Budgeting for Zero Deaths

by Jill Locantore on June 2, 2016

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Putting the City’s money where the community’s values are

Government budgets are often referred to as moral documents, a reflection of where our priorities and values lie as a community. For many years, government spending on transportation has valued moving vehicles at high speeds over community livability, with deadly consequences – upwards of 38,000 Americans died in traffic crashes in 2015.

Denver’s Vision Zero Coalition is a group of community organizations that has formed to reverse this trend and advocate for projects and policies that will eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries on our streets. In addition to WalkDenver, which manages the Coalition, the following organizations serve on the Vision Zero Steering Committee that provides leadership for the Coalition: BikeDenver, Transit Alliance, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC), the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

The Coalition recently recommended the following specific items for inclusion in the City’s 2017 Budget that prioritize the value of human life over speed:

A staff position dedicated to Vision Zero data collection. Reliable data is critical to understand traffic safety issues, prioritize resources based on geographic areas and issues of the greatest need, measure progress, and maintain transparency.

Increased use of photo red light and photo speed enforcement. Automated enforcement is a proven, cost effective measure for reducing dangerous driving behaviors, traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Speed-camera-warning-sign

Fleet management safety initiatives. Fleet management is another proven strategy for reducing traffic injuries and fatalities.  Fleet managers can set the bar for safe driving through driver training, vehicle design and technology adoption.

Implementation of neighborhood traffic calming projects. The City’s 2016 budget included funding to “complete traffic analysis within neighborhoods in an effort to provide a more proactive approach to implementing traffic calming measures and infrastructure that provides safe pedestrian access throughout the City.”  The 2017 budget should provide funding to implement specific projects identified through this analysis.

Implementation of infrastructure improvements on Colfax. Colfax Avenue is one of the deadliest streets in Denver, the site of six fatalities in 2015. Several of the Business Improvement Districts along Colfax, WalkDenver, BikeDenver and other partners have identified specific infrastructure improvements that would increase safety, including enhanced pedestrian crossings at Fairfax, Adams, and Madison Streets along East Colfax, and  at intersections between Utica and Osceola Streets on West Colfax, as well as north/south bike infrastructure improvements and traffic calming features on Perry Street, Lowell Boulevard, Knox Court, and Irving Street.

Colfax Fairfax Pedestrian CrossingRendering of an enhanced pedestrian crossing at Colfax Avenue and Fairfax Street.  Source: Colfax Mayfair BID.

Implementation of Safe Routes to School infrastructure improvements. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for school-age children, and most of these crashes happen near schools and public parks. WalkDenver has completed walkability audits of the neighborhoods surrounding four Denver elementary schools and developed recommendations for infrastructure improvements that would increase safe pedestrian access to schools and other neighborhood destinations.  See here for more details on these recommendations.

Mayor Hancock announced his commitment to Vision Zero in February of this year. With the 2017 Budget, the Mayor has an opportunity to back up this commitment with real dollars that align with community values.

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