New nonprofit Walk Bike Tampa calls for zero-fatality approach to local transportation planning
What if you could redesign a road with a history of serious and fatal accidents — a road like Busch Boulevard — to be safer for drivers, pedestrians and people on bicycles?
It’s possible, and this community should be doing it, leaders of the new nonprofit group Walk Bike Tampa said Thursday. Preventing all traffic fatalities should be public officials’ organizing principle when it comes to transportation planning, they said, and they've got a model to follow: Vision Zero, a road safety project that began in Sweden and that has been adopted by U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. In every situation where a human might fail, say Vision Zero founders, the road system should not.
“When you design a system that is only focused on cars for generation after generation, people are really left to fend for themselves,” said Hannah Strom, who formed Walk Bike Tampa in September with local transportation engineer Jackie Toledo. The Tampa Bay area is the nation's second deadliest metro for pedestrians, she noted, and “our business-as-usual approach to addressing it is just not working.”
In New York, the project has included establishing a task force in the mayor’s office, increasing speeding enforcement, stepping up recruiting for school crossing guards, installing new street lights, re-engineering intersections, creating dozens of “arterial slow zones,” installing neighborhood speed humps and ticketing cab drivers caught by red light cameras.
In Tampa, supporters said, a Vision Zero approach to a road like Busch Boulevard, which is under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation, could include steps like lowering the speed limit, adding high-visibility crosswalks (a possibility being reviewed by the FDOT), adding medians and banning left turns to and from North Boulevard.
It was a driver in the left-hand turn lane who hit and killed 17-year-old Alexis Miranda on Oct. 6 after her grandmother let her out of the car on Busch so she could cross on her way to Chamberlain High School. No charges have been filed. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the results of a Tampa police investigation into the accident.
“I just hope that something positive comes out of this tragedy,” Valerie Jones, Miranda’s mother, said during a Walk Bike Tampa news conference outside Tampa City Hall Thursday. “That way, I know my daughter’s death wasn’t in vain. I hope this is the answer.”
Safe design “takes into account human error,” Toledo said. “We know what works, and we are going to make it happen here.”
Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione said she would introduce a resolution on Dec. 3 that, if passed, would support adopting a Vision Zero approach in Tampa. Hillsborough School Board member Cindy Stuart said she supports the school district taking a similar step.
But that's only the start, Montelione said. "What we need is more money."