Since the inception of Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition, we’ve been calling out the need for safe places for people to walk and ride, for better sidewalks, trails and bike lanes, and little by little our advocacy has been making a big difference. But despite this, too many pedestrians have died on our streets and roads because vulnerable road users’ safety was seen as their responsibility… Because TxDOT continues to push a cars first agenda… Because people not in cars were seen as not belonging, and thus “in the way” of motorists…
Our goal has always focused on making it safe and easy for people to walk and bike, and this summer we celebrated two major victories: the passage of a Complete Streets policy, and the City’s commitment to adopt Vision Zero.
…Well, now we can share that we were invited to join the El Paso Vision Zero Action Plan Task Force. The 1st task force meeting occurred on Oct 4th and addressed the Plan Background, Safety Issues, Engagement Strategies.
The following meetings are scheduled for:
- Meeting 2 (November 15, 2022): High Injury Network, Dashboard, & Policy Overview
- Meeting 3 (January 17, 2023): Safety Toolkit Themes & Overview of Community Input
- Meeting 4 (March 7, 2023): Draft Recommendations
- Meeting 5 (May 9, 2023): Draft Action Plan
Our intention is to host separate meetings for you, our friends, to update you on what’s coming up in the next meeting, but also share and gather feedback from you to share and add to our own input. As an added resource, you can visit the El Paso Vision Zero webpage to learn more about the Task Force’s progress.
A key distinction between the traditional approach to safety, and the Vision Zero (or Safe Systems approach) is that, historically, safety improvements went to more affluent neighborhoods, so poorer and minority communities tended to suffer more serious and fatal crashes. The Vision Zero approach not only focused on mitigating the higher impact crashes, but also on the most vulnerable neighborhoods as part of an overall focus of equity.
Perhaps, more importantly though, Vision Zero is about a major shift in the way we think about serious and fatal crashes. Today, far too many DOTs still focus on perfecting human behavior – like telling pedestrians if they don’t cross at a crosswalk, or if they don’t look both ways, or…then it’s their fault if they get hit. Vision Zero not only says the drivers have to pay attention too, but that they have a shared responsibility as well. And where the traditional approach tells us crashes are inevitable, Vision Zero is based on the belief that serious and fatal crashes are preventable, and we need safer roads.
One of the reasons there have been so many pedestrian fatalities in El Paso (and across the nation) is because engineers focused on reducing the total number of crashes. The easy way to do that was to cut down on minor crashes and fender benders. These fic to a lot of these low speed crashes was to change the design of roads and intersections to make it easier for motorists to drive and turn safely, but in the process, these changes made our streets far less safe for pedestrians – as a result, the number of crashes dropped, but far more vulnerable road users were being injured, or killed. As a result, while less than 4% of people walk for transportation, over 40% of our traffic fatalities are pedestrians.
We’ve known for some time that we needed to change the way people think about our streets, and safety, and over the next few months we hope you will join us in rethinking how our streets should work, so we (as a community) can create a Vision Zero Action Plan that makes our streets safer, and more accessible to everyone – and so we can end serious and fatal traffic crashes in El Paso.