ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council is considering implementing Vision Zero, a street-safety program that aims to eliminate all injuries and fatalities stemming from traffic incidents.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Councilman Tony Kranz brought Vision Zero before the council because, as Kranz said, “I think it’s important that we acknowledge that there are too many situations that are resulting in fatalities in our city between pedestrians and vehicles, and for me it’s important that we do everything that we can to try to raise awareness about safety issues.”
In less than one month, two female pedestrians in Encinitas were killed as a result of vehicle collisions. Lubov Kozelskaya, 76, was walking across the street on Oct. 5 in the 500 block of Balour Drive when she was fatally struck by a Toyota Prius. On Nov. 1, a Toyota Corolla hit a 54-year-old woman crossing Mountain Vista Drive on foot east of El Camino Real.
Both deaths were reportedly a result of jaywalking.
Additionally, a vehicle hit-and-run on Aug. 14 took the life of a 62-year-old female pedestrian near the Encinitas Boulevard off-ramp from northbound Interstate 5. On Jan. 10, a 61-year-old man was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was crossing North El Camino Real on foot outside of a marked crosswalk.
According to a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department report, of the 109 motor vehicle collisions with other motor vehicles that occurred in Encinitas from Jan. 1 through Nov. 1, 2018, one resulted in a fatality and none caused severe injuries. Those numbers do not include state highway collisions. During the same time period, 15 collisions between bikes and vehicles were recorded in the city, with one resulting in severe injury.
When asked why a program such as Vision Zero is important for the city, Blakespear said, “Encinitas streets should be safe for those biking and walking. We’re asking what more the city can do to make that ‘safety for all’ a reality.” The plan would not extend to train transportation. She explained, “We don’t control the rail operations and tracks. We do control our city streets.”
On Nov. 14, the City Council decided to send Vision Zero to the Traffic and Public Safety Commission for specific recommendations of how to potentially proceed with the program.
The concept behind Vision Zero, which was first adopted in Sweden in the 1990s, is that accidents can be prevented with proactive, safety-minded planning. According to Vision Zero Network, Sweden’s traffic deaths have been reduced by half since the program’s inception.
Blakespear told the council that she finds Vision Zero’s “data-driven decision-making” appealing. “Since we’ve actually had a number of fatalities on our roads, that’s indicative of a problem. So analyzing where is the system not serving us … is really important.”
Underpinning Vision Zero’s approach to safety is the acknowledgment that people will make mistakes, so traffic systems like speed management should be designed with human errors in mind. The goal is to create a fail-proof transportation network that puts responsibility mainly on the system, not the user.
Vision Zero chooses to address traffic systems from a public-health perspective rather than an engineering one by asking how systems can prevent human injuries as opposed to collisions. By putting human life at the center of the framework, the designers believe they introduce a moral imperative.
The Vision Zero Network website states that more than 40,000 people in the United States are killed yearly as a result of traffic accidents.
San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other major cities in California and other states have adopted a Vision Zero plan.
When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote an executive directive to implement Vision Zero in 2015, he stated that 65 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries occurred on just 6 percent of Los Angeles’ streets. Analyzing statistics like that has enabled cities to address safety issues in a targeted, data-driven way.
Kranz shared with the council, “I think there’s recognition in this program that getting to zero is very difficult to do, but it should be the goal. … Given the most recent incidents that we’ve been dealing with regarding automobiles and pedestrians, I think that we should be taking an additional step, and this seems like an appropriate additional step.”