Vision Zero DC Photo: Mr. TinDC/Flickr

Washington, DC recently joined the list of cities committed to Vision Zero, a Swedish transportation concept aimed at completely eliminating traffic related deaths and injuries. This is accomplished through a combination of targeted policy, city planning and public service announcements.

On March 4th, Rep. Earl Blumenhauer (D-OR-3), introduced H.R. 1274, also known as the Vision Zero Act of 2015. The bill provides $30 million for grants to cities to develop and implement Vision Zero plans. At least 25 percent of the funding will go to cities with populations of less than 200,000 people. Large cities like DC will still receive the majority of the funding.

On March 9th, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Director of Planning Eric Shaw, and Leif Dormsjo and Greer Gillis of the DC Department of Transportation announced their own multi-million dollar city investment at Shepherd Parkway at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X avenues. The initiative seeks to “enhance pedestrian and vehicle safety along the corridor while creating aesthetically-pleasing streetscape for multimodal access.”

But others argue that a simple, sweeping reform is paramount to safety and walkability: just drive slower.

Angie Schmitt of greatergreaterwashington.org is advocating for an overall speed limit reduction of 10 miles per hour. She cites an article published by Bill Lindeke, an urban geography expert and blogger, that explains critical differences in a driver’s field of vision as well as reaction time based on speed change.

“If you look at the average speed of traffic on urban commercial streets, there are a lot of things that begin to change when you slow down cars from the 30 to 35 mile per hour range into the 20 to 25 mile per hour range. Most importantly, perception, reaction time, and crash outcomes are far better at 20 than at 30 mph, while traffic flow doesn’t seem to change very much,” writes Lindeke.

Streets MN

Image: Streets.mn

The perception angle is perhaps the most interesting. [See above chart.] Driving speed has a dramatic effect on the driver’s “cone of vision.” You can see a lot more detail at 20: people on the sidewalk, a bicyclist in the periphery, or the ‘open’ sign on a storefront. At 30 mph, the window shrinks dramatically.

How else can DC improve safety? We want to hear from drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. #VisionZero @bbhdc

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