Letter to the Editor: There’s a difference between traffic safety and traffic congestion

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To the editor:

A letter in the Jan. 17 Alexandria Times about the Vision Zero traffic safety program, “Vision Zero has zero benefits,” conflates traffic safety with traffic congestion. These are completely different issues.

If we want safe streets, we should do what city staff is doing: using proven street design for safety. Often, a safer street has fewer general traffic lanes and more turn lanes and bike lanes. This improves traffic flow – left turners use the turn lane and right turners merge into the bike lane before completing their turn – but doesn’t address traffic congestion.

In a thriving city, there is more transportation demand than road space. When it works, driving is super convenient. If driving is the only option, however, people will endure almost any amount of painful driving to get to jobs or the mar- ket. If transit is less painful, people will switch. It seems counter-intuitive, but it is true: if the alternative to driving becomes less painful, then driving itself becomes less painful. Want less congestion? Ask for comprehensive, high-quality transit.

Like other cities, we use carrots and sticks to direct traffic and keep ourselves safe. For safety, a street where drivers are no longer comfortable speeding will seem like a stick to some drivers. For people walking or jogging, this same street is a carrot. For congestion, congestion itself is the stick. The carrot is improved transit.

To move forward with safer streets and less painful commutes, we should be asking for more carrots.

-Jonathan Krall, Former chair, Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

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