Salisbury seeks to curtail pedestrian injuries/deaths

The Salisbury City Council is poised to pass a resolution implementing Vision Zero, an initiative with a growing following geared to slow drivers and save lives.

Created in Sweden in the 1990s, following a study to protect pedestrians, Vision Zero was first implemented there in 1994. Now, Sweden has twice as many cars but only half the fatalities, explained Will White, Transportation Project Specialist for Salisbury.

“The goal is to have zero deaths on city streets. The mayor has already gone before the City Council asking that it is made law,” he explained.

This week, City Council reviewed the resolution and council members will vote on it at the next meeting. Once it’s passed, the plan is for the Vision Zero Action Plan to be in place by July 1, 2020, and to have no more traffic deaths in Salisbury by Jan. 1, 2030.

“You have to slow down. Speeding is an unnecessary thing in an urban area. You want people to go slow,” White said.

Locally, there have been four deaths in five years, so adopting Vision Zero wasn’t the result of a sudden increase in fatalities.

“A lot of this is, we care. Millennials want walkable, bikeable cities. Car ownership at its lowest ever. They need this. They need bike routes. They need better sidewalks. If we don’t do it for them we already lost them,” White said.

“The biggest part of it is developing and redesigning streets, then designing new streets so drivers can’t exceed the speed limit. That way, if a pedestrian is struck he won’t be as hurt or hurt at all. Then, we have to enforce the lowering of speed limits, then educate the public. It’s a three-prong approach,” he said.

If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling 40 mph, there is a less than a 10 percent chance of survival. At 20 mph, the survival rate increases to 95 percent.

“We will evaluate the streets. If a street is too wide, if there are too many cars moving, if too many drivers are using it as a cut through, it can become dangerous,” he said.

The most critical areas tend to be where pedestrians are plentiful. In Salisbury, those areas are Downtown, around Salisbury University and in low to moderate-income neighborhoods where many walk or ride bikes.

“Everything we have done at City Park, from the mini-roundabout at the east entrance of the Salisbury Zoo, to traffic circles, all came from a standard Vision Zero guide.

“It’s important that we recognize the failures of decades of prioritizing the desire for a vehicle to take a turn at a higher rate of speed over the life and safety of unprotected humans crossing the street,” Mayor Jake Day told the Salisbury Independent.

“This is easily and affordably rectified. Our built environment should reflect our values and once we complete this work, it will. The public space between our buildings was never meant for only one type of vehicle. It should accommodate movement in all forms.

“Mobility is important to all of our citizens, regardless of their physical abilities, age, income level or vehicle choice. We are well on our way to being a city that better prioritizes mobility and safety,” Day said.

He couldn’t say what Vision Zero will cost because work done so far has been paid with using leftover, unspent concrete money already in the city budget.

“As for future years, we won’t budget anything more. We will continue to do this work as a change to design principles and out of existing budgeted concrete and paving monies.

“Resigning speed limits will have a slight cost as well, but will be handled within our existing annual budget,” the mayor explained.

Future plans include changing the entire length of Carroll Street to two lanes, from where there will be a roundabout at Mill Street to Snow Hill Road.

New trees will be planted and a protected bike facility built, so cyclists are separated from cars by 10 to 16 feet. Construction is set to begin in May and continue until November, with work paused for the National Folk Festival from Sept. 6 to 8.

As Main Street was improved, Vision Zero initiatives were incorporated, such as wider sidewalks and protected bike facilities. Speed limits will be lowered, too, if the resolution passes, and right turns on red lights phased out.

Salisbury is the only Maryland jurisdiction adopting Vision Zero other than Montgomery County. Nationwide, it caught the attention of 42 cities.

“We are the smallest city in the country to take it on so far. The next city closest to our size is Freemont, Calif. If you look in Europe, almost every country in Europe uses Vision Zero,” White said.

“We know the city is growing. We know there are going to be more cars on the street. We want to encourage more people to walk or bike,” he said.

“We don’t want fatalities to continue to happen. We want to stop it now. We have 127 road miles it the city. Four deaths in five years isn’t a lot by old standards, but one is a lot.”

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