the Task Force would be chaired by the Director of the Department of Transportation.”

Other policy requests include:

  • “Secure adequate and sustainable funding for the implementation of the ATL Vision Zero Action Plan.
  • “Set aside money in an annual budget specifically for the purpose of Vision Zero and link lives saved to these dollars.”

 

Howell Mill Road

Howell Mill Road is a state-designated truck route between I-75 and a railroad district west of the interstate. The corridor also serves those moving among the growing number of homes, shops and offices located along the roadway. Credit: David Pendered

 

North Avenue

North Avenue is a major transportation corridor that connects Atlanta’s eastern and western areas, and is part of an experiment to determine if artificial intelligence can improve safety and mobility. Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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