The draft of the Vision Zero Action Plan, which seeks to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in Berkeley, is scheduled to be voted on by City Council during its March 10 meeting.
Developed in collaboration with city staff and Berkeley community members, the plan prioritizes engineering, education and public awareness before enforcement strategies to achieve the Vision Zero goal in Berkeley. The plan also calls for creating a standing Vision Zero Coordinating Committee and a citywide assessment of existing staff and funding capacity for the plan as priority actions.
“Vision Zero was created to tackle the issue of traffic fatalities and injuries in Berkeley,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar in an email. “This is especially important to students, who predominantly walk, bike, or use electric scooters/skateboards in addition to public transit.”
Vision Zero will implement a holistic, data-driven, systems-level approach to infrastructure design to account for human error, make streets slower and push for fewer car trips with aims of reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
From 2013 to 2017, each year an average of two people died and 21 people sustained severe injuries as a result of collisions in Berkeley, according to the plan, which also states that collisions disproportionately impact bicyclists and pedestrians.
According to the plan, this is “unacceptable and preventable.”
During the same years, Berkeley collisions that resulted in death or severe injury involved drivers traveling at unsafe speeds, violating pedestrian right-of-way at a crosswalk and failing to stop at a red light, among others, according to the plan.
“Berkeley has the highest percentage of bike commuters for cities with a population over 100,000 in the United States,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s spokesperson Stefan Elgstrand in an email. “Yet we also know that there are many more would want to bike if they felt safer.”
Elgstrand added that $400,000 has already been allocated from the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget to implement Vision Zero.
The plan notes that the key to the success of the Vision Zero Action Plan is through the integration of three programs: the Vision Zero Program, Safer Streets for Everyone and Safer Streets by Everyone: Public Awareness.
Combined, the three programs aim to implement infrastructure projects, target streets with high injury rates and create a culture that is traffic-safety conscious through public information campaigns.
“Our roads at night can be dangerous to pedestrians around Berkeley because of car crashes, rising crime rates, and more,” said ASUC Local Government Relations Director Somya Jain in an email. “If we invest in proper infrastructure to protect bicyclists and pedestrians, students will feel safer walking around Berkeley at any time of the day.”