The City of Boulder is trying to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities by adopting an international program called Toward Vision Zero. It started in Sweden in the 1990s and moved across Europe before arriving 10 years ago in the United States. Boulder is the 32nd city to join the movement.
“The idea is that traffic collisions are preventable and should not be acceptable,” says David Kemp, Senior Transportation Planner with the City of Boulder. Unfortunately, he adds, Nationwide, we are seeing an increase in traffic fatalities. We should be going the other way, but instead we are seeing an increase.”
The rate of traffic collisions resulting in serious injury or death in Boulder is about the same as it was several years ago: 3,275 crashes, 63 serious injuries, and 2 fatalities each year. Kemp attributes the rate of accidents to several factors: more people driving longer distances to work; people hurrying to get where they need to go because they don’t allow enough travel time; and distracted driving.
“We are multi-tasking and using cell phones, which has shown to be a significant contributor to an increase in crashes. Also, there’s an increase in impaired driving, we see a lot of crashes that occur as a result from impaired driving, too.”
Cyclists say they notice drivers are distracted. John Maurer, who bikes to work every day says he understands drivers are in their own space inside their cars, but wishes they could see the road through a cyclist’s eyes and be more aware of them.
Sue Prant, the Executive Director of Community Cycles in Boulder, says educating drivers is one component to making the roads safer, “and cyclist should be more predictable in their riding; obeying all traffic laws to make them more predictable to drivers. If everyone is paying attention and being predictable, then nothing bad should happen.”
Prat adds that in addition to education and awareness, engineering is a big component of creating safety on the roads.
“From an engineering aspect,” says Kemp,” we go to the intersections where crashes occurred, look at outlying safety issue.” From there, city engineers evaluate the problems and consider options, which include increased signage, striping and marking the roads, and in some cases, building pedestrian and cyclist underpasses. “We’ll measure intersections, and look at how long we give pedestrians to cross them, too.”
From the short term, it appears Toward Vision Zero is working: to date, Boulder has not seen any traffic fatalities this year. But, as Kemp emphasizes, the data need to be collected and evaluated over time to really give a full picture of what is working, where it’s working, and what needs improvement.
To read the City of Boulder report on its safe streets and Toward Vision Zero program, visit https://bouldercolorado.