Op Ed

Vision Zero Seeks No Traffic Fatalities

Swedish approach has been adopted by 35 cities in U.S. Why not Milwaukee?

By - Sep 29th, 2020 03:08 pm
Water Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Water Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee is long overdue for an intentional and comprehensive strategy to address traffic fatalities and serious injuries.  The number of people impacted by reckless driving is tantamount to a public health crisis. We need a city and county wide collaborative approach to keeping our streets safe.

One of the many suggestions that can be found buried in the Reckless Driving Task Force recommendations is Vision Zero. Vision Zero is a concept that began in Sweden in 1997 to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. It operates under the notion that traffic deaths are preventable and that even one fatality is too many. It has an inclusive and big picture approach to traffic management with a specific focus on safety. It encompasses a collaboration of city agencies, city residents and city leaders committing their energy and resources to work toward a common goal.

Over 35 cities around the country have adopted Vision Zero as a proven way to address the ever-increasing challenges of traffic safety. While some may call it a project, it is actually a strategy, an overall approach that incorporates systems, street design, traffic enforcement, traffic safety education and community engagement. It concentrates on the transportation system as a whole and not just individual behavior.

We all subscribe to the value of human life and consider it paramount. We must prioritize those who use the avenues and boulevards who are most vulnerable to the speeding vehicles that have become part of the landscape. Children, seniors and bicyclists are not able to fend off the dangers of fast-moving vehicles. We must create secure pathways to enable them to navigate the streets safely. The World Health Organization lists road crashes within its top ten causes of death. The Center for Disease and Control noticed an increase in deaths in Milwaukee due to car crashes. As a result, the Wisconsin Public Policy Forum generated a report noting that amongst African Americans the number of deaths due to car crashes have doubled within the last five years.

At some point we need to stop the hemorrhaging. City of Milwaukee data shows 53 fatalities this year, a 50 percent increase at the same time last year. We can’t continue to offer piecemeal attempts to address this concern. All of our efforts need to be collaborative, cooperative and transparent. It will require all of us, community, private sector, public sector, educators, law enforcement, insurance and all stakeholders to embark upon this challenge. Vision Zero provides a design for us to create an action plan that includes a diversity of voices at the table to realize a new possibility in traffic safety.

The Coalition of Safe Driving MKE recently sent a letter to Mayor Tom Barrett advocating the use of money in the current budget to hire a Vision Zero Consultant/Coordinator to develop an action plan. The City of Madison just announced that it is about to adopt Vision Zero. How much longer will Milwaukee wait to follow suit?

The Coalition urges everyone to contact the Mayor, the Department of Public Works, your Alderperson and the City Finance Committee  to insist on placing $110,000 in the 2021 budget to hire a Vision Zero Consultant to create a plan that overhauls our infrastructure in a way that reduces traffic injuries and fatalities and provides resources to implement a campaign of awareness focusing on traffic safety with a sense of urgency!

Please go to our website, https://www.coalitionforsafedrivingmke.com/ and sign up to support reducing traffic crashes, traffic injuries and traffic fatalities.  Let’s make sure that city leaders know this is an important issue that requires a comprehensive approach for our safety.

The Coalition for Safe Driving MKE is a group of concerned citizens and grassroots organizations that have come together to address reckless driving in Milwaukee.

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