Advocates Form Vision Zero Coalition to Help City End Traffic Deaths, Injuries

Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries, has gained popularity across the country in recent years. But that doesn’t mean cities automatically live up to its foundational principles of slowing vehicle speeds with better street design, enforcement, and education. To make sure Denver’s iteration of Vision Zero has teeth, a group of advocates started the Vision Zero Coalition last week.

Denver Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Tinianow reads out the commitment to form a Vision Zero Coalition at last week's Sustainable Denver Summit. Photo: David Sachs
Denver Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Tinianow reads out the commitment to form a Vision Zero Coalition at last week’s Sustainable Denver Summit. Photo: David Sachs

City Hall is primed to officially adopt a Vision Zero goal, with Transportation Director Crissy Fanganello leading a team to develop a plan that Mayor Michael Hancock will eventually present to the public.

Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, WalkDenver, BikeDenver, and the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee are the coalition’s founding members, but they want other organizations to join in the coming weeks and months. It’s early — the group will officially launch by next summer — but its founding members say they’ll work with city agencies on the Vision Zero strategy and garner broad buy-in from residents.

“It really does require a changing in thinking about our transportation system,” says Jill Locantore, policy director for WalkDenver. “I think in order for Vision Zero to be effective in Denver we need to have buy-in from the community because it’s going to require changing the way we think about or transportation system — how we design it and how we use it. The coalition is an opportunity to help shape that change and say to people that this is benefiting everyone by making Denver a safer place to get around. It’s important that some ideas are coming from the community and aren’t just imposed on them.”

Here’s more from the founding document [PDF], which the coalition submitted at last week’s Sustainable Denver Summit:

To work toward this goal, the Coalition will convene on a regular basis and develop an annual work plan. Specific activities may include the following:

  • Research on best practices from other cities that have adopted Vision Zero
  • Adoption of a policy platform
  • Creation of a dashboard to evaluate progress toward Vision Zero
  • Media events
  • Collaboration with City staff and consultants that will be developing a Vision Zero action plan
  • Assistance with meaningful community engagement

INC, which represents about 100 neighborhoods across the city, adopted a platform in September that asks the city to commit to Vision Zero “at the highest levels.” The people who live in Denver’s neighborhoods know them best, says Joel Noble, co-chair of INC’s transportation committee (and board member of Streetsblog Denver). He thinks Vision Zero’s bold goal will galvanize them.

“Vision Zero is not looking for a mild reduction in deaths and serious injuries,” Noble says. “It’s looking to drive them to zero. The importance of setting such an ambitious goal is that it engages everybody… in thinking about ways to make our roads safer. That’s qualitatively different than mildly reducing the numbers year after year.”

The Vision Zero Coalition formed after Hancock’s Office of Sustainability called for advocates to commit to something — anything — that would help the city reach its sustainability goals. One of those goals is to have Denver’s commuters make 40 percent of all trips be by transit, walking, biking, or car-pooling by 2020.

“We’re trying to get more butts on bikes,” says Molly North, executive director of BikeDenver. “So we’d be remiss not to consider how to make our city a safe place for all those people to bike. If you have headaches for years of your life, and that’s your normal, to have relief from that is super exciting. I think one of our roles in this can be helping the greater community understand that we have this chronic pain right now in our community — this status quo of a certain number of deaths happening on our streets. One of the things that BikeDenver can actively participate in is through community engagement.”