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Lafayette is moving forward with Vision Zero, an ambitious plan to eliminate all transportation-related deaths and improve safety on city streets, while promoting healthy and equitable activities like bicycling and walking.
The City Council this month unanimously approved the policy, which prioritizes traffic control measures and safety over speed.
“This is a change that will be a cultural shift,” said Vice Mayor Teresa Gerringer.
The city will now hire a traffic consultant and develop a local roadway safety plan, something for which state funding is already in place.
Traffic safety has become a priority in Lafayette this year after a bicyclist was killed by a motorist in the traffic roundabout at Pleasant Hill Road and Olympic Blvd. Then, in September, a school crossing guard was struck and killed in front of Stanley Middle School.
The staff report for the council’s Nov. 23 meeting pointed out Lafayette was originally designed with few sidewalks and bike lanes, which could make implementing Vision Zero a bigger task than in other cities. Street designs may need altering, with parking and vehicle traffic lanes removed, which could become costly and impact traffic flow and the amount of public parking.
The report said implementing Vision Zero would require redesigning at least two upcoming planned projects — the Moraga Road re-paving project and the citywide surface seal project.
Lafayette would initially focus on quick-build projects tailored to the size and scale of the city. Dedicated pedestrian and bicycle pathways would be emphasized, like the proposed Safe Route to Acalanes High School. The protected pedestrian and bike trail would run down the middle of Pleasant Hill Road, from the intersection of Diablo Boulevard to the Deer Hill Road/Stanley Boulevard Intersection, in front of Acalanes High School, to avoid multiple freeway ramps.
About 50 U.S. municipalities have developed Vision Zero, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and Bay Area cities such as Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda and Fremont. Most report lower traffic deaths.
The concept originated in Sweden in 1997, when the government made it official policy. It places core responsibility for collisions and traffic deaths on the overall system design, vehicle technology, and enforcement. The core elements are grouped into three categories: leadership and commitment, safe roadways and safe speeds, and data-driven approach.
The staff report said Sweden has had one of the lowest annual rates of traffic deaths in the world since implementing Vision Zero.