To the editor:
While I applaud the carrot approach for enticing people to get out of their cars and use transit or ride a bike to work, it apparently is not working well in this country. Vision Zero, rather than improving injury statistics, is having the opposite effect. Since Alexandria transportation officials’ mantra is that all department decisions are data-driven, it’s time to delve into national data that shows commuters are ditching transit and are continuing to drive cars or hail Uber rides.
To wit, New York City’s annual mobility report, dated June 2018, details that “strap- hangers” are ditching the subway for Uber. Half of the people interviewed said they used this ride-hailing app rather than continuing to use transit. The for-hire vehicle boom coincided with the first drop in subway ridership since 2010 in New York City.
Then there’s Los Angeles. A local attorney had an op-ed in the Jan. 20, 2019, Wall Street Journal titled “Vision Zero, a Road Diet Fad, is Proving to Be Deadly.” Christopher LeGras cites LA’s 2017 adoption of the Vision Zero initiative, which immediately put some streets on what he’s calling “road diets.”
He claims this is the most radical transformation since the introduction of the freeway era 75 years ago, and that by any metric, eliminating and narrowing lanes and adding bicycle lanes has been a disaster. Pedestrian deaths have nearly doubled from 74 in 2015 to 135 in 2017. And after years of improvement, LA again has the world’s worst traffic, according to Inrix, a transportation research firm.
Miles of vehicles idling in gridlock have reduced air quality to 1980s levels. Lane reductions, bike lanes, new meridians and other innovations designed to reduce vehicle speeds are making it difficult for bulky ambulances and fire trucks to react quickly. And while pedestrian deaths are lower in NYC under Vision Zero, deaths of bicyclists, motorcyclists and people in vehicles are higher.
LeGras posits that while it’s a good thing to want to make America’s streets safer, government officials should not impose projects that don’t work on communities.
Alexandria is doing exactly what LA is doing, so let’s hope no more measures are taken without serious consideration of unintended consequences.
Data is necessary since we give up more and more road space to bikes, whose numbers seem slight. Bike commuting only appeals to a few given our climate and with Metro constantly unreliable, people are not going to get out of cars and unfortunately will use Uber.
We need to stop seeking the impossible and strive for goals that benefit all and not just a few. Norway’s Vision Zero just does not translate to the United States as we would hope. Bike-Share is not the answer to our congestion and adding e-bikes and e-scooters is just going to make it even more difficult for pedestrians to walk and cross our streets safely. This national data needs to be noted and used by Alexandria’s transportation planners.
-Linda Couture, Alexandria