West Seattle Blog… | FOLLOWUP: Vision Zero review briefings Tuesday. Here’s what caught our attention in the report.

You’ve probably heard by now that SDOT is out with its promised review of Vision Zero, as ordered by director Greg Spotts shortly after he took over the department. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to lead two briefings on the report – 9:30 am at the City Council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee meeting, 5 pm at the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee meeting. And SDOT is seeking community feedback on the review.

After it was released, we read the entire report to look for West Seattle-specific mentions. While it’s largely devoid of those, it does feature several maps showing problem spots here and elsewhere, so we’ll start with those. First, locations of fatal and serious-injury incidents, by mode:

Here are high-collision locations:

And high-injury locations:

The review was aimed at uncovering why death and injury trends are up, despite Vision Zero efforts in the past eight years. Rather than zeroing in on anything that’s not working, though, the report largely concludes that the city is doing the right things – like lowering speed limits – but just needs to do more of what it’s doing, needs to spend more on what it’s doing, and needs department leaders to be “ambassadors” for Vision Zero, along with making it a priority for everyone in the department. Here are the report’s specific recommendations toward that:

• Incorporate Vision Zero and Safe Systems approaches into every project and program
• Adopt clearer and stronger guidance for facility design
• Clarify and streamline internal decision pathways
• Be willing to reduce vehicle travel speeds and convenience to improve safety
• Implement iterative, ongoing improvements to our infrastructure
• Accelerate planning for broader or systemwide implementation of proven interventions
• Secure funding to incorporate Vision Zero improvements in all projects and for asset maintenance
• Complete racial-equity analysis of automated enforcement. Address inequities and where appropriate, use automated enforcement as a tool
• Shift culture and strengthen support for Vision Zero throughout SDOT
• Strengthen and resource SDOT’s Vision Zero core and matrix teams
• Improve SDOT’s customer service response process
• Be champions for Vision Zero as we engage with WSDOT, the Port of Seattle, transit partners, the legislature, and other organizations

The report does not recommend more enforcement of traffic laws:

In the past, the Vision Zero movement used enforcement as a leading strategy. Peer agencies are moving away from enforcement as a leading strategy, pointing instead to a safe systems model and designing roads to be “self-enforcing.” Seattle Police Department has been a key City department partner for Vision Zero, providing enforcement resources including processing of automated enforcement tickets. SPD is also an important partner in post-crash collision reviews to help SDOT understand circumstances of crashes.
Data from SPD is a major input into how SDOT counts crashes. SDOT recognizes that SPD’s primary responsibility in crash investigation and response is to determine fault for potential civil claims or criminal charges, while SDOT is seeking information that could help us make our streets safer.

What about automated enforcement? More is recommended in the short run, but:

• Plan for permanent street design changes to replace automated enforcement in the future

• Continue to use revenues from citations for local safety improvements to reduce or eliminate the need for enforcement. Be clear that enforcement is intended to reduce dangerous behavior, not in place solely for revenue-generation purposes.

Other points of interest include the report’s recognition that the department must consider new tech like autonomous vehicles (first permit being reviewed) and EVs: “While EVs are promising for climate progress, they are not always aligned with Vision Zero goals. In some cases, EVs are heavier and therefore pose a greater risk of harm to people outside of them. Additionally, the quietness of EVs may pose a greater risk to people walking, biking, and rolling who cannot hear the vehicles approaching.” The report also observes that SDOT “does not yet have a clear maintenance level of service” for “assets” such as the posts used for paint-and-post curb bulbs and protected bike lanes. There are also suggestions for improving customer service:

Enhance existing systems for people to report safety concerns, with clear timelines for evaluation, and a clearer process for adding customer-generated requests to plans for improvements.

Other notes we made while reading the report – speed limits were addressed: “Be willing to reduce vehicle travel speeds and convenience to improve safety. Be clear about benefits and transparent about potential impacts to general purpose vehicle travel.” Regarding rechannelization, “Evaluate multi‐lane arterials where most pedestrian fatalities occur. Identify and plan for opportunities for lane reductions while maintaining transit and freight networks and emergency response capabilities and being transparent about expected impacts to general purpose vehicle travel.” Plus:

Develop a plan to implement No Turn on Red more broadly or citywide

Develop a plan for increased implementation of marked crosswalks, signage and crossing enhancements (e.g., curb bulbs, flashing beacons).

Develop a plan for expanded intersection daylighting (eliminating parked cars close to intersections to improve visibility). Initial implementation can include low‐cost interventions such as “No Parking” signs; if signage alone is ineffective, plan to upgrade over time to paint and post, concrete or other materials.

Develop a plan for expanded use of hardened centerlines (raised medians at intersections to control vehicle turning movements).

Develop a plan for citywide application of Urban Village signal timing to prioritize safe pedestrian movement.

There was also a mention of a possible way to reduce having to be concerned about how road changes affect emergency vehicles: “Explore opportuniƟes for SFD to move toward smaller, Ɵghter turning fire engines (currently being introduced in San Francisco)”

The report notes that it was “was conducted and primarily authored by two SDOT staff, both of whom have prior knowledge of Vision Zero but do not directly work on the program.”

The agenda for Tuesday morning’s council-committee briefing is here; the agenda for Tuesday night’s levy committee briefing is here. And the link for community feedback on the review is on this page.

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