COLUMBIA — Columbia City Council approved the Vision Zero Action Plan on Monday, nearly three years after the issue of pedestrian safety was brought to its attention.

The goal of Vision Zero in Columbia is to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities in traffic crashes to zero by 2030, from its current level of 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people each year, according to a plan for the project.

The plan runs from 2017 to 2020. It includes assessments of speed limits and road design, as well as traffic safety education strategies within Columbia Public Schools and at MU.

On Dec. 19, the council agreed to adopt the Vision Zero policy, and an implementation team was put together with Heather Cole, the assistant to the city manager, as program manager. The team was given April 30 as a deadline to submit the plan to the council.

Over a dozen U.S. cities have adopted Vision Zero, including New York, San Francisco and Seattle. These three cities were specifically cited in the Mayor's Task Force for Pedestrian Safety's final report and recommendations, presented in May 2016 to the council. 

Enforcement

The first guiding principle of the Vision Zero Action Plan is equity, according to the plan.

The death rate of African-Americans in traffic crashes is twice that of whites, and older adults are involved in 27 percent of Columbia's motor vehicle crashes, according to the plan. Ten percent of crashes involve children.

At the council meeting on Monday, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas commended the Vision Zero Action Team for pairing equity with data-driven analysis, but he recommended the wording be modified to specifically disavow racial profiling.

"I would like to see language like that in those two elements, which could otherwise be misconstrued as endorsing an enforcement policy that we all know is not what we want to do," Thomas said. "I think we need to have it in writing to confirm that."

Earlier in the meeting, Nathan Ferguson spoke on behalf of Race Matters, Friends, noting that the wording in the action plan appeared vague.

"It’s really life and death," Ferguson said. "Given these stakes, one would hope the metric by which the plan measures its success would be rigorous and concrete, especially in regards to equity.”

In an email, Ferguson clarified that equity needs to cover all ages, races, genders and abilities or disabilities.

He cited previous Missourian reporting on disproportionate traffic stops of blacks in Columbia and a study conducted by Georgetown University researchers who found that wheelchair users were a third more likely to die in car crashes involving pedestrians than those who do not use wheelchairs.

"Forging a plan that addresses each of these in a holistic way without treating them as separable categories — and at the same time working to minimize the potential unintended consequences of initiatives, such as increased enforcement — will no doubt be a difficult task without one final or perfect 'solution,'" Ferguson said.

Also included in the plan is the analysis of data and reintroduction of discussion about using red light cameras as enforcement strategies. Columbia has five red light cameras and stopped prosecution of red light violations in 2013, according to previous Missourian reporting.

At the state-level, discussion around a bill that may ban red light cameras altogether was heard in March.

Another facet of the plan involves the creation of an ordinance about broadening the texting and driving law to cover all persons. At the moment, state law only covers those younger than 21 and those operating a commercial vehicle, though legislators have attempted to broaden the law in the past.

Engineering

Plans are underway for assessments and audits of road safety led by Richard Stone, the city's engineering manager.

The target completion date for assessments and audits is March 2019, according to the action plan.

Some goals include analyzing crashes, integrating at least five safe road design measures into standards and initiating discussion in regards to reducing speed limits on high-risk roads.

Speed has consistently been the most important factor in whether or not a person involved in a crash will survive, according to the policy resolution. The objective calls for appropriate speed limits, with attention to the environment the road is in. 

Teams are also expected to work on understanding how citizens feel about potential speed limit reductions.

Education

In 2014, Annette Triplett, executive director of PedNet Coalition, a Columbia-based pedestrian safety organization, presented Vision Zero to the council as a potential way to reduce deaths on Columbia streets. Now she leads the action plan's education team.

The education team presses for extending public knowledge of road safety, beginning with town hall meetings and information campaigns. Ward-based meetings are planned to be complete by December, with campaign plans being set in motion by January, according to the plan.

Partnerships with the school district and MU are also in the works to promote and improve transportation training for students.

The team also takes into account the possibility that new road construction or designs may be confusing for the public, and it plans to provide sources of information that create an easy way to understand new standards.

Supervising editors are Scott Swafford and Sky Chadde.

  • Summer 2017 reporter. I am a junior studying magazine editing.

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